This book talk introduces Imperial Gateway (Cornell University Press, 2022), which explores the political, social, and economic significance of colonial Taiwan in the southern expansion of Japan's empire from 1895 to the end of World War II. The book uncovers a half century of dynamic relations between Japan, Taiwan, China, and Western regional powers. Japanese officials in Taiwan did not simply take orders from Tokyo; rather, they often pursued their own expansionist ambitions in South China and Southeast Asia. When outright conquest was not possible, they promoted alternative strategies, including naturalizing resident Chinese as overseas Taiwanese subjects, extending colonial police networks, and deploying tens of thousands of Taiwanese to war. The Taiwanese—merchants, gangsters, policemen, interpreters, nurses, and soldiers—seized new opportunities for socioeconomic advancement that did not always align with Japan's imperial interests. Imperial Gateway shows how Japanese officials and Taiwanese subjects transformed Taiwan into a regional gateway for expansion in an ever-shifting international order.
Seiji Shirane is an Assistant Professor of Japanese History at The City College of New York (CUNY). He received degrees in history from Yale University (BA) and Princeton University (PhD), and his work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, Social Science Research Council, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.