A mall decorated in a Japanese style, complete with waiters in Japanese dress serving Japanese food, is a surprising sight in Taiwan, once ruled by an often oppressive Japanese regime. However, Taiwan has a “complex and powerful connection” with its former ruler, according to The Diplomat, and it could be growing stronger:
In Japan, the rise of the right-wing government of Shinzo Abe and his effort to reawaken the slumbering giant with an active foreign policy could very mean overtures to Taiwan, which is at an important geopolitical crossroads for Japan. Already, members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have vocally promoted the idea of a Japanese version of the United States’ Taiwan Relations Act, allowing for additional extra-diplomatic relations.
Though Taiwan’s President and ruling party currently have strained relations with Japan, the Taiwanese public “adores” the country, according to The Diplomat—indeed, in a recent poll, the Taiwanese deemed Japan their favorite country in the whole world. But more important is the Taiwanese reaction to Japan’s efforts to reinterpret its constitution, the piece continues:
The real news came when in mid-August former President Lee Teng-hui – often called the father of the Taiwanese independence movement – applauded Japan’s far-right and its effort to reinterpret Article 9, allowing for a more robust Japanese military and hard power-oriented foreign policy. Lee’s approving words were in notable contrast to the response of Japan’s other East Asian neighbors, indeed South Korea and China moved to strengthen ties in response. For these countries, the memory of Japan’s past atrocities are painfully salient, but not for Taiwan.Looking back, it’s not hard to see why. Taiwan was imperial Japan’s first colony. Bent on presenting itself as apt colonizers on par with the West, Japan made Taiwan its model colony, modernizing the island and offering access to modern education and services. […]“At least the Japanese made us modern, the Chinese just made a mess,” a refrain heard all too often in the presence of Taiwanese elders.
If Taiwan is embracing a closer relationship with Japan, that’s big news for Asia’s always-tense geopolitics.