This article deals with the speculation on the formational background and characteristics of "Taiwanese consciousness" during the Japanese colonization, which becomes the mental background of Taiwanese liberation theory, that is, the biggest issue of the current Taiwanese society.
The Taiwanese society during the Chung Dynsty was not equipped with the condition to develop "Taiwanese consciousness" on the basis of the territorial identity of Taiwan. It was because Taiwan at that time was regionally divided into several districts between north and south, which were rarely contacted with one another, and thereby, its administrative districts were also determined by this regional restrictions, and each administrative districts developed its own discrete community on the basis of "township economy." Furthermore, in the early stage of main Chinese immigration to Taiwan, the immigrants considered regional consolidation as important, and built their community on the basis of their regional language identity. In fact, these immigrants regarded their regional hometown of China as their place of identification, and thus, their regional consciousness was very strong, causing frequent conflicts between different regional groups. Since then, as the main Chinese immigrants (the people of Han tribes) got domesticated in Taiwan, the regional consciousness got blurred and a new collective consciousness to consider Taiwan as their object of identity emerged by 1860s. However, this took the time of Japanese colonization to get concertized as a complete Taiwanese consciousness.
Japan could occupy Taiwan as a result of the Sino-Japanese War, but it paid the big price to cope with the strong resistance by Taiwanese people. However, most of anti-Japanese resistances by armed Taiwanese people were pre-modern forms of protest based upon Chung dynasty as their national identity or setting up the motto for the change of old dynasty. In this respect, the Taiwanese society in the early stage of Japanese colonization could not form the Taiwanese national identity as well as the Taiwanese consciousness as their local identity. By the animosity against their betrayed country and the love for their land as well as the separation policy of Japanese colonial government, Taiwanese people were getting segregated from China and accumulated Taiwanese consciousness against the exploitation and racial discrimination by the Japanese colonial government.
After their occupation of Taiwan, Japan stabilized the public security by subduing the protest groups, and built up the infrastructure of capitalist system by renovating the real estate controlling system and constructing the transportation system. They also set up the colonial economic system to make Taiwan as a place for providing food and tropical products. Japanese colonial exploitation could be found in the tax burden of Taiwanese people and the heavy influx of Japanese industrial capital as well as the percentage of industrial laborers and teenage laborers. It could be also found in the confiscation of pageantry lands by allowing the Japanese capital group to use those lands as well as the policy of allowing Japanese sugar company to control the price of sugar cane products.
On the one hand, Japan set up the despotic system to control rights and duties of Taiwanese people by adopting acting- legislature system, and this tendency continued in the general governor system. To maintain this system, the Japanese colonial government functioned as a police state by employing the intimidating and vast power of the police. The police threatened Taiwanese people to obey the government and discriminated them with their power and authority. The racial discrimination to Taiwanese people was done in the recruitment of government officials, their promotion and salary as well as the education opportunity and content, teacher's quality, education budget and school admission system. Particularly, school education functioned as a means of reconfirming the social relationship and political role between the oppressors and the oppressed.
On the other hand, various policies by Japanese colonial government in Taiwan resulted in the consolidation of Taiwanese modern consciousness and the figuring out of regional problems, even though they were originally for the benefit of Japan. The construction of transportation network promoted social mobility, and thereby, it narrowed down the distance between ethnic groups. The currency reform and measure reform instigated the distribution of the goods and the capital. Japanese language policy eradicated the serious communication problems that many dialects caused among the local tribes. As a result, the consolidation between local tribes was strengthened and the local township based economy was converted into the national market economy. Also, industrialization and urbanization promoted social communication in Taiwan, and thus, propelling the formation of Taiwanese consciousness.
By these background that I mentioned above, the Taiwanese consciousness as a local identity became dominant by 1920s, and it was confirmed by the use of the term "Taiwan" and the "Taiwanese people." The Taiwanese imagination, which started by Taiwanese students in Japan, became stronger by anti-colonial resistance, but it broke up by the strategic conflicts. By the attitude to national identity and the means of movement, The anti-colonial movement of the Taiwanese people during the Japanese colonization can be categorized into "Nationality Group", "Watching Group", "Taiwanese Revolution Group," and "Enlightenment Group." "Nationality Group" and "Watching Group" set the return to China as their ultimate goal, and in that sense, these two groups looked similar in their identity attitude, but "Nationality Group" was protesting in the mainland of China while "Watching Group" was in Taiwan and they could not but admit the Japanese power. "Watching Group" recognized that they could not liberate Taiwan from Japanese power, but they adopted the strategy of distinguishing Taiwanese people from Japanese people by employing "Han Race" and "China-centric Ethnicity" for the consolidation of Taiwanese people. Consequently, they promulgated "Taiwanese consciousness" as an independent local unit, representing the Chinese consciousness in reaction to Japanese consciousness. "Taiwanese Revolution Group", which was led by the leftist intellectuals, tened toward the class movement, even though they promulgated "Taiwanese Nationality" and "Taiwanese Independence". The Taiwanese liberation, which was the motto of "Nationality Group", only implied the liberation from Japan. On the other hand, Taiwanese consciousness of "Taiwan Literary Group" which represented "Enlightenment Group" was different from Chinese consciousness in that they put an emphasis on the dominancy of Taiwanese literature.