Conscription Versus Volunteerism: Taiwan's Commitment to WWII

My MA. Interestingly, it states I was born in 1970. Usually in Taiwan, they'll say I was born in 59. This means 59 years after the Chinese Revolution (the one that got rid of the Ching Dynasty, not Chiang Kai-shek). Some of the people I know in Taiwan will appreciate this. They believe this date is not relevant here as Taiwan was a colony of Japan in 1911, and would remain so for another 44 years. I'll have to check with my local classmates to find out if this is now standard.

I concluded the red tape on my MA thesis this afternoon. The title I wanted to go with was: "From Volunteerism to Conscription: Taiwan's Commitment to the Second World War". But I guess I forgot to inform the IMTS secretary at National Chengchi University (國立政治大學), so it's back to "Conscription Versus Volunteerism: Taiwan's Commitment to WWII". The working title should be fine (though the Chinese title doesn't match). I'm just glad to be finished. Now I can read non-academic books and hang out with my family and friends. For the last four months, I've been working 9-6, babysitting 7-10 and writing 10-2. I'm just happy to be done. For the next little while, I'll be academically detoxing.

After deciding my topic, I realized there was a shortage of source material. Thus, I had to collect oral histories on my weekends. My friends suggested writing a book report, but this just wasn't possible. Another logjam I encountered was a lot of people in Taiwan found my topic taboo. Simply put, China fought wars against Japan; that Taiwan joined Japan to fight in China and also took on China’s allies in Southeast Asia was an uncomfortable memory for those with an affinity to China.

I'm interested in the idea of identity formation. Many of the older generation in Taiwan get sentimental about the Japanese, who built their infrastructure (banks, railroads, hospitals) and brought relief from the frontier chaos of incompetent Ching Dynasty rule. But I stayed away from this, instead focusing on mechanisms that allowed the Taiwanese to serve Japan's creation of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Second World War brought forth items and emotions I think some might want to not re-stir, such as Taiwanese celebrations for a Japanese "victory" in Nanking. This is what the British Consul reported in January 1938: “monster celebrations were organized to [celebrate] the fall of Nanking, in which all classes loyally participated”. Around the same time, 200 prominent Taiwanese businessmen gathered to pass a resolution supporting the provisional Japanese government in Northern China.

Anyway, I'll put up my abstract below:

This thesis paper tracks the development of the draft in Taiwan leading up to the Second World War and through its conclusion. In the mobilization of Taiwan as part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, many factors played a role in first encouraging and then pressing the Taiwanese population into service, including the propagation of mass paranoia labeled spy fever, Japanifized education policies, assimilation projects, general media stresses, social organization allowing for a police state, economics and the weight of Taiwan’s own unique frontier history. All of the routes created a certain frenzied (for lack of a better word) atmosphere and deserve attention in understanding the processes that led young Taiwanese males, and females, to first volunteer in the Imperial Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force and then comply to institutionalized conscription. The story of these individuals remains overlooked in the current reconstruction of Taiwan’s history. The era has been overshadowed by the turbulent events following the Second World War and the landing of half a million Chinese immigrants in Taiwan upon defeat in China. This corner of Taiwan’s history is still inappropriately relegated to the sidelines.

With the Second World War generation and in particular the 200,000 who served both in Taiwan and overseas as volunteers and conscripts beginning to die off, the need to get their first-hand accounts recorded and preserved for posterity is pressing. In maintaining their information and stories, the interested historian can do service by adding to the historical record. Knowing this, “From Volunteerism to Conscription: The Mobilization of Taiwan for the Second World War” does not seek to score political points in plotting such a course. The thesis paper simply attempts to better comprehend the mechanisms that worked to pit Taiwan against her ancestral China and to comment on the plight of the survivors, bringing up their influence on Taiwan today. So, this paper will delve into 13 years of history, from 1932 to 1945, when Taiwan sat at the side of Japan as a colonial possession, and did its part in an unprecedented modern territorial expansion. The thesis paper wants to explain more about those who served, and why their service and its outcome might remain relevant in shaping Taiwan’s story at this very moment.


Anonymous said...

Although this reader can find merit in the historical significance of WWII in the formation of an independent Taiwanese culture and national identity (based solely on its desire to separate from mainland China), I find this case to be a micronic metaphor for the underlying macronic muting of Asia throughout the centuries.

A thorough investigation of world events reveals a vulnerability which all of Asia has yet to fully recognize or admit. It is Western diplomacy and Western events which have continued to divide Asia and thereby render it powerless against the ebb and flow of malicious interference which hinders Asia's ongoing development and rise to the level greatness it deserves.

North Korea against South Korea. North Vietnam against South Vietnam. Taiwan against China. And the list goes on.

Could the current topic be expanded to present a egalitarian, albeit functional, unification of Asia in a manner not unlike the European Common Union or the South American Common Union. Should Korea, Singapore, Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Phillipines, Vietnam, Thailand and Myunmar present a united front politically and economically (for once), this reader proposes that such a move would ensure a prosperity and greatness never before seen on this planet.

The question, in my mind, is whether or not Asia can overome its own deeply engrained RACISM and 'historically-based' HATRED between it own brethren-- long enough to accomplish what the rest of the world is waiting for them to do.

To be certain, if England and France can shake hands and unite with Germany (the same Nazi Germany of WWII), then surely Asia can mend its own wounds to bring about the monumental change that might transform and redefined the world stage and political arena once and for all.


Patrick Cowsill said...

"The question, in my mind, is whether or not Asia can overome its own deeply engrained RACISM and 'historically-based' HATRED between it own brethren-- long enough to accomplish what the rest of the world is waiting for them to do."

I think this can probably be done. I remember reading Pickering's accounts of 19th century Taiwan. He had to sneak through some towns to avoid being stoned (he was white and red-haired). Even a couple of generations back, Taiwanese were spitting on disabled individuals because they superstitiously believed them to be in such a state because of crimes committed in a past life. Next month, Taiwan will host the Deaf Olympics. Taiwan has obviously come a long way in the past half-century.

Taiwanese generally hate the Korean soccer team. But this is because the Koreans seemed to have paid off the refs in World Cup 2004. Plus, Taiwan's team is ranked 154th in the world.

Patrick Cowsill said...

World Cup 2002 - correction.

Anonymous said...

Back in 2003 while I was touring Asia, I was spit on by elder Taiwanese citizens while riding the subway, twice, just because I was 'white'. The Taiwanese also told me on several occasions that the Chinese were "evil" and "raped Taiwanese women".

In South Korea I was flipped off and assaulted by gangs of teenagers. The South Koreans told me that the Japanese were not human "more like reptiles" and the Western male was genetically close to the "Ape" in intelligence and demeanor. The South Koreans also told me that Americans were "evil" and "raped Korean women".

I do not dismiss the attrocities that have been inflicted upon all people of all nations. But, in all actuality, it will not be until the elderly population in Asia is long-since dead and gone that the youth of Asia can begin to mend the wounds without the hate-filled and racist-oriented influence of a scarred generation.

My faith is in the youth of Asia. From what I have seen, the existing mindset portrayed by the "adolescent" adult population is keeping Asia in the dark ages psychologically.


Anonymous said...

I would not count on the "youth of Asia". The older generations in each country are busy instilling nationalism into the young. Not only the Korean teenagers, go visit China on Sept 18 and you'll witness the anti-Japanese frenzy. In Taiwan, the Lu-Ke's are despised even though their dollars are eagerly sought for. And the Singaporeans call the Chinese China-men. Something like the EU? Isn't that why the Japanese invaded China and SE Asia?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Something like the EU? Isn't that why the Japanese invaded China and SE Asia?"

That's was their propaganda, a Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere; actually, the Japanese wanted resources, especially after the US cut them off. Plus a military-industrial complex didn't give them much of anywhere else to go. Nevertheless, look at what Japan did for Taiwan. They built up the infrastructure (roads, railways, harbors, banks and hospitals so that it could be the second most advanced country in Asia). They probably could have helped other Asian countries in this regard.

george said...

I would be interested in reading your master's thesis. Are you gonna post a link?

Irene Brown said...

The abstract of your thesis was amazing! I do hope you can share us the link of your whole thesis paper. It would be a great source of information to come up for thesis topics ideas. People on the same field as you can be the one who would take the benefits.