Does Taiwan owe its prosperity to Japan's five-decade colonization?
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso accepted all the credit for his country on Saturday.
In his words, his country's occupation of the island from 1895 to 1945 was "a good thing."
"Thanks to the significant improvement in education standards and literacy (during colonization), Taiwan is now a country with a very high education level and keeps up with the current era," Aso said.
Bragging about what the compulsory education did to Taiwan, Aso has deliberately ignored the callous episodes of Japan's colonization of the island.
Thousands of Taiwan people were forced into serving in the Japanese military during Japan's colonization. About 28,000 war dead from Taiwan are enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine under Japanese names they were forced to assume.
The Taiwan people said they want their relatives' names removed from the memorial plaques there because it is "morally unpardonable that murderers and victims are honored at the same place."
From the early days of their modernization, the Japanese rulers studied not only the Western countries' modern sciences, philosophies, manufacturing and management methods but also the myriad aspects of colonial administration.
In 1895, Japan began to build an empire like those of Britain and other European powers. China and Korea were the initial targets of Japan's expansion.
After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, Japan assumed control over Taiwan. The Japanese then exploited Taiwan as an agricultural colony producing rice and sugar.
A country infamously poor in its own sources of energy as well as raw materials, Japan colonized Taiwan to pursue its own economic profits.
Taiwan was made a remote prefecture of Japan: a challenge for military mobilization and a source of cannon fodder, but far from the imperial frontier and a passive recipient of commands emanating from Tokyo.
The history of the Taiwan Development Corporation of 1936-1946 demonstrates that Taiwan's role was active and complex. Created to foster development in Taiwan and economic expansion into Southeast Asia and South China, the activities of this public policy company ranged broadly from forestry, agriculture, and fishing to chemicals and mining.
Japan colonized Taiwan in the face of strong hostility from both Taiwanese and aborigines. After several massacres, the Japanese began their colonization. They attempted to "Japanize" the Taiwan people by making Japanese the official language of education and government. To this day, many older people in Taiwan can speak Japanese.
Is this part of the "good thing" the colonization did to Taiwan?
During World War II, Taiwan was used as a major staging ground for the Japanese. Upon their surrender, the Taiwan people celebrated their liberation from Japan.
If Japan's occupation of foreign lands had done any good to them, why did the Japanese prime minister, former and incumbent, apologize for his country's wartime colonization and invasions?
On the 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II last year, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi admitted that his country has caused great damages and pain to people in many countries, especially the Asian neighbors, through colonization and invasion.
In Aso's eyes, those damages and pain were miracles of Japan for Taiwan.
After all, Japan has never apologized for its colonization of Taiwan.
Tokyo has failed to atone fully for invading its Asian neighbors and colonizing the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan.
Taiwan and other colonies were good milking cows for Japan when they were under its brutal occupation.
Japan owes them apologies.
(China Daily February 7, 2006)