Organized Panel Session
This paper examines the role of overseas Taiwanese residents in the southeast Chinese treaty-port of Xiamen in building Japanese imperial institutional power during China’s Nanjing Decade (1928-1937) and contesting steps taken by the Guomindang government to strengthen its control over local diplomatic affairs and economic governance. In Xiamen, these steps included reinterpreting Chinese citizenship law to treat Taiwanese residents of the city who were subjects of the Japanese Empire as Chinese citizens; requiring merchants to renounce foreign citizenship as a prerequisite of participating in key civic and economic institutions; and curtailing the spatial limits of Japanese consular police authority while claiming jurisdiction over Taiwanese residents, who often lived in mixed residence with Chinese inhabitants. Local conflicts, then, became matters of international diplomacy and economic competition.
Forced out of municipal organizations and pressured by an ambitious Guomindang state, Taiwanese residents of Xiamen instead advocated for the expansion of the Bank of Taiwan, the Japanese municipal police force, and Japanese consular legal power in South China. As the other imperial powers were moving towards abrogating the unequal treaties and negotiating the restoration of Chinese sovereignty in the treaty-ports, the Taiwanese instead retrenched Japanese imperial institutions not just in Xiamen but across the integrated network of South China treaty-ports. The overseas Taiwanese therefore linked their position in South China and their place in the regional political economy to an existing and expanding network of imperial Japanese maritime interests across Asia.