I just discovered this thread and read the whole thing. Wow!! Great discussion.
I agree with nearly everything everyone has said. Tetsuo mentioned that there are more than just political factors.
I totally agree. Politically, I agree to accept this society the way it is, accept the good and bad things here, and abide by the laws in place (except for traffic laws, of course). Also, having ROC nationality means that I am legally bound to Taiwan when it comes to travel and maybe some other legal issues. In this way, I call myself Taiwanese.
HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL FACTORS
If you look at Taiwan’s history, it is a hodgepodge of different influences. Native People, then the Portuguese, Dutch, Koxinga (Mr. “Successful”), Japanese, KMT, etc. It makes sense that “Taiwanese National Identity” is hard to define. Look at the Japanese and Korean language, for instance. They use a lot of words from other cultures as their own. The examples go on and on, but just a few: “Sarariman” is English: “Salary Man”, “Beeru” is Taiwanese for “beer”, which came from Japanese, etc. It’s not surprising that “lack of faith in the government” is a common trait of Taiwanese peoples’ thinking. Perhaps it’s a kind-of bonding factor between the different groups: Native, Hakka, Washinga, etc.
I think freedom of religion and ethnic practice probably plays a big part in Taiwanese national identity. This is very unique when comparing Taiwan and China. (I only use the word “mainland” when referring to the island of Taiwan, as opposed to the smaller islands of the ROC). Taiwanese people think nothing of the fact that their household is Buddhist and their neighbors are Taoist or Christian, etc. I have visited Taiwanese friends on holidays and been introduced to their neighbors who are Native. They still celebrate differently, but they share the same alley and accept each others’ differences. (I am simply pointing out that China and Taiwan are different here. I am not insinuating that people in Taiwan treat foreigners as equals, so please don’t flame me on this issue).
Recently I took a train trip and it was very crowded. My seat happened to be turned around facing some children (Aaaaa, I hate children). I asked the girl sitting next to me if she wanted to turn the seat around. She didn’t want to yet, because it was so crowded. The child spoke perfect English to me and said “you can turn it around”. Some 40-something “tai-tai-type” women standing in the aisle lit up and said “Wow! His English is GREAT” and started clapping!! The last thing I wanted was for this to turn into an English class. I stared at him blankly, pretending not to understand and then the girl and I instantly bonded. (Psychologists who study Freud would probably say that with male competition, I wanted to rain on his parade and not give him the limelight in this situation. OK. I admit I did that, too, so please don’t flame me about this). The girl and I spoke Chinese and Taiwanese quietly, but maybe someone could hear. I heard some other people talking behind me and I looked up and heard a 40-something guy say to another man: “Bo. E xi Dai Wan lung”, or “no, he’s Taiwanese”. You can not imagine how deeply I appreciated that statement. A Taiwanese person…recognized another Taiwanese person. This was against all the odds of 1) his age, and 2) my skin color. That, to me, is an indication of national identity.
Many Taiwanese people are not really “proud” of it, per se. They were probably born here and didn’t have to do anything to get it. I , however, was born in the US and spent 26 years there. I came to Taiwan in 1996 and figured out how to become a citizen mostly on my own. I am very proud of this, and I’m very happy to whip out my Taiwan passport on certain occasions. I have not visited the US yet using my Taiwan passport. When I do, that’s going to be fun, and you can imagine my nose will be dragging the ceiling. Many US immigrants are proud of getting past the challenges they have faced, so what’s the difference?
A magzine called Taiwan Review had an article about a year ago about people becoming citizens of Taiwan and what it might mean for the future. A Taiwanese guy named T.C. Lin (white guy, born abroad apparently) was quoted in there. He became Taiwanese, as well. We must not leave out the people from SouthEast Asia who have also become Taiwanese. They also have probably very different experiences in becoming Taiwanese and perhaps different ideas about their national identity. I’d like to hear their opinions. (FYI, it was originally called “Free Taiwan Review” and then they changed it to “Taipei Review”. Hey! Taiwan is not just Taipei, OK? I wrote to them and complained. Now it’s called “Taiwan Review”. I would like to think I had an influence on that change, but I’m not sure.)
ANOTHER ANGLE (Not off-the-topic, I hope):
If “national identity” is hard to define, consider that this is not scientific at all. Marriage, too. It was created by humans as a result of over-population. Primates don’t have to fill out customs forms, do they? You don’t see turtles carryin’ around passports, do ya? What’s the latest “squeak squak click click ping” you’ve heard on dolphinsRus.com, complaining about her “ex”? You don’t hear that–because it’s not natural in the first place.
Satellite TV, Poagao, and T.C. Lin have been Taiwanese longer than I have. This is simply my humble contribution. Good job, everyone–keep posting.