Monday, April 24, 2017

Wakabayashi identifies three national identity changes in Taiwan.34 The first
occurred when Taiwan was annexed by Japan after the first Sino – Japanese War in
1895. Prior to 1895, ‘people in Taiwan did not think of themselves as a unified
group’.35 However, after the Japanese occupation, Japanese culture was forced upon
the Taiwanese, and the ‘imminent arrival of Japanese troops [be]came the first
indication of a pan-Taiwanese identity, and identity limited to Han’ and an identity
centered on the resistance to Japanese occupation and the formation of a strong
nationalism.36 Both local Taiwanese and mainland immigrants became unified
against the external Japanese threat.

The second change occurred when Taiwan was ‘gloriously returned’ to the ROC in
1945.37 The ROC invoked a ‘Chinese nation’, promoting the Han culture as the
dominant group and culture.38 The process was especially intensified after the KMT
lost the civil war to the CCP and decided to move the Nationalist government to
Taiwan. Many Taiwanese assumed they were simply ‘Chinese’ again. On the day
before 28 February 1947, a local cigarette vendor was brutally beaten by the
Nationalist police as they tried to confiscate her allegedly smuggled cigarettes. The
incident sparked an island-wide uprising. In the next few weeks, the KMT executed
thousands of Taiwanese.39 This eventually led the Nationalist government to declare
martial law. The ‘2.28 Incident’ marked the beginning of the second identity change
in Taiwan. It became the ‘historical genesis of a broad Taiwanese nationalism as we
see it today’. As a result, ‘a considerable number of Taiwanese came to see “China”
as “outside” . . . “they”, the mainlanders, became the “Chinese”; we the Taiwanese
became a different community of people from these “Chinese”’.40

Recent democratization has started perhaps the third national identity change in
Taiwan. The end of the martial law in 1987 and permission from the government
allowing dangwai (opposition parties) to exist are largely considered as the beginning
of Taiwan’s democratization. As a result, ‘Taiwanese nationalism has assumed
considerable prominence, and a cultural uniqueness has been gaining strength’.4

Li, Y. (2014). Constructing peace in the Taiwan Strait: a constructivist analysis of the changing dynamics of identities and nationalisms. Journal of Contemporary China 23(85), 119-142.

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