Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Bloom's Brian H in WaPo on the Taiwan Identity

Ants and the bugs they live with

Great, great piece in WaPo on the Taiwan identity and what Taiwanese want, from four very cool people. Not only does it correctly define US policy, it lays out in great detail what's going on...
What’s more, ROC residents increasingly identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. That identity has changed significantly since the island became a democracy in the 1990s. In 1991, ROC and PRC representatives met with one another for the first time since the 1949 civil war. At that point, about one-fourth of Taiwan’s residents identified themselves exclusively as “Chinese”; 17.6 percent as exclusively “Taiwanese”; and nearly half said both Chinese and Taiwanese.
I've commented on these polls before... things have not changed significantly. In fact the majority always identified as Taiwanese, and did so when they trusted the people who they were dealing with. There is immense evidence on this: Fairbanks' 1957 Atlantic piece observes that most people in Taiwan wanted to be independent of China. Douglas Mendel's The Politics of Formosan Nationalism, which is based on work he did in the 1960s in Taiwan. A Pail of Oysters. Albert Axelbank's 1963 piece in Harpers:
If a poll were taken now to determine what status Formosans want for their island, I am sure that at least a two-thirds majority would favor independence.
...and of course, a large literature from the Taiwanese themselves in the form of magazine articles and books from the 1950s through the 1980s. The evidence is there: the Taiwanese always thought of themselves as Taiwanese.

There was a shift, but it was not an identity shift. [The following is adapted from a previous post]. The reason polls from the early 1990s show a strong proportion of "Chinese" is because the old Taiwanese identity had learned long before to lie to the State and how to safely discuss their identity. With democratization, people started telling the truth to pollsters. Let me use Frank Muyard's compilation of polls...

The 1989 numbers are from a UDN poll, which appears maybe to have flipped the dual identity/Chinese columns, but the high number is indicative -- nobody was sure they could speak out about their Taiwan identity in safety. In 1989 Lee Teng-hui and diehard mainlander rightiest Hau Pei-tsun were still tussling for control of the KMT and the government. The non-mainstream (rightist) faction lost key struggles within the Party and in 1993 many exited to form the New Party. Observe that in the numbers collected by Muyard the Chinese identity collapses quickly -- between 1992 (recall that there was still a national security law under which dissidents were kept in jail) and 1996 it falls by a third and by 2000 has completely disappeared except among old mainlanders. People don't give up complex nationalist social identities within a single short decade. The shift occurred because people lied to pollsters and then stopped lying. Another sign of that is the fall in the "no response" answer... people felt safe in giving responses.

The "dual" identity remains relatively stable, testimony not to some confusion about identity but to the many meanings of the term "Chinese". Polls do not ask people to define "hua ren" or "Chunghua mintzu" as they relate to themselves, probably deliberately, to avoid providing evidence that "We're Chinese" for Taiwanese means something like what "We're Europeans" or "We're Westerners" means for Frenchmen. Muyard points out, however, that over time, when you give those polled the choice of "Taiwanese" or "Chinese", the number who choose "Taiwanese" has rising past 70%.

The WaPo piece is great, and the writers are correct to use surveys, but I think it is wrong to speak in terms of an identity shift, though they played it safe. Rather, as people began to believe that democracy would be durable, they began "coming out" as Taiwanese.
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Anonymous said...

Innovative use of twitter on Mao's cultural revolution:


It is painful to read but has huge emotional impact.

We should do one for 228. Remind Taiwanese that it is better to fight the evil than to submit.

Anonymous said...

According to 林飛凡, WaPo article was desk reject by the WaPo editor at first because the editor felt that it is promoting "Taiwan Independence". The authors explained that they were trying to write about result of survey and how it related to important issues about Taiwan and WaPo editor accepted the article on that basis.

The authors of WaPo article did said that WaPo editor helped them with the rewrite so the final article is more clear and easy to understand.

It is just very difficult to have "Taiwan centered" articles in international media. We needs to keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

Only trouble is, it's in the Washington Post which is getting a bad reputation. They fake news themselves.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on your conclusion.

Personally I believe that the Taiwanese identity might have been settled long ago if there weren't martial laws and white terror. There might have been studies somewhere on my hypothesis. Sometimes I don't even know how western media approached this identity politics when some of them seemed to be oblivious about that the freedom of speech used to be nonexistent in Taiwan. There are many news reports full of facts and numbers yet lacking of a story that offers a convincing perspective.

Anonymous said...

"According to 林飛凡, WaPo article was desk reject by the WaPo editor"

The authors of that article explained what happened in:

In short, the WaPo editor(s) first rejected it saying that promoting Taiwan Independence is not allowed, secondly they changed the title to "Taiwan wants One-China, but which one?" that is totally baseless. Only after negotiation did they come to agreement for the final title.

The article also mentioned that some liberal journalists, like Max Fisher, questioned their poll data.

Ilya said...

"According to 林飛凡, WaPo article was desk reject by the WaPo editor"

Could anyone please produce a non-conspiracy point of view why WaPo editors would behave like that? A naïve person such as me would think that a newspaper editor should be interested in presenting a non-conventional, potentially sensational topic. Or is it because the editors think that they should follow the already framed public opinion?