Seiji Shirane’s Imperial Gateway: Colonial Taiwan and Japan's Expansion in South China and Southeast Asia, 1895-1945 (Cornell UP, 2022) demonstrates that colonial Taiwan was an imperial center in its own right, a political, social, and economic hub for the southern expansion of Japan’s empire led by officials with agendas that did not always match those of the government in Tokyo. In addition to this contribution to the study of Japanese empire, Imperial Gateway highlights two aspects of the history that are often underappreciated in the Anglophone literature. First, Shirane expands the aperture of his narrative beyond bilateral Sino-Japanese relations to encompass a dynamic multilateral milieu that includes colonial Taiwan, the region’s Western powers, and the Taiwanese subjects of the empire called “overseas Taiwanese” (sekimin) by Japan. Second, Shirane pays particular attention to the agency not just of the Government-General installed by Japan to rule over Taiwan, but also the “overseas Taiwanese” both wooed by the Japanese to advance imperial ambitions and also pursuing their own autonomous interests.
Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.
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