Goto Shinpei 後藤新平: Father of Taiwan’s Modernization

Goto Shinpei後藤 新平) is considered to be the father of Taiwan’s modernization.

During the Japanese colonial period, Goto Shinpei was in charge of civil affairs at the Taiwan Governor’s Office between 1898 and 1906, during the rule of the fourth governor, Kodama Gentaro児玉 源太郎). He launched many innovative projects which would lead the way to Taiwanese economic independence from Japan.

Goto was against the colonial exploitation of Taiwan. He believed that Taiwan could not be completely integrated into Japan, and the colonial government should not enforce Japanese laws in ruling Taiwanese. He conducted extensive research of Taiwanese customs, land and people. Based on the findings, he revised the laws and enacted new ones.

The research also revealed that there was vast arable land. He accomplished the land reform by introducing a modern land ownership system.

Goto phased Japanese systems and capitalism into Taiwanese society. He embarked on many projects of infrastructure development: He worked on the expansion of Keelung and Kaohsiung harbors to improve sea traffic, and the construction of railways and highways to build the transportation network. He launched projects to build modern buildings all over Taiwan. He constructed a sewage system in Taipei earlier than in Tokyo.

Along with his dedications to infrastructural projects, Goto worked hard to foster the sugar industry, which would benefit the Taiwanese economy. By 1905, during his tenure, Taiwan became financially independent.

Goto Shinpei has been an admired political leader in Taiwanese society. Japan owes the friendly relations with Taiwan to his accomplishments.