Annual Conference

Lim Pen-yuan Foundation Panel

Asian, Chinese and Global Circulations: How Taiwan Became an Indispensible Entity in the Modern World

From the 17th century onward, Taiwan became a Chinese settler colony and rapidly caught up with the economic development of surrounding areas. The Dutch East India Company made this breakthrough possible by establishing a post on Taiwan and connecting aboriginal society with a wider network of goods and resources. The establishment of Formosa as a colony introduced Chinese laborers to Taiwan to cultivate rice and sugar, which required aborigines to provide land and supply food provisions. Asian goods, including cloth and ceramics, acted as powerful levers used by the Company to induce aboriginal involvement in consumer markets, thereby increasing the land and labor resources necessary for agricultural expansion.

After the Chinese Ming loyalist Koxinga and later the Qing court took control of this Chinese settlement, the ever-growing Chinese market for sugar in the northern hinterland and the demand for rice in the southern provinces in the 18th century drove the steady transformation of wild countryside into the rice paddy and sugarcane fields of lowland Taiwan. Chinese settlers became the most important resource pouring into Taiwan to fuel the expansion of agriculture. In the 19th century, as multiple waves of industrial revolution upgraded technology to new levels, Taiwan’s inhabitants were confronted with new patterns of circulation under the treaty port system in East Asia. Forest, mineral and other natural resources were redefined by rising industrial sectors on a global scale and by new market demands for forest and mineral resources in the island’s mountains. After Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, every aspect of Taiwan was soon surveyed and evaluated as a provider of resources for the modern economic world.

After the Second World War, the Republic of China ruled Taiwan. Taiwan has gradually developed industries that cater to the needs of daily life, as well as of a high-tech industry. In addition to establishing itself as a vital player in the OEM systems that work with US and Japanese industries, Taiwan has made a name for itself in international economic circles and plays an indispensable role in the development of important industries around the world.

In sum, Taiwan became a fully developed and integrated economic entity in the modern world through its continuous engagement with Asian, Chinese and global circulations of goods, labor and resources. This panel will shed light on how Taiwan’s inhabitants responded to different circulation networks and how goods imported into or exported from Taiwan became resources for promoting the expansion of the island’s economic power.

This panel brings together scholars from different methodological backgrounds to provide a comparative perspective on this important issue. The papers, which extensively employ digital resources, put emphasis on the resources of Taiwan, including textiles, sugar, rice, camphor, tea, forest, food products, and other industries, as seen over the long term from the seventeenth century to the twentieth century.


LIN Yu-ju, Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

CHENG Weichung, Associate Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Session Members and Paper Titles:

1. CHENG Weichung, Associate Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

A Colorful Monopoly: Consumption of Indian Textiles by Taiwanese Aborigines under Dutch Rule (1640-1660)

2. LIN Yu-ju, Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

From Japan to Central China: The Turn of Taiwan’s Sugar Trade in the Early Qing Dynasty (1683-1780)

3. LIN Wen-kai, Associate Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

The Granary of Southeast China: The Export of Taiwan Rice in the Qing Dynasty (1683-1895)

4. LI Peichen, Assistant Professor, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Limited Resources and Monopoly Power: Competition in Taiwan’s Camphor Trade in the 19th Century

5. Douglas FIX, Professor, Reed College, USA

Two for Tea: Mobilizing Women and Men to Produce Formosan Teas for the Anglo-American Markets, 1860s-1910

6. HUNG Kuang-Chi, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

When the Green Archipelago Encountered Formosa: The Making and Circulation of Modern Forestry within the Japanese Empire

7. LEE Li-yung, Professor, Graduate Institute of History, National Central University, Taiwan

From Rice to Cereals: The Transformation of Taiwan’s Agricultural Production under the International Food Regime (1960-1980)

8. HONG Sao Yang, Professor, National Yang Ming University, Taiwan

Growth, Export and Business Networks: The Initial Conditions of Synthetic Fiber Manufacturing Industry in the Latter Half of the 20th Century in Taiwan

Proposed Discussant

WU Tsong-Min, Emeritus Professor, Department of Economic, National Taiwan University, Taiwan