OUR TRADE IN PERSPECTIVE
As far back as 1623, the Dutch had been attempting to use military force to coerce China into trading with the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the vast Dutch trading cartel that spanned the world at that time. However, their efforts were thwarted by unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Chinese, and the Dutch were forced to sue for peace and to withdraw to the island of Formosa, which in those days was mainly inhabited by aboriginal tribes.
The Dutch built the defensive fort “Zeelandia” as a base of their operations in the southern city of what is now Tainan and started trading with aboriginal tribes, as well as developing large-scale agriculture with the help of imported labor from the Mainland’s Fujian province. However, the period of Dutch rule was brief: during the Siege of Fort Zeelandia, the Chinese military leader Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) forced the Dutch to surrender and expelled them from Taiwan in 1662.
Many of the economic policies implemented by the Dutch during their brief colonial period subsequently formed the basis of Taiwan’s modern international trade. Taiwan’s earliest mercantile history and, to a certain degree, the roots of its present-day economy, can be traced back to the system of ports, trade relations and trade routes that were established during the Dutch Formosa period back in the 17th century.
Today, the Netherlands still has close economic relations with Taiwan. The Netherlands is the second of Taiwan’s European trading partners, and is also the biggest foreign investor in Taiwan. After Japan and Mainland China, Taiwan is one of Asia’s main destinations for Dutch exports.