Chinese or Taiwanese?

Despite having lived here for several years now, I’m never quite sure whether I should be calling the locals Chinese or Taiwanese without offending them. Some prefer Chinese, some Taiwanese. How can you tell which ones prefer to be called what?

This is Taiwan. Call them Taiwanese. If they get pissed off, then you’ll know they have a different preference. :smiley:


More people get pissed here if you call them Chinese. MOst people just don’t care either way. So I always say Taiwanese a safer bet. But then again, what do I know? I’m just a furriner.

Taiwanese of course!!

Show them a blue shirt and a green shirt and ask them which one they prefer. :wink:

I think most people don’t care either way. I’ve even known some fairly pro-TI locals that on occassion will refer to themselves as Chinese. It’s used as a catch-all term to refer to a common ethnicity and/or shared cultural traits that they have with the mainlanders. Of course, they also point out that these commonalities need not mean a shared nationality.

Having said that, Taiwanese is a safer bet.

I know plenty of people here who say “I’m NOT Taiwanese, I’m Chinese and proud of it.” I know other locals who say “Of course I’m Chinese. Taiwan is part of China.” If you’re in the south, you’re probably safer calling people Taiwanese; in Taipei, where a lot of so-called “mainlanders” live, it’s a different matter. Chances are, if they speak Taiwanese you can probably call them Taiwanese; if they can’t speak Taiwanese you should probably ask them what you should call them (Chinese, Taiwanese, a person from Taiwan, a so-called “mainlander”, an ROC citizen, Hakka, etc.)

Realistically, except from the Aboriginals and a handful of citizens from other countries, the people here are essentially ethnic Han Chinese, speaking Chinese dialects, believing in Chinese religions and folk beliefs, raised in Chinese culture and traditions, educated in Chinse history and literature, writing with Chinese characters, and descended from ancestors who came from the mainland to Taiwan less than 400 years ago. They may be Taiwanese, but they can’t rationally deny their connection to China.

Chris speaks da truth. :notworthy:

Just curious.

In Texas, do people there prefer to be called Texans or Americans?

[quote=“hannes”]Just curious.

In Texas, do people there prefer to be called Texans or Americans?[/quote]
I think a better (though not fully applicable) analogy to Taiwanese/Chinese would be Puerto Rican/American or Quebecois/Canadian where there are strong separatist/independence sentiments.

It depends on what Chinese word is behind your English. If you mean Chinese in the cultural/ethnic sense of huaren, then fine. But ‘Chinese’ in the sense of zhongguoren refers to citizens of the PRC.

I’d be careful calling people Chinese even in Taipei. Lots of people will be offended. But if you call a WSR with a strong Chinese identity ‘Taiwanese’, they are not likely to be offended. After all, their position is that they are both Taiwanese and Chinese since they were born in Taiwan.

Personally, I find that the less a foreigner knows about Taiwan and its history, the more they are likely to fall for all that hand-waving jive about the deep cultural and ethnic ties that supossedly bind Taiwan to the motherland. I don’t mean to refer to Chris by that last comment though.

[quote=“Chris”]Realistically, except from the Aboriginals and a handful of citizens from other countries, the people here are essentially ethnic Han Chinese, speaking Chinese dialects, believing in Chinese religions and folk beliefs, raised in Chinese culture and traditions, educated in Chinse history and literature, writing with Chinese characters, and descended from ancestors who came from the mainland to Taiwan less than 400 years ago. They may be Taiwanese, but they can’t rationally deny their connection to China.[/quote]Why when my American friends from Boston with Irish ancestry from only 80 years ago, says they are Irish, the real Irish laugh, ditto for the Italian Americans, which are way more American in just two generations than they are Italian, likewise Chinese Americans. Why are Taiwanese after 400 years of living separate and and even having 50 years of Japanese influence, considered Chinese? That’s pretty funny, because when my friends who are mainlanders born in Taiwan, go to China, they feel like outsiders, or foreigners, of course Taiwanese going to Fuzhou feel the same way.

Anyway, this country has a problem with nationality and ethnicity. If they all thought of themselves as citizens of Taiwan but of different ethnic backgrounds all would be fine. However, they can’t do that as blood determines nationality to these folk and as far as they nation goes, they cannot agree on that either. This place is kind of screwed up.

A lot of Taiwanese like to differentiate themselves from Chinese as they do not think highly of these people, likewise, the Chinese that came here 50 years ago, do not like to be called Taiwanese for the same reason.

Hobart, You keep using that word “ethnicity”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Mainland China - Taiwan is like a couple that lives apart but is not divorced either…

I wish we could have kept this simpler, but Chris had to get political. The thread was a fine discussion up to that point.

Isn’t Taiwanese and Chinese an ethnicity, in the way that French and Germans are ethnically different, or Spanish and Italians, Scots and Irish, or Cantonese and Hakkas?

I thought Taiwan was like Japan, your nationality and your ethnicity are intertwined, so that even though you someone like Jim Edstein or you Poagao, with Taiwan passports, would never be considered either Taiwanese or Chinese, even with a passport you are still a foreigner and it won’t matter how long you live here or even if you went to military service or not. I don’t agree with this, but it is the sad truth.

All, I was trying to say, is that if the Taiwanese and Chinese (people that came from China within the past 60 years) could just agree that they are all citizens of the same country and by extension, xiongdi, then maybe they could get along better. At least that is how it works in the United States where citizenship is not tied to your ethnicity. Did I use the term incorrectly? Getting them to agree that they are all Chinese is too difficult as that term is too politically dangerous at the moment.

I am guessing that you want to say they are all Ethnically Chinese, in the way, that the French and Germans are European or Caucasian. By that extension, can you say that Taiwanese and Chinese are simply Asian, as in the USA there is no distinction in terms of ethnicity between Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

Anyway, I think Beijing uses the term Han Chinese too loosely, for how can the Northerners be so different anthropologically and culturally than the southerners yet still called Han. What is the proper definition of Han Chinese? I think Beijing uses the Han Chinese term to keep their vast empire of culturally different peoples united under the Chinese Communist Party.

The last survey I saw it was about like this:
40% Consider them Taiwanese
40% Consider themselves Taiwanese & Chinese
5% Consider themselves Chinese
5% Dunno

So - Call someone Chinese and you’ve got just under a 50-50 chance of offending them.
Call someone Taiwanese and you’re very unlikely to offend them.
As others have said though, it does depend on the context: If you’re talking about language or culture, then using Chinese is very unlikely to cause a problem.

Oh, and if you’ve lived here for years and haven’t worked it out, that should also tell you something: most Taiwanese are pretty relaxed about it - unless you’re deliberately trying to wind them up, they’re unlikely to get worked up about it. Just because you see politicans foaming at the mouth about it, doesn’t mean normal people will get too angry about a word.

I wish we could have kept this simpler, but Chris had to get political. The thread was a fine discussion up to that point.[/quote]
Politics is an important factor in how people identify themselves. It’s a fact, like it or not.

Ah well Hobart that’s an intersting point you you make. On Friday I had to go with my lovely wife down to the local Chiayi County Government Office for some business. We’re sitting their and one lady asks me what my nationality is… rather curious these outta the way county gove office is… way out in Taibao about 2 1/2 hours from my home… each way lol.

Chung Hua Ming Guo my wife replies… Taiwanese. The office worker laughs and asks again…

I’m a Taiwanese from Alishan… a mountain man… I reply… this time laughs even louder… ( such a fucking rediculous reply she’s never heard before )

Third time shes asks I simply retort with are you deaf? I’ve already told you.

Fourth time shes asks again this time more tentatively… and I repeat again… I ask her if she has been to school… graduated from at least primary school or better… she answers yes. So I ask her… what nationality did I tell you I am? she replies Chung Hua Ming Guo. I ask her if she knows where that country is because she seems not to know… she’s not laughing so much now… but her collegues are… I ask her and how many times did I tell you this… 4 times she replies… and I ask her now what part of Chung Hua Ming Kuo do you not understand and walked off. She then asks my wife why I walked off? She says I’m bored with the question and answering session with the bird that can only repeat the same questions over and over.

But at the Foreign Affairs Police office I was applying for a Police Certificate for Taiwan. What’s you’re nationality? the police officer gent asks…
I reply Chung Hua Ming Kuo… He then asks do I have my ID card with me and or ROC passport? I said I brought my ID card… and did I need photos? He replies no photos needed but that I would need have a name and address. I duly reminded him those things are genereally written on the ID card… He has a good natured laugh 'cause he was meaning my foreign name he explains…

I replied they only write Chinese names on ID cards so thats the one we’d have to use lol… He then politely asks me if I can write my name in Chinese on the form… I replied that this much Chinese I can write and we both have a good laugh.

So you see Hobart it really depends on a persons willingness to believe what you tell them. Most do some do not. The one’s who generally call me a bullshitter are foreigners… especially the ABC types who think I’m just full of shit. Thats when I offer to make bets… a surefire way to skin some money for nothing.

Ethnically I’m not Chinese… but sure as hell I’m Taiwanese. It’s just a hard thing to convince people as there are so few of the white variety here.

Paogao’s experiences I do not know. Perhaps he can shed some light on some of his experiences. 95% of the time explaining I’m Taiwanese is fun. Sometimes when I’m tired I just get cranky answering the same fucking question again and again to the same person in one minute drives me nuts.

Ethnicity might relay to your race but not you’re nationality. Otherwise I’m just a German… und what are you afraid of? Zee germans?

The word “Chinese” is kind of like the Chinese language itself – one sound, many meanings. And herein lies much of the confusion.

“Chinese”, when applied to a person, may mean any of the following depending on context:

  1. Han
  2. Han plus some ethnic minorities (i.e. TW aboriginals, Miao, Zhuang, etc.)
  3. Citizen of R.O.C.
  4. Citizen of P.R.C.
  5. A subject of any of the Chinese dynasties or warring states
  6. Any of the above combinations
  7. Probably more that I haven’t thought of.

Because the word “Chinese” is ambiguous and the fact that some on Taiwan do not want to be mistaken as being one and the same as a citizen of the P.R.C., they thus refer to themselves as exclusively “Taiwanese”. They reject the term Chinese despite the fact that their passports say “R. O. China”. And this brings me to the other label “Taiwanese”.

Satellite TV says that he is a citizen of the R.O.C. and he is Taiwanese. The implication here is that Taiwan=R.O.C. and thus, being a citizen of R.O.C. means being Taiwanese. This is almost true, but imho, falls just a bit short. The current R.O.C. government has control of more than just Taiwan and Penghu islands. Mazu, Jinmen, and other closeby islands have never been part of Taiwan and are still administered under the province of Fujian (Fujian, ROC that is, not Fujian, PRC). If I remember correctly, 90+% of those on Jinmen/Mazu see themselves as Chinese and most do not see themselves as Taiwanese because neither they nor their ancesters have ever lived on the islands of Taiwan or Penghu. Yet, they are citizens of the R.O.C. And then there are the WSR born outside of Taiwan. Born as “Chinese” under the R.O.C. banner, stayed on the R.O.C. all of their lives, and yet somehow, their nationality has, in the eyes of some, been changed from “Chinese” to “Taiwanese”. I think pretty close to 100% of these WSR will reject this notion. To many, the term “Taiwanese” is simply a term to describe the inhabitants of a province. To others, it’s a shorthand to different themselves from being a citizen of the P.R.C. without a big convoluated explanation like I’m typing here.

So even the term “Taiwanese” can have ambiguous meanings.

How people refer to themselves (Chinese and/or Taiwanese) will most likely reflect their political leanings. After all, semantics are important in politics.

With all the ambiguity surrounding the meanings of “Chinese” and “Taiwanese”, I can fully empathize with the OP and his confusion. Afterall, I don’t even know what to call myself sometimes (and I was born in Taiwan).

That pretty much sums the non-political part of the problem up: To many people here, there is no difference between nationality and ethnicity. My wife does make the distinction, and she is nothing but Taiwanese when she talks about her nationality, but she’ll on occassion still refer to herself as Chinese when talking about a cultural trait, language or something like that, as in “Chinese often say that…” since that’s part of her ethnic background.

The political part of the problem, however…