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  • From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, the Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion

    Paul D. Barclay

    Chapter from the book: Barclay, P. 2017. Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874–1945.


    In 1871, the murder of fifty-four shipwrecked Okinawans on Taiwan's Hengchun peninsula put the East Asian tributary system and the Western international system on a collision course. Hengchun's mountain ranges existed on the margins of Qing administrations, hindering the recovery of remains and the punishment of the alleged killers. The first part of this chapter explains how the tributary state's minimal presence on the Hengchun peninsula was incommensurate with the demands of increased volumes and velocities of ocean-going commerce in treaty-port East Asia. In the absence of a centralized administration, merchants, missionaries, and officials made recourse to "wet diplomacy" to navigate Taiwan's stateless regions. This mode of interaction stressed particularistic, emotionally charged attachments, which required periodical renewal in the absence of courts and policemen. To eradicate wet diplomacy's impediments to efficient resource management, the Japanese colonial government built armed bunkers, guard posts, and a scorched-earth trail known as the aiyū-sen to enclose indigenous settlements in northern Taiwan. From 1903 through 1915, government forces extended the barrier and then marched it inward. The Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan, as a modern political-cultural formation, emerged from the ruins of these campaigns as a disarmed, geographically isolated, and dispossessed minority population.

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    Barclay, P. 2017. From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, the Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion. In: Barclay, P, Outcasts of Empire. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.41.b

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    Published on Oct. 24, 2017