Talk at the Library: Do Taiwanese Have a National Identity?
In Search of An Answer in Ancient, Modern and Contemporary History
The islanders’ identity is shaped by its historical past, and its relationships with both Japan (of which it was a colony) and China. Today’s divide between exclusively Taiwanese and Chinese-Taiwanese has long been a matter of confusion and its political connotation a source of potential conflict. Who are Taiwan’s natives? What influence did the Japanese occupation and the Kuomintang (KMT) rule have on Taiwan’s evolution of identity? And how is today’s split in Taiwanese identity reflected in national politics? Is Taiwan culturally Chinese? Or in fact the ‘real’ China? In this Talk at the Library, Dr. Simona Grano elaborates on the evolution of Taiwan’s identity, how today’s situation came to be and pinpoints the dynamics of identity politics that have shaped Taiwanese identity since the end of the second world war.
Our Key Takeaways
Japanese occupation of Taiwan ended in 1945, with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek taking over. After 1949, the Kuomintang (KMT) legitimized its rule and martial law with the need for "recapturing the mainland" and started a process of "sinicization".
After the U.S. recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1979, a process of “nativization” started, accelerated during the democratization under Lee Teng-Hui (who became Taiwan's first democratically elected president in 1996).
Today, two opposing forces are at play: A stronger Taiwanese identity distinct from Chinese identity on one side, but ever deeper economic integration and links with the mainland on the other hand.
Simona A. Grano is senior lecturer at the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at the University of Zurich. She is also a research fellow of the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT) at Tübingen. She has authored several book chapters and articles dealing with environmental and anti-nuclear concerns in East Asia in the past few years. In 2016 she has guest edited a special number of China Information on the topic of “Environmental governance in China”, which includes articles by renowned China specialists on environmental rules and regulations. Her latest book as a single author is Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders (Routledge, 2015), which analyses green governance mechanisms and actors in Taiwan through a multi-disciplinary research approach. Her new co-edited monograph titled Civil Society and the State in Democratic East Asia: Between Entanglement and Contention in Post High Growth (Amsterdam University Press, 2020) analyzes the dichotomy between civil society and the state in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.