During the 19th National Party Congress of the Communist Party of China last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the following about Taiwan in his speech (begins towards the bottom of page 50):
Much like other complicated political problems in the world, however, it is not as simple as an independence referendum. For one thing, there remains large divides within the Taiwanese population on the status of Taiwan as an independent state as well as what that state, if actually independent, should be called. The Taiwan National Security Surveys designed by Duke University and conducted by National Chengchi University in 2016 showed that more than 70% of people surveyed agreed with the following statement:
台灣是一個主權獨立的國家，它現在的名字叫做中華民國。 [Taiwan is a sovereign independent country, and its current name is the Republic of China.]
To an English-speaking ear, rejuvenation has positive connotations and all nations have the right to rejuvenate themselves through peaceful efforts.
But the official translation of this crucial slogan is deeply misleading. In Chinese it is “Zhonghua minzu weida fuxing” and the important part of the phrase is “Zhonghua minzu” — the “Chinese nation” according to party propaganda. A more accurate, although not perfect, translation would be the “Chinese race”.
There are many factors that play into how Chinese and American people see their identities. Chinese people pride themselves on being a civilization with 5,000 years of history, and hence everyone who is born into a Chinese family, no matter the geographic location, is obliged to always identify him or herself as Chinese. Otherwise it’s a dishonor to the family and what have you.
On the other hand, other than the Native Americans, the U.S. is a country of immigrants, who left their home countries in hope of finding a better life in the states. They may retain the cultural heritage of their country of origin, but they and their descendants primarily identify themselves as Americans (e.g. Asian American, African American, European American, etc.). Continue reading “Chinese, Taiwanese, or Chinese Taiwanese?”
If you are able to read Chinese, the comment section of the Facebook picture above provides a selection of fairly common (and ongoing) arguments used for and against Taiwan-independence and a Taiwanese identity. Essentially the comic argues that Taiwanese culture is not synonymous to Chinese culture, even though past and current policies have long given preference to Chinese culture while suppressing cultures of other subgroups that make up of Taiwan’s population.
Somewhat related, The Upper Han by The Economist provides an interesting read on how Han people in China view ethnicity, nationality, and the Chinese identity. This attitude helps explain the attachment many in Taiwan still have towards “China” and their disdain towards de-sinicization and a separate Taiwanese identity and culture.
This question, along with “are Taiwanese people Chinese?”, is easy to ask, but takes a while to answer. Taiwan is an country of mostly immigrants. The original inhabitants of Formosa island today only accounts for less than 3% of the population. Similar to the United States, where while everyone is an American, most people can trace their ancestry to somewhere else. Here we use the word Taiwanese as a term for the nationality, i.e. people born and live in Taiwan and/or Taiwanese citizens. Much like trying to explain Taiwan’s political status, answering the question requires one to understand Taiwan’s history of immigration and population composition.