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15 Movies That Speak to the Complex Relationship Between Taiwan and Japan | Global Voices

At various points in history, Taiwan has been a colony of Holland (1624-1662), Spain (1626-1642), the Qing dynasty of China (1683-1895) and Japan (1895-1945).

Like all colonizers, Japan squeezed resources from Taiwan. However, Japanese colonialism also sped up modernization of the island, with infrastructure development and the implementation of education and government administration systems.

Thus, when the Kuomintang (KMT) government of the Republic of China fled to Taiwan in 1949 after they lost to communist forces in the Chinese Civil War and brutally established power there with martial law (1949-1987), a sense of nostalgia about the Japanese colonial rule took root, even though the military government under KMT told Taiwanese that they should hate Japan because of their colonization of Taiwan and their invasion of China.

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, the two countries collaborated to provide supplies for the US army. This collaboration continued until Japan established formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and severed official ties with Republic of China on Taiwan in 1972 (due to the One-China Policy).

Since the end of martial law in Taiwan in 1987 and Japan’s Emperor Showa passed away in 1989, there have been more and more cultural and civic exchanges between Taiwan and Japan over their pre-war and war-time memories, and the complicated relationship has become the subject of various treatments, fiction and non-fiction alike. The following films, by Taiwanese and Japanese directors, listed in chronological order not only address the delicate, complex and often times repressed sentiments about the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, they also redefine the ties between Taiwanese and Japanese past and present.

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