Let’s Talk Colonization

It could be argued that Taiwan's culture today is a product of many years of colonization. This book “How Taiwan Became Chinese” discusses how Taiwan’s initial colonization was by the Dutch, using Chinese settlers. This book’s introduction also argues that while the European powers were colonizers, China was not. However for much of its thousands of years of empire, China used what in English is called a vassal-state system.

So let’s talk colonization. Is there a material difference between colonies and vassal-states? Is cultural expansion and takeover an inevitable part of globalization? Is globalization under capitalism any different than globalization under empire?

The Wikipedia article argues that Chinese expansionism over the centuries, or “The traditional Chinese international structure” was “different from many other systems developed in other parts of the world.” So Chinese expansionism was different than European expansionism because “it was premised on the belief that China was the cultural center of the world and that foreigners were "less civilized" or "barbarians.”” This sentence entirely ignores the fact that Europaen expansionism was predicated on exactly the same belief. I wonder if any expansionism is not based on the belief in the originating culture’s superiority?

These are just some of the questions these articles brought up for me. What questions do they bring up for you? Let’s talk about it on Friday :DD

Exerpt from introduction to How Taiwan Became Chinese:
In 1600, Taiwan was a wild land, inhabited by headhunters and visited mainly by pirates and fishermen. A hundred years later it was a prefecture of the Chinese Empire, home to a hundred thousand Chinese colonists. What accounted for this transition? How did Taiwan become Chinese?

Intensive Chinese colonization began abruptly in the 1630s, shortly after the Dutch East India Company established a trading port on Taiwan. The Dutch realized that their port’s hinterlands could produce rice and sugar for export, but they were unable to persuade Taiwan’s aborigines to raise crops for sale—most were content to plant just enough for themselves and their families.1 The colonists considered importing European settlers, but the idea was rejected by their superiors in the Netherlands. So they settled instead on a more unusual plan: encourage Chinese immigration. The Dutch offered tax breaks and free land to Chinese colonists, using their powerful military to protect pioneers from aboriginal assault. They also outlawed guns; prohibited gambling (which they believed led to piracy); controlled drinking; prosecuted smugglers, pirates, and counterfeiters; regulated weights, measures, and exchange rates; enforced contracts; adjudicated disputes; built hospitals, churches, and orphanages; and provided policing and civil governance.2 In this way the company created a calculable economic and social environment, making Taiwan a safe place for Chinese to move to and invest in, whether they were poor peasants or rich entrepreneurs.3 People from the province of Fujian, just across the Taiwan Strait, began pouring into the colony, which grew and prospered, becoming, in essence, a Chinese settlement under Dutch rule. The colony's revenues were drawn almost entirely from Chinese settlers, through taxes, tolls, and licenses. As one Dutch governor put it, "The Chinese are the only bees on Formosa that give honey."4

This book traces the history of Taiwan in this pivotal period of European rule, 1623 to 1662. Although I do consider a short-lived Spanish colony in northern Taiwan (1626–42), my focus is on the Dutch colony (1624–62) and the emergence therein of a Sino-Dutch hybrid colony, a process I call "co-colonization." This process was born out of economic and administrative cooperation between Dutch and Chinese colonists, but it also involved coercion: This is not a book just about peaceful coexistence. We will hear about Chinese pirates who infiltrated the Dutch administration; samurai who took Taiwanese aborigines to Japan to persuade the shogun to attack the Dutch; aborigines who attacked Chinese hunters; peasant rebels who cried, "Kill, Kill, Kill the Hollandish dogs!" and, finally, the Chinese merchant prince Zheng Chenggong, whose army swept the Dutch out of Taiwan and established Chinese rule.

These stories of cooperation and competition shed light on one of the most important questions of global history: How do we understand the great colonial movements that have shaped our modern world? Historians have focused on European colonialism, paying little attention to non-western counter examples.5 I decided to study Taiwan because it is a place where European and non-European colonialism met, where two different civilizations encountered "people without history," and thus an ideal microcosm for understanding colonialism.6 The Spanish and the Dutch managed to establish colonies on an island just a hundred miles from the empire of China, which, with its 150 million inhabitants, was a hundred times larger than the Dutch Republic.7 Taiwan was also just two weeks' sail from Japan, another large state whose inhabitants preceded Europeans on Taiwan. How did people from these small European countries establish colonies on an island that had already aroused the interest of merchants from the two most powerful states of East Asia? And in 1662, how was the Dutch East India Company, which was at the height of its powers, ousted from Taiwan, one of its most profitable possessions?

There is a clear answer to these questions. It turns out that colonialism—at least in East Asia—has less to do with superior technology or military prowess than with motivation. European states were eager to sponsor overseas adventurism. East Asian states were, for the most part, not.

Imperial Chinese tributary system
The Imperial tributary system of China (Chinese: 朝貢體系) was the network of trade and foreign relations between China and its tributaries that helped to shape much of East Asian affairs. Contrary to other tribute systems around the world, the Chinese tributary system consisted almost entirely of mutually-beneficial economic relationships, and member states of the system were politically autonomous and, in almost all cases, independent as well. Through the tribute system, which facilitated frequent economic and cultural exchange, the various dynasties of Imperial China "deeply influenced the culture of the peripheral countries and also drew them into a China-centered, or "sino-centric", international order." The Imperial tributary system shaped foreign policy and trade for over 2,000 years of Imperial China's economic and cultural dominance of the region, and thus played a huge role in the History of Asia, and the History of East Asia in particular. Recently, some scholars have argued that it is misleading to think of a millennial tribute "system," rather than a loose set of expectations and precedents and they suggest that the system only flourished in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.

The system
The traditional Chinese international structure was different from many other systems developed in other parts of the world. First, it was premised on the belief that China was the cultural center of the world and that foreigners were "less civilized" or "barbarians." Second, since the Chinese state was considered the center of all humankind, most other foreign rulers were expected to recognize the prominence of the Chinese court.[6] In the Qing period, countries wanting to trade with China had to send “tribute” missions that acknowledged China's cultural superiority and nominal suzerainty via the ritual of ke-tou, or kow-tow, which consisted of three kneelings, each involving three prostrations before the emperor. In return they could trade for a specified number of days at border points designated by Beijing.
Since neighboring Asian states were required to pay tribute in order to establish economic relations with the Chinese court, there was little reason for the Chinese to doubt their predominance in the world order. Even the Europeans, who first entered the Chinese waters as early as the sixteenth century, had submitted to trade within the highly restrictive Chinese system.[6] By conforming to the conditions imposed on them, and by accepting their nominally "inferior" position, the Westerners strengthened the Chinese belief in the preeminence of the Middle Kingdom and in the tributary system of foreign relations.

List of tributaries of Imperial China
A status hierarchy was an explicit element of the tributary system in which Korea and Vietnam were ranked higher than others, including Japan, the Ryukyus, Siam, the Burmese kingdoms and others. All diplomatic and trade missions were construed in the context of a tributary relationship with Imperial China, including:
This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness.
• Annam
• Brunei (文莱)
• Borneo
• Poni (渤泥)
• Burma
• Cambodia
• Kingdom of Funan
• Zhenla
• England
• Japan
• Wa (Japan) (16 tribute missions)
• Japanese missions to Sui China (5 tribute missions)
• Japanese missions to Tang China (16 tribute missions)
• Japanese missions to Ming China (20 tribute and tally trade missions)
• Korea
• Goguryeo (173 tribute missions)
• Baekje (45 tribute missions)
• Silla (19 tribute missions)
• Unified Silla (63 tribute missions in 8th century)
• Goryeo (The envoy missions)
• Joseon Dynasty (391 envoy missions between 1392 and 1450,[36] 435 special embassy missions between 1637 and 1881.
• Malaysia
• Tanah Merah Kingdom
• Kedah Kingdom
• Kelantan
• Malacca Sultanate
• Nepal
• Netherlands
• Philippines
• Sulu
• Portugal
• Ryūkyū Kingdom (Ryukyuan missions to Imperial China)
• Hokuzan
• Chūzan (9 tribute missions)
• Nanzan
• Siam
• Tibet