Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 3 News List

`Taiwan identity' growing: study

CRUNCHING NUMBERS Using data from his own and other polls, an Academia Sinica researcher wrote that Taiwanese identity may be rising, but Taiwan nationalism isn't

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although more and more people have come to identify themselves as Taiwanese in recent years, this has not necessarily translated into an increase in "Taiwanese nationalism," according to an academic paper yesterday.

The paper on Taiwanese identity was presented by Academia Sinica research fellow Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德) at a forum held in Taipei yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the "1996 Missile Crisis."

"Although Taiwanese have different views about identity, almost all Taiwanese agree that the country's future should be decided by the people of Taiwan," Wu concluded in his paper.

According to annual household interview polls conducted by National Chengchi University, Wu said that the results suggested that only 13.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as Taiwanese in 1991. That number had risen to 45.7 percent by late 2004.

In contrast, Wu said the "Chinese consciousness" of respondents has steadily decreased.

While in 1991 43.9 percent of interviewees identified themselves as Chinese, the number was down to 6.3 percent by 2004.

Telephone surveys conducted annually by the university from 1994 to 2005 indicate a similar percentage and a same tendency, Wu said.

Wu added, however, that the polls showed interviewees with double identities (those who identify themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese) have remained steady.

While 49.7 percentage of the household interviewees described themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese in 1992, the percentage was 45.4 in 2004.

Telephone surveys indicate that since 1994 to 2005, around 40 to 50 percent of interviewees think of themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese, Wu said.

In order to further explore the identity issue, Wu said he has conducted annual polls from 1992 to 2004 asking people questions such as "Do you agree that Taiwan should declare independence if it would not cause a war?" and "Do you agree that Taiwan should unite with China if there were no political, economic or social differences between the both sides?"

Identity shifts

* 45.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as "Taiwanese" in late 2004, compared with just 13.6 percent in 1991.

* 6.3 percent identified themselves as "Chinese" in 2004, compared with 43.9 percent in 1991.

* 45.4 percent described themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese in 2004, compared with 49.7 percent in 1992.

Source: national chengchi university

Wu said the polls found around one-fourth to one-third of respondents had maintained "double identities" over the years.

Wu found in his polls that the percentage of Taiwanese nationalists -- defined as those who consider Taiwan an independent political entity and would never want Taiwan to unite with China, even if both sides had no social differences -- grew very fast after the 1996 missile crisis.

The number rose from 10.3 percent in 1993, to 21.3 percent in 1996, but the percentage has stayed between 20 to 30 percent ever since, he said.

However, Chinese nationalists -- those who would like to see both sides of the Strait unite if they shared the same social conditions, declined from around 40 percent in 1992, to 15 percent in 2004.

Wu said he interviewed the same people in 1998 and 2000, and found that more than half of them had changed their views.

This means that many Tai-wanese are still confused about identity, and are easily affected by political, social and economic circumstances, Wu said.

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