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Thursday, September 07, 2006

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More Identifying as Taiwanese

Ken Choy over at Taiwan Focus pointed me to this article from today's ETaiwan News on the rise of the Taiwanese identity among locals....the key passage:

Comparing the results of a series of polls on the national identification, Academia Sinica researcher Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌) said that more people on the island identified as Taiwanese rather than as Chinese and that this is a trend that has become more obvious in recent years.

In 2004, 55 percent of the people of Taiwan saw themselves as Taiwanese, compared to 5.5 percent who identified as Chinese and 35 percent who identified as both Taiwanese and Chinese.

In 2003, the percentage of those who identified as Taiwanese reached a record high of 59 percent, much higher than the 23.7 percent in 1992 and 40.6 percent in 1998 when Taiwan was under the rule of the Kuomintang party that came over from China in 1949.

Hsiao said that to his surprise the polls found that Taiwanese people identify more as Asians than as Chinese. Of those polled in 2004, 96.7 percent and 41.5 percent respectively said they had good feelings for Taiwan and Asia, but only 26.5 percent felt the same about China.

On the other hand, only 40 to 50 percent of Taiwanese were satisfied with Taiwan's military strength and its influence in the international community.

Hsiao said he noticed that many members of the local media and politicians have been trying to play up China's rise as an economic and military power for different reasons, but added that their preferences and efforts did not seem to have affected the confidence and the national identification of the people of Taiwan.


Ma Ying-jeou, Chairman of the KMT and mayor of Taipei, has resurrected James Soong's old proposal from the 2000 election that Taiwan sign some kind of 30-50 treaty with China. It is easy to see why China cannot agree to that -- because, over time, despite relentless propaganda from the anti-democracy, pro-China side, people in Taiwan are becoming conscious of themselves as Taiwanese. I also find it heartening that locals identify more with Asia than with China, and even more that someone thought to ask that question, thus taking us out of the usual Chinese vs. Taiwanese ethnic box. The people of Taiwan, with their long historical connections to Japan going back to the middle of the 19th century, when Japanese products and traders began coming here in increasing numbers, have a more complex consciousness than can be captured by the Chinese-Taiwanese prism.

Michael Hsiao is a prominent academic with a distinguished career as both a scholar and government official (you can get an idea of the flavor of his work on Taiwan's democratization from Recapturing Taiwan’s Democratization Experience) He had been slated to become Veep of the Control Yuan until the Blue-dominated legislature decided to boycott the President's selections for Control Yuan offices, and thus seriously impede the functioning of that important audit organ.

(portions crossposted from The View from Taiwan)

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