With the recent change of Chunghwa Post Co to Taiwan Post Co, a very interesting topic has re-emerged on the issue of group identity in Taiwan -- namely, should the people living here, along with the nation's institutions, be identified as Chinese or Taiwanese?
On the one hand, we have a political party that seeks to follow a project rooted in recent historical memory, a Republican Chinese one. On the other hand, we have a party that promotes a pro-Taiwan nation-state.
Political parties tell us that these are our options: Either you are Taiwanese and prefer public institution names reflecting that reality (eg, Taiwan Post) or you are Chinese and thus, your preference is for Chunghwa Post.
This idea that Taiwan's identity is either one or the other is too simplistic, only benefiting political agendas. Put another away, ethnographic work suggests that identity in Taiwan is a marriage of cultures, ways and beliefs that forged a very complex group identity. This is even more acute among the younger generation.
Interviews with the young Chinese-Taiwanese generation, brought up from post 1949 Chinese families, do not, in general, share a common bond, mode of thinking or value-set with their mainland counterparts. Young Chinese-Taiwanese who visit China can confirm this.
Interviews with young Taiwanese, whose families have lived in Taiwan for much longer, reveal that they do not see themselves differently than young Chinese-Taiwanese. In general, both groups have a common aspirations, value-set and belief structure that stems from their shared experience of living and growing up entirely in Taiwan. The young generation does not have the host-home syndrome that older generations experienced -- which is reflected by both parties' constant positioning in the political process.
For the young generation, the shared experiences of being born, educated and living in Taiwan shapes their understanding of their world. It is what shapes their common group identity.
When interviewing older versus young generations about the potential for shifting institutional names from Chunghwa to Taiwan, the young generation more readily accepts this change. They do so, however, not because they prefer being Taiwanese to being Chinese, but simply because they see themselves as distinct, unique and different from this simplistic comparison.
Reza Hasmath is based at the University of Cambridge. He is a visiting scholar at Academia Sinica.
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