PIRATE HAVEN TO PREFECTURE: COLONIALISM, ANNEXATION AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF TAIWAN BY REGIONAL POWERS IN THE 17TH CENTURY.
HI 482: Merchants, Pirates, Missionaries, and the State in Maritime Asia
December 15, 2017
Taiwan is an island located off the coast of Fujian province, China. It has undergone transformation from a culturally and economically isolated island to a center of trade and cultural heritage in South East Asia especially in the 20th century, however this transformation can be traced back to the 17th century. Since the early 1600’s, Taiwan has been a major location for pirates, merchants, and European colonial powers, such as Zheng Zhilong, the Spanish, and the Dutch. Following the victory of Koxinga, a Ming dynasty loyalist, over the Dutch, Taiwan formally came under Ming dynasty rule, before being surrendered to the Qing dynasty near the end of the 17th century. This paper examines the governance of Taiwan by the Dutch as well as Koxinga and the Qing dynasty, and their reasons for doing so. Taiwan’s development in the 17th century can largely be attributed to Dutch governance of the island, which was strongly influenced by their aspirations of making Taiwan an economically successful colony, through trading goods, immigration of Han Chinese, pacification of aboriginal Taiwanese populations, and agricultural development.
One factor that influenced Dutch development of Taiwan was its location. Due to its strategic location, the Dutch had a vested interest in controlling and developing Taiwan as a colony, as it was positioned to be a strategic base to manage trade between China, Japan, and the Dutch home base of Batavia, hundreds of miles south in Indonesia in the South China Sea. The strategic geographic location of Taiwan in the South China Sea was an important factor that allowed colonial powers such as the Dutch and the Spanish to strengthen its involvement in regional trade and other economic activities in the 17th Century. For the Dutch, while their original purpose for entering the South China Sea was arguably to promote trade with China through ports on the coast of Fujian, their occupation of Taiwan was a compromise that still allowed them to remain within the proximity of the Chinese mainland, and thus, close to Chinese markets. Indeed, following the Dutch defeat at the battle of Liaoluo Bay in 1633, Zheng Zhilong, serving the Ming dynasty as an admiral, “offered the Dutch trading privileges…sometimes he let them trade on the coast”, in essence formulating a trade partnership with the Ming dynasty on Chinese terms, but mutually beneficial for both parties.
Thus, from a Chinese perspective, the Dutch on Taiwan were far away enough as a manageable threat, and the Dutch did not challenge this arrangement, as they were close enough to the mainland in order to access markets there.
Another factor that led to increased Dutch presence and productivity in Taiwan was regional trade. Dutch trade built upon the existing...