A Silent Revolution: The Rise of Taiwanese Identity

By J.Fan

In the evening of January 16, the results of 2016 presidential election in Taiwan covered the television screen of every household. Three Taiwanese Americans were watching the TV at a bar, discussing the election results. “Taiwanese identity has finally risen,” said the girl. “It’s funny it took them so long. My parents would always say we are Taiwanese,” said the boy. Taiwanese identity has entered a new chapter in 2016.


The 2016 presidential election in Taiwan was historic in two senses: the rise of Taiwanese identity and the first time the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seized the majority in the Legislative Yuan. Many people said the incident which a Taiwanese teen pop star was forced to apologize for waving the national flag on a South Korean TV show was the last straw. Her apology ignited patriotism in the younger population. The votes reflect the hidden longing for identity of the island country. Another incident after the election further proved that Taiwanese identity has rooted in the hearts of the Taiwanese youth: the vicious attack of Chinese netizens.


Since the end of Taiwan’s presidential election, Chinese netizens have been very active on Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s Facebook and other news outlets such as Liberty Times and Apple Daily. Thousands of posts attacked Tsai’s China policy and the status quo of Taiwan, demanding the citizens of Taiwan to acknowledge that Taiwan is an “inseparable part of China”. Many of the posts are repetitive, stating the slogan or patriotic songs of the Chinese Communist party. Some people even call this “a war of stickers”.


These events only reinforced the importance of Taiwanese identity in the island country. In the previous generation, Kuomintang has labeled “Taiwan independence” as the troublemakers. Yet nowadays, the youth views Taiwanese identity as their birth rights. Even for Taiwanese Americans, it is a right they have to defend. Taiwanese identity has always been a controversy on the international stage and abroad, especially when Chinese are present thus many Taiwanese who live aboard or Taiwanese American have to defend their roots fiercely. “I had to constantly explain the situation of Taiwan vs china,” said Lester Kao, a Taiwanese American based in Los Angeles. Even in the U.S., most second-generation immigrants can distinguish their roots from the Chinese American in various areas such as social values, pop culture and music, “At the end of the day, it’s the concept of home. Taiwanese Americans see Taiwan and the US as their homelands while Chinese Americans see Greater China and the US as their homelands,” said Lester Kao.


To most Taiwanese, feel they can relate more to Taiwan instead of China despite what they were taught in school or where their ancestors originated from. The paths have diverged from decades and the constant threats and oppression carry out by the Chinese authorities on the international stages have pushed the Taiwanese further away. “When I hear the Taiwanese folk song Bāng Chhun-hong, I think of Taiwan, my roots. I doubt the Chinese feel the same homesickness as I do when they hear that song,” said Jonathan Fan, a Taiwanese Canadian who lives in Toronto, Canada.


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