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  • What do Madagascar's Malagasy, New Zealand's Maori, and the Hawaiians of the USA have in common?

  • Well, we can see the commonalities of these 3 groups, and many more, all across the Southern and Eastern hemispheres,

  • in an area we can call, Austronesia.

  • Today, we will focus on language, but much of the same evidence can be found in biology or archaeology too.

  • Just as you're closer to your brother than your cousin, and to your cousin than a Bantu tribesman,

  • ...unless you yourself are a Bantu tribesman,

  • we can date linguistic developments, by language features of related tongues.

  • It turns out that the languages of these three groups are relatively undifferentiated.

  • Meaning these differences that span the globe occurred relatively recently, less than 4000 years ago.

  • Anthropologically, in the blink of an eye.

  • The Austronesian civilisation was, oceanically speaking, far ahead of the rest of the world in its development.

  • They invented stable, multiple-hulled vessels, and sophisticated oceanographic maps,

  • that allowed long-distance nautical endeavour, long ahead of its development in Europe.

  • Such is their success in spreading across the world, that there are very few remaining descendants of the previous civilisations.

  • Most of the ones that do remain, have themselves adopted Austronesian languages.

  • But this isn't the whole story. These aren't the only members of the Austronesian family.

  • They are but of one branch.

  • While *these* are all linguistically close but geographically very distant,

  • all other branches of this tree, are geographically proximate, but linguistically very distant.

  • Meaning that *these* languages, are the oldest examples of the Austronesian family.

  • We find them on the island of Taiwan.

  • The aboriginals of Taiwan were not Chinese, but have lots of contact with the Chinese for a long time.

  • No dynasty, or ruler, extended their influence to this island. He says.

  • The successful early Chinese unification couldn't have happened elsewhere in Eurasia.

  • China is the only place on the continent where divisions don't divide north and south.

  • There is no Sahara, or Himalayas, or Mediterranean dividing China.

  • Contact, and therefore conflict, was always on the horizon.

  • And China unified quite early as a political entity, albeit under different dynastical crowns.

  • The history of Chinese war is a story of evolution-style selection pressures.

  • It was a crucible of war, designed to select the dominant group, for whom the heavenly mandate was (to) expand,

  • ...or the other group will. It followed the typical method of expansion for a unified empire.

  • Step 1: Protect your people because there are barbarians on the border.

  • Step 2: Conquer the barbarians and try to, “civilisethem

  • Step 3: Barbarians eventually stop being barbarians.

  • You're not distinct enough to call thembarbarians”, they're now your people,

  • ...and you have to protect your people, because there are barbarians on the border.

  • This was Sinicisation. Sinicisation means conversion to the dominant Han Chinese culture in every way.

  • From its beginning with the Han on the northern plains, more people have been Sinicised,

  • ...than conversion to any nationhood in history. It doesn't all go smoothly though.

  • Some of the deepest divisions that exist on mainland China today remain, diet (food, cuisine).

  • For one, the differences in climate and landscape means that crops and farming methods,

  • from the tropical to the desert to the tundra, just don't translate.

  • Even less so, in the world of vast amounts of small-scale feudal peasant farming.

  • The places where the non-Han minorities remain, are the Tibetan tundra,

  • the arid steppe of Inner Mongolia, the Uyghur, desert west, and the highland south,

  • where minority languages also thrive. The fringes of China. The difficult areas to Sinicise.

  • One place China couldn't spread easily, was across the water.

  • Taiwan in the east was frequented by Chinese fisherman, but the Chinese never settled permanently. They just couldn't.

  • There wasn't enough of a pull, or technological ability to counter the aboriginals' home field advantage.

  • They had high immunity to each other's diseases,

  • ...and as we can see from the story of the Austronesian expansion, they're not exactly pushovers.

  • It took a catalyst for the two to properly come into conflict, and that catalyst, was Dutch.

  • The acrimonious emancipation of the Netherlands from the Spanish Empire led to a scramble for overseas possessions.

  • There are two world-class natural ports for trade empires in maritime Southeast Asia.

  • Manila (Philippines) and Batavia (Indonesia).

  • Spain and the Netherlands ended up with one each, and from these bases,

  • projected their power in the East Indies.

  • One island that took both of their interest, was Ilha Formosa,

  • ...named by the Portuguese for its beauty.

  • It's not the only example of Portuguese sweet talk.

  • They were the first Europeans to trade in a closed Japan, and they also managed to get themselves a little trading port in Macau.

  • Other countries weren't able to do that.

  • The Dutch for example would not kowtow.

  • They were never on good terms with the mainland. So you know that they did?

  • They parked themselves right across the water, on the beautiful island of Formosa.

  • Unlike other East Asian land masses, this island is not made of plains interspersed among mountains.

  • The two are removed from each other.

  • On the Pacific Rim of Fire, one plate slipped under another and created mountains,

  • ...exclusively on the eastern edge of the island.

  • The plains, and therefore the interesting, valuable lands to agricultural and industrial societies,

  • are all on the side facing mainland China.

  • That's where foreign forts and investments were made. And where plantations were built.

  • And Chinese labourers were invited.

  • Thanks to Sino-European expansion in the island, aboriginals remained mostly in the mountains, and the east.

  • Shortly prior to this point, the Ming dynasty were the rulers of China.

  • But they hadn't taken control of the Mongol homeland from their predecessors.

  • A rump empire from the former Yuan dynasty remained in the north.

  • And the Ming were deathly focused on land defense,

  • ...like you kind of have to be with Mongols.

  • This is why the Ming build the Great Wall into its largest and most complete form.

  • They had one of the biggest land armies in history, and they needed it.

  • But even the largest empires don't have unlimited resources.

  • By the time of European excursions into their waters, it was starting to crumble.

  • So the Ming weren't as navally-inclined as they might have been.

  • And the Dutch settling a little way away didn't seem to be the biggest threat in the world.

  • So there the Dutch were. With their extremely portable Western-style capitalist farming methods,

  • ...using Taiwan as an economic colony. The Chinese workers were afforded land and the ability to settle.

  • Oh, and the Spanish also set themselves up on the island.

  • The Dutch and Spanish faced huge challenges. Not only with working with the Chinese and firing at each other,

  • ...there were also the aboriginals who had a pesky habit of scalping Europeans.

  • The Dutch eventually drove out the Spanish, but the one threat they never saw,

  • ...was the Chinese that they themselves invited.

  • The colonial heads in Dutch Java refused to afford any more protection or resources.

  • No women were allowed to settle in Formosa, for the potential danger of the aboriginals and natural disaster.

  • Locusts, and disease, and seven weeks of earthquakes had plagued the island.

  • The conditions for the working Chinese were awful. The Dutch had not held up their end of the bargain.

  • Their ventures were ruined, and almost all revenue came from the Chinese themselves,

  • ...who didn't see much reason to remain under European control.

  • So raise its head, the common theme in Chinese history, a peasant rebellion.

  • Meanwhile on the mainland, the Ming's army wasn't doing its job.

  • The economy was also collapsing and famines were rife.

  • If you can't pay your army you can't feed your army.

  • And it doesn't matter how big the army is, you'll have problems.

  • Especially when another group comes along and promises them the world.

  • The Manchus were a small, ethnic group in the northeast, who couldn't have come to power

  • ...were it not for the swathes of the Han majority willing to rebel against the Ming.

  • This pan-ethnic alliance called itself the Qing.

  • They took on the rump Mongol Yuan dynasty that had plagued the Ming from the north,

  • ...at the same time the Russians were poking their noses into the Far East.

  • The Qing were unstoppable. But that news didn't seem to have reached the islanders.

  • While the Chinese rebellion against the Dutch was in full swing , loyalists to the Ming made this island their aim.

  • Eventually the Dutch was sufficiently besieged. They lost and abandoned the island.

  • The Kingdom of Tungning was declared by Chinese Ming loyalists to take over the new Chinese society,

  • ...and its economic ventures.

  • From now on, the island is not Formosa, but most definitely Taiwan.

  • So mainland China was under a new Qing government, and Taiwan was under the control

  • ...of the remnants of the previous rulers of the mainland.

  • Of course, through inevitable naval invasion, the Qing eventually came to control Taiwan,

  • ... but despite its settlement by the Chinese it was not seen as a core area of the nation.

  • That was until the Japanese took it away. We always want what we can't have, don't we?

  • Chinese fragility seemed perennial. It either needed an iron fist, or the ideological support of the whole nation.

  • Without the former, the Qing never had the latter.

  • As China was opening up to the world, alternatives flooded the country.

  • Democracy, fascism, republicanism, communism even. And what was wrong with monarchy in the first place?

  • This was a fertile age of fantastic variety in political thought.

  • The vacuum left by the fallen empire was filled by a temporary military government called the Beiyang.

  • But it didn't end up being sotemporary”.

  • This fractured warlord era presided over a mess. No central authority could withstand Japanese incursions,

  • ...despite them also being involved in World War 1.

  • That's not to say that they didn't try to resist. In the southern city of Guangzhou,

  • ...the Kuomintang, a Chinese republican movement, have joined the party.

  • They tried their utmost best to ally with the right friends to oppose the right people,

  • make their way across this giant nation to unify the whole darn country.

  • And after no less than two decades the Nationalists achieved their unification. Finally...

  • But then they turned around and massacred all the Communists. We just don't learn, do we?

  • The second civil war, which followed immediately on the heels of the first,

  • ...coincidentally overlapped with another World War.

  • The destruction of the, this time, full-scale Japanese invasion, put a little pause on the Nationalist-Communist conflict,

  • while they teamed up with the unions of states and Soviets, to put a little downer on the Japanese there.

  • And China by FAR didn't come out unschathed.

  • Even beyond the crimes against humanity committed by Japanese soldiers, on the low-end estimate,

  • ...four million soldiers and fifteen million civilians died.

  • One event in the resistance against the Japanese was so unbelievably catastrophic.

  • The 1938 Yellow River flood was not a natural disaster, but a military tactic,

  • ...chosen by the Nationalist government, to slow the Empire's march.

  • Dikes were destroyed, and one of the most densely-populated areas of the world was washed asunder.

  • The price paid, was no less than half a million Chinese lives, and between five and 12 million refugees.

  • It took a decade for the river to return to its natural course, and generations of people have never returned.

  • Events like this, are touchpaper for revolution.

  • And when your life and world are destroyed like this, you have so little left to lose.

  • The Communist Party cleaned up in terms of recruitment from these affected people,

  • ...and after the surrender of Japan, Taiwan was returned, but China remained in civil war.

  • The island came to be home of all the remnants of the Chinese Republic,

  • ...once the communist People's Republic had taken total control of the mainland.

  • Now, why is this story familiar?

  • Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the Republic of China, as the state of Taiwan is officially known,

  • ...has struggled to maintain the appearance of legitimacy.

  • Both the legacy of the Japanese and the historical existence of the non-Chinese aboriginals,

  • ...could lead to accusations of colonialism.

  • And at this point in history, that was the worst thing in the world. Sinicisation was back on the agenda.

  • This was one of the great stories of history, convincing the world that Taiwan wasChinese”.