The gripping story of Taiwan, from the flood myths of ancient legend to its ‘Asian Tiger’ economic miracle — and the looming threat of invasion by China.
Once dismissed by the Kangxi Emperor as nothing but a ‘ball of mud’, Taiwan has a modern GDP larger than that of Sweden, in a land area smaller than Indiana. It is the last surviving enclave of the Republic of China, a lost colony of Japan, and claimed by Beijing as a rogue province — merely the latest chapters in its long history as a refuge for pirates, rebels, settlers, and outcasts.
In Rebel Island, Jonathan Clements offers a concise and vivid telling of Taiwan’s complex island story, beginning with the unique conditions of its archaeology before examining its indigenous history and its days as a Dutch and Spanish trading post. He delves into its periods as an independent kingdom, Chinese province, and short-lived republic, and the transformations wrought by 50 years as part of the Japanese Empire.
In 1949, the island became a lifeboat for two million refugees from the Chinese Communist Revolution, and the White Terror began. Later chapters explain the recent conflicts that have emerged after the suspension of four decades of martial law, as the Taiwanese debate issues of self-determination, independence, and home rule — all under the watchful gaze of President Xi Jinping, and politicians around the world.
Rebel Island is an essential guide to Taiwan’s past and present, providing invaluable context at a time of escalating tension over its future.
‘Excellent ... Clements’s brisk narrative is related with style and brio and an appropriate amount of caution, given the various competing narratives surrounding the island’s history, and he draws on an impressive trove of documentation, Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, and western. The result is a splendid portrait of the layers of identity and resistance in what is no less a settler society than the United States, Australia, or Argentina.’
Oliver Farry, The Irish Times
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‘Rich with fascinating details, Jonathan Clements’ Rebel Island is an engaging introduction to the complicated and astonishing history of Taiwan.’
Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island