Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Mobilizing Ideas and Economy: Taiwanese Agrarian Development in Vietnam and Africa, 1959-1971

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite C, Lobby Level

In 1959, the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan sent its first development mission abroad, consisting of experts in farmers organization, agricultural extension, crop improvement, and fisheries, to the Republic of Vietnam. The mission was a technical cooperation project orchestrated on the one hand to advance Taiwanese leadership and diplomacy in the Third World. On the other hand, it also represented the first attempt by Taiwanese scientists, technocrats, and intellectuals at demonstrating the success of Taiwan’s agricultural miracle to the rest of the world (and by extension, the uniqueness of the Taiwanese “approach” or “model”). After meeting initial success in Vietnam, the ROC expanded these missions during the 1960s to over two dozen countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. 


This paper will discuss the transformation of knowledge from Taiwanese scientists and technicians as they exported practices of agricultural science, rural reform, and economic development across the global South. In exploring how practices were negotiated between transmitting powers like Taiwan and the countryside of developing nations like Vietnam, it demonstrates that ideas about economy and science became mobilized within South-to-South networks defined by political and cultural constellations. Thus it argues that networks of knowledge were not driven just by a high-modernist ideology, but also by Cold War fears and shared postcolonial identities and hopes. This history illuminates how mobilized knowledge transformed economies and societies, while also understanding knowledge and ideas as fundamentally shaped by the global and local contexts in which they circulated.

James Lin

University of Washington, California

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