Sowing Seeds and Knowledge: Agricultural Development in Taiwan and the World, 1925–1975

Volume 09, Issue 2

This article traces the rise of agricultural development in Taiwan and its interactions with the rest of the world, emphasizing the agency and transformations of the Global South. In the 1920s, American scientists and missionaries began experimenting with development in China through local universities and villages. From then until the early 1970s, American, Chinese, and Taiwanese scientists integrated farmers' associations, laboratory research, agricultural extension, and applied industrial research. Starting in the 1960s with the rise of the Cold War, Taiwanese technocrats packaged their practices of agricultural development into missions sent abroad to Southeast Asia and Africa and in new multinational research centers established in Taiwan. This approach toward development combined different schools of thought: the modernist “Green Revolution” practice of massive technical inputs and selected, high-yielding crop cultivars, and socially oriented practices that utilized grassroots methods of knowledge collection and dissemination. The Taiwanese emphasized their successes in both high technology and social reformist approaches when implementing development in the Global South. Contrary to narratives that portray development as a high modernist project enacted by the Global North upon the Global South, this article argues that Global South actors co-opted and redeployed development for their own political purposes, following their own historical experiences with development, and in accordance with their own visions of modernity.

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