The piece that follows serves as a modest introduction for interested readers into the historical development and current implications of national identity in Taiwan. Although this is a fertile area of research in East Asian political studies, it is nonetheless rarely discussed elsewhere when the politics of the region are the topic at hand.

Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China and south of Japan, and is known to many who lived through the Cold War as “Nationalist China”. The reason for this moniker is that following the effective conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, between the communists led by Mao Zedong(毛澤東)and the contemporary nationalist government led by Jiang Jieshi(蔣介石;better known internationally as Chiang Kai-shek, the defeated nationalist forces fled to the island and established a government-in-exile there. The island, which had been administered as a colony of Japan until the end of World War II, has therefore undergone complex processes of identity formation, from the historical memory of the Japanese period to the relationship with the current governments on either side of the Taiwan Strait. The multi-layered national identities and historical memories impact the internal politics of the island, but also have a strong bearing on international relations and inter-imperialist competition in the region.

History of the Island

While the official line from Beijing today is that the island of Taiwan has “always” been an integral part of China1, the island’s association with Chinese culture is actually developed quite recently in human history. The aboriginal peoples of Taiwan have been on the island for thousands of years, and are linguistically and culturally tied to the other Austronesian peoples, who migrated from Taiwan to other islands across the Pacific Ocean throughout history, settling what became Madagascar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hawai’i, and others (Diamond, 2000: 709-10).

The Han culture identified with China as we know it had only minimal contact with the island prior to the 17th century, when European colonial powers (Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish) began expanding in the region, progressively incorporating the entire region into the emerging 1world capitalist market (Brown, 2004: 37). Taiwan first significantly enters Chinese political history due to upheaval in the period of transition between the Han-dominated Ming Dynasty明朝;Míng Cháo)and the “foreign” Manchu-dominated Qing Dynasty(清朝;Qīng Cháo): Ming loyalists led by Zheng Chenggong(鄭成功)fled the mainland to the little-noticed island to establish the rebel “Kingdom of Dongning (東寧王國;Dōngníng Wángguó)”*, which ruled over the coastal Han settlements but not the mountainous or plains regions, which were dominated by the aboriginal peoples (Jacobs, 2005: 17) until the Qing Dynasty finally forced them to surrender. At this point, the island in its entirety was claimed by the Qing Dynasty (Kuhn, 2009: 21). This state of affairs remained uncontested by any major powers until the end of the 19th century.

From Japanese Rule to the Chinese Civil War

In 1895, following the Qing Dynasty’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War (in which the two sides were principally fighting for dominance over Korea), Taiwan and the surrounding islands** were ceded to Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki下関条約;Shimonoseki Jōyaku, alongside the more important Liaodong Peninsula(遼東半島;Liáodōng Bàndǎo), which granted the Japanese direct land access to Korea and ended Chinese domination of the Korean Peninsula in favor of Japanese domination.

When Japanese forces arrived in Taiwan to claim their new territory, they were greeted with violent resistance. Guerrilla warfare by Han Chinese and the ever-defiant aboriginals (the latter dramatized in the film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale”) cost the Japanese forces heavy casualties and made the initial capture of the island a difficult campaign (Lai, Myers, and Wei, 1991: 15). But in spite of this considerable resistance, Japan’s industrial modernization led to unprecedented capacities of technological and military production that allowed it to suppress and dominate the island. This victory was part of the process of building Japan into a major imperialist power rivaling those of in the west, and indeed overpowering them to a great extent in the Asia-Pacific region. Mirroring the technological and military dominance of western imperialist powers, it naturally also mirrored the rapacious oppression and economic exploitation that made this dominance possible.

Naturally, Japan’s Asian neighbors could not help but take note of this. But unlike the most Chinese, the inhabitants of Taiwan did not witness this merely from afar. They were directly impacted by the psychological reality of fifty years of life under Japanese rule. Their colonial rulers had an interest in imparting to the conquered a sense of admiration of the conqueror’s identity. Military force allowed them to capture the island, but holding onto it meant significant development of infrastructure, education, and social engineering. During this entire period, however much the Han living in Taiwan were aware of their difference from the Japanese, it was Japan that brought them the beginnings of industrial modernity.

Reference to this as a period of Taiwanese development is a point of sensitivity in Chinese historiography: clearly the Taiwanese were mentally as well as physically colonized. Indeed, for the communists who later came to power on the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong are powerful symbols of the colonial yoke under which “the Chinese people” suffered at the hands of imperialist powers from west and east.

Upon Japan’s defeat in World War II, Taiwan was among the territories Japan was to return to China, in accordance with the 1943 Cairo Conference, at which it was stated; “all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa [the Portuguese name for Taiwan which means ‘beautiful’ in Portuguese], and the Pescadores澎湖群島;Pénghú Lièdǎo), shall be restored to the Republic of China”. Both Japan and its rival imperialist powers assumed that there was no issue with reference to “the Republic of China”, although the GMD(中國國民黨; Zhōngguó Guómín Dǎng‘the Nationalist Party’better known internationally as “the KMT”was engaged in an ongoing existential struggle with the communist forces who would soon establish “the People’s Republic of China”.

The GMD in Taiwan

At the end of World War II, the GMD declared a provisional government covering Taiwan, and “Taiwan Retrocession Day”(《臺灣光復節》;Táiwān Guāngfù Jiécommemorating the end of Japanese rule of the island was declared a holiday. But this narrative of national reunification masked unease on both sides of the Taiwan Strait: as Jiang Jieshi’s forces were increasingly beaten back by communist forces, those celebrating Taiwan’s reunion with China were about to be driven from the mainland to the island (Brown, 2004: 58).

In September 1949, the triumphant CCP(中國共產黨;Zhōngguó Gòngchǎn Dǎng,’the Communist Party of China’declared the People’s Republic of China the successor state to the Republic of China, and anti-communist elements loyal to Jiang Jieshi fled across the Taiwan Strait to establish a base for the recapture of the mainland. The communists had not only defeated the old government militarily, but had outmaneuvered them in social terms as well. Prior to the Chinese Civil War, the communists had worked within the GMD’s ranks, and the anti-communist leadership under Jiang Jieshi now fleeing to Taiwan had lost many of their cadres to the communists. Most famously, Song Qingling(宋慶齡), wife of Sun Zhongshan(孫中山,better known internationally as Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China, defended the communists against Jiang Jieshi, and went on to serve in several high-ranking PRC state offices, lending legitimacy to the new government, particularly in the eyes of other “left GMD” elements. This laid the groundwork for a rhetoric of liberating Taiwan from the Jiang Jieshi and uniting all of China under the red banner. But this final reckoning has yet to come: a tense standoff across the Taiwan Strait has reigned from Jiang Jieshi’s retreat to the island to the present day, neither side possessing the fortitude to confront the other directly.

This story is well-known in mainland China, and even to a great extent internationally. Slightly less well-known is the story of how the GMD and the residents of Taiwan fared when confronted with one another. Prior to the first incidents of mass repression, most Taiwanese Han were glad to be “reunited” with China (Jacobs, 2005: 17). The exiled mainlanders(外省人;wàishěng rén, puffed up by their close social ties to the big shots of the GMD regime that brought them to the island, behaved arrogantly towards their local “brothers”. Ongoing resentment towards the new government and the news population that came with them, as well as economic corruption and other social ills resulted in protests by the local population. But the GMD had no interest in fighting corruption or treating citizens equally. On the contrary, the party brought with them Triad gangs fleeing the communists, who were trying to stamp out organized crime on the mainland (Lai, Myers, and Wei, 1991: 51). Instead, the protests were violently repressed. Thousands were killed during the crackdown on anti-government protests on February 28, 1947, an infamous incident referred to as the “ 228 Incident”(《二二八事件》;Èr èr bā Shìjiànin local Taiwanese political jargon. “White Terror”(《白色恐怖》;Báisè Kǒngbù, the GMD’s violent repression of all dissidents in the name of the anti-communist struggle, had been imported with equal force to their new island base of Taiwan (a dramatization of this period is depicted in the film “a City of Sadness”).

Repressive language laws were enacted that fined even schoolchildren for speaking Aboriginal languages or even local Chinese dialects instead of the standard Mandarin in public (Brown, 2004: 59). The first stirrings of sentiment for Taiwanese self-rule grew out of this repressive setting. Ironically, given today’s political relations (where the “Taiwanese Independence” movement wants the Chinese Communist Party to give up its claims to the island), these local activists viewed the communists on the mainland as the protector of their democratic right to self-rule (Jacobs, 2005: 18).

Conversely, many Taiwanese, disappointed with nationalist Chinese rule, began to view Chinese nationalism and Marxism as shared enemies of their more prosperous position within the Japanese Empire. Criticizing the “Marxian” fixation on the exploitation wrought by colonialism, they redefined the era of “occupation and national shame” as one of “progress, in terms of productivity and technology, that Japanese capitalism brought” (Taylor, 2005: 166). A particularly important figure in this trend is Li Denghui(李登輝), who became a leading figure in Taiwanese politics after the end of the Cold War (Jacobs, 2005: 18). In the minds of many prominent Taiwanese figures colonialism became identified with modernization and order, in contrast to the chaos and corruption of Chinese rule, whether nationalist or communist. (For a detailed summary of the trend of pro-colonial historiography in Taiwan, see Taylor, 2005: 166-7.)

But despite the imagination of some Taiwanese nationalists, Japan seems to have fully accepted Taiwan’s Chineseness. Moreover, this stance, however noteworthy in the academy and among politicians, does not represent the totality of Taiwanese views towards Japan. While most Taiwanese express views that would be seem as “secessionist” by mainland China, feelings of solidarity with the victims of Japanese imperialism are an equally normal part of public discourse2, and Taiwanese are outraged by displays of Japanese chauvinism3.

Despite commitments by the Chinese Communist Party to liberate Taiwan from the GMD, for decades Jiang Jieshi’s police state was incredibly successful in suppressing dissent, communist or otherwise. After the 228 Massacre, the GMD was able to begin its own process of social engineering and “modernization” on the island. Economically, like all of China, Taiwan was still a predominantly agrarian society by the mid-20th century. The GMD enacted large-scale land reform, offering commodities and shares in state-owned enterprises to landowners as compensation. These new Taiwanese capitalists helped rapidly transform the country from a developing Japanese colony into a modern Chinese capitalist state (Brown, 2004: 60-61).

As the head of the anti-communist struggle in “China”, Jiang Jieshi’s GMD enjoyed the staunch support of Washington, regardless of his crimes against the peoples of Taiwan. But this support was by no means unconditional, despite the two governments’ shared UN Security Council seats and anti-communist commitments: the US was ensured a privileged position in the Taiwanese economy4, as well as a guarantee of regular arms deals with the island. The US, UK, and France accordingly viewed “the Republic of China” as the sole legitimate Chinese state, and for years prevented the People’s Republic of China from even being seated at the United Nations for years.

Following the Sino-Soviet split, however, the Chinese Communist Party and the US government began warming to each other in the context of their shared animosity towards the Soviet Union. Although one of the formal reasons for the Sino-Soviet split was the CCP’s denouncing of the Soviet Union’s path toward integration into the capitalist world system, a mere decade later the CCP was even less interested in “world revolution” than the Soviets. Its choice of “enemies” and “friends” rapidly evolved, and as China increasingly integrated itself into the capitalist world-system, “anti-communist” support for the ROC became ever less relevant for the US’s allies. Starting in 1971 and culminating with the famous Nixon-Mao meeting of 1972, the US began to regard the Chinese Communist Party not as an enemy to be driven out of ROC territory, but as the legitimate government of China, a rival power to the US. This new state of affairs meant that the PRC would sit on the UN Security Council as the “successor state” to the ROC, while Taiwan has no permanent representation at the UN independent of the PRC, the “sole legitimate representative” of China.

However, it is not in the Washington’s interest to simply hand over a bargaining chip as valuable as Taiwan, giving China more or less free reign in the region. The US continues to “support” Taiwan (while not formally acknowledging it as an independent country) on terms beneficial to Washington. Indeed, while on the one hand recognizing the PRC as the legitimate authority of China, the US also reprimands the few states who continue to recognize the ROC when they change their minds and follow the US in recognizing the PRC5.

Jiang Jieshi died in 1975, a year before his Cold War rival Mao Zedong. His son, Jiang Jingguo(蔣經國)came to power as head of the GMD, and then, as the largely internationally unrecognized President of the ROC. His reign began with an air of uncertainty; the GMD government was no longer backed by the imperialist powers; Japan, the US, and all their major international allies now recognized “the communists” as the legitimate leadership of China. Only a few small, impoverished, right-wing African, Latin American, and Pacific Island governments continued to recognize the ROC, against the vote of the UN at large.

Domestically, the democratic movement was gathering strength. On the 10th of December, 1979, the Formosa Magazine editorial staff and other opposition leaders held a protest in the city of Gaoxiong(高雄;better known internationally as Kaohsiungfor human rights on the island. The GMD cracked down on the movement as expected, but the movement’s momentum was greater than the repression the GMD was willing to wield, and the support they commanded from any part of the population. Slowly, Jiang Jingguo began to introduce democratic reforms (although no legal opposition party was tolerated until the late 1980s). As the Cold War drew to a close and the PRC made peace with the GMD’s allies, the GMD’s ability to use the bogeyman of communism to silence dissent was significantly reduced, and mounting pressure for democratic rights led to the end of one-party rule on the island in the late 1980s; in 1986 the Democratic Progressive Party(民主進步黨;Mínzhǔ Jìnbù Dǎng, a pro-Taiwanese opposition party, was formed, and unexpectedly not dissolved by edict. A year later, decades of martial law was brought to an end, and Jiang Jingguo accepted the pro-Taiwanese Li Denghui as his vice president (the latter joined the DPP as its most prominent leader in the 1990s).

Since then the island has held regular democratic elections, accompanied by no shortage of controversy stemming from the views of various Taiwanese political figures on the identity of the island, alongside occasional warnings that this process could cast the region into full-scale war thanks to the threats of China and the duplicitous dealings of the US. The US continues to pressure the government in Taiwan, whether dominated by the Chinese nationalist GMD or its pro-democracy and Taiwanese independentist rivals, to purchase large amounts of high-tech weaponry from the United States6, and to act as a military buffer on behalf of Washington and its allies against the PRC. This international tension cannot be understood in isolation from the dynamics of historical memory and identity formation taking place on the island itself.

Historical Memory and Identity Formation

So, who lives in Taiwan? How do they relate to the Chinese states with which they have contended (the ROC and the PRC), and to one another? The aboriginal peoples of Taiwan are not related to the Han Chinese, who settled there later, but to other Austronesian peoples across the Pacific, who spread across the region from the island. The surviving Taiwanese aboriginal groups are divided into thirteen tribes and together amount to 2.33% of the island’s population as of 20167. Newcomers to the island, from the Japanese to the Chinese have never accepted these peoples’ desire for self-rule; and have instead imposed themselves by force (Brown, 2004: 8-9). Apart from the use of violence against these peoples, economic and cultural domination by Japanese and Chinese capital has robbed these peoples of their languages, lands, and culture, depriving their remaining numbers of any chance to build a future for themselves.

The largest portion of Taiwan’s population, approximately 70%8, is made up of the “local” Han population(本地人běndì rén. This group identifies strongly with the island, in spite of their historical ancestry on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. They speak a southern Min dialect(閩南話;Mǐnnánhuà)of Chinese, more distant from Mandarin than Cantonese or Shanghainese are. Their dialect, although mutually comprehensible with southern Min dialects spoken off the island (both in mainland China and in the broader Chinese diaspora, such as Singapore, Malaysia, etc.), is colloquially known as “the Taiwanese language”(臺語;Táiyǔ). This population is overwhelmingly supportive of the idea that Taiwan is not a part of China (and some assert that it never has been), and should be recognized as independent, viewing both the CCP and the GMD as foreign colonizers. When martial law was ended, voices from this community could finally articulate their democratic will. Among the political demands that have been raised, the most contentious and important from an international perspective is the demand for recognition of Taiwanese independence from China.

Fully aware that the island’s international obscurity and its “indisputable” Chineseness in the eyes of both the PRC and their own “local” ROC administration meant that the case for their (already de facto) independence from China had to be argued; in the early 1990s the movement began asserting that this population was in some sense “indigenous” rather than “Chinese”. Stories of intermarriage and a historical memory of incorporation into the island’s aboriginal culture were propagated by this camp throughout the decade9.

There was only one problem with this narrative: while undoubtedly the Han of Taiwan are not “pure-blooded” (nor is anyone), Han who have emigrated have often intermarried and modified their culture, often becoming less like their mainland cousins than the “local” Taiwanese have. But the “local” Taiwanese have carried much of their mainland culture with them, from prejudices against other Chinese groups (such as the Hakka, see below) to religious habits. To put it bluntly, despite the cultural and at times physical genocide carried out against the island’s aboriginal peoples, enough of them remain to articulate their own historical memory, and it is abundantly clear that they consider all the Han, whether speaking “the Taiwanese language” or another dialect of Chinese, to be outsiders.

Consequently, since the 1990s this line of argument has largely been dropped in favor of the more defensible claim that over the course of decades separated from mainland China, and in coming to predominate over the island, a sort of distinctive local Taiwanese identity has developed. Since most Taiwanese consider this their “national” identity, they now constitute a new nation in this new country. But it is important to underline that this identity and this historical memory are shared mainly by members of this main group of Han settlers, who speak southern Min, and not by the aboriginals, nor in general by the other Chinese on the island.

The Hakka(客家;Kèjiā)are a minority group among the Han, whose name means “guest people”. This name is not their “Taiwanese” name, but also their name in their “home” in mainland China. In fact, they are called Hakka because they have no province of their own and are consistently viewed as outsiders, or “guests”. Their villages in the mainland were constructed as a series of forts to protect themselves from hostile attacks by the “local people”(本地人;běndì rénthe term used by Cantonese or Min speakers to differentiate themselves from the “guest people” on the mainland, as well as the term used by the Min in Taiwan. Wherever they live among other Chinese, the Hakka are reluctant to reveal their identity until they know someone well, although privately they are fiercely proud of their distinctive culture among the Han. Historically, the Hakka have been at the forefront of Chinese nationalism, as the modernizing trend promised them the civic equality denied to them by Chinese feudalism. The founder of the ROC and the GMD’s historic leader, Sun Zhongshan, revered as a progressive by the CCP on the mainland, was himself a Hakka. Consequently in Taiwan, in spite of the fact that poor Hakka villagers were in no way favored by the GMD and their lackeys, the Hakka tend to identify as “Chinese” (culturally and politically) much more readily than their Min neighbors.

But since the Hakka conceal themselves, the aboriginal peoples are almost gone, and the mainlanders admit they are exiles from across the Taiwan Strait, the “local” Min identification of themselves with the island and the island with themselves goes largely uncontested. Taiwan’s population, like so many others; is an odd accident of history. What makes Taiwan more unusual is its uncertain future due to its uncertain status as an unrecognized de facto state…

The Future of Taiwan

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is the party of choice for the majority, as it and its coalition partners identify with a “Taiwanese” identity reflecting that of the majority. This has had a social advantage in that this coalition, having so many politicians whose earliest history was as political dissidents under the conservative GMD’s martial law, also tends to be more socially progressive, concerned with women’s rights, LGBT rights, the environment, etc.

Above all else, over the past few decades progress in the political sphere has been intimately and undeniably tied to a trend towards “indigenization” (Hsiau 2005: 261). Whatever its bias towards the Min majority, and whatever its reformist limitations, the DPP and their coalition allies have consistently been able to overcome social taboos and reach new generations because they speak to the identities of ordinary people, and not, or at least not principally, to mythologies of state and empire.

This appeal goes beyond the violated rights of the “local” Taiwanese, with younger “mainlanders”(外省人;wàishěng réntrending towards identification with the Taiwanese society in which they grew up.

On the other hand, because of the stance of the PRC towards the island, the fickleness of the market, etc. the GMD and its more conservative coalition allies always have a serious chance in elections provided they can convince the population that the DPP and their partners are stirring up trouble, in the region or in the market. Beyond the individual loss or gain of individual seats, there might be something like a sea change in Taiwanese politics, for example the two presidential terms of conservative GMD Chinese nationalist Ma Yingjiu(馬英九). But, this too reflected a more everyday sort of political dissatisfaction, and not a deep ideological “return” to Chinese nationalism: Ma Yingjiu was able to rise to power only following the fall from grace of Chen Shuibian(陳水扁), whose monumental corruption scandal caused even many DPP loyalists to seek out a “clean” anti-corruption candidate. When the DPP returned with the charismatic Cai Yingwen(蔡英文), the DPP’s “natural” popularity and position at the head of Taiwanese government returned as well.

The GMD’s role is therefore not as vanguard of a Taiwanese or Chinese future, but as a “safe” and conservative vote. Taiwanese know that the middle-of-the-road GMD can negotiate with the PRC when the latter is breathing down their necks. To most Taiwanese, there is never a sense of China as having a “social” role in their society, the CCP’s lip-service to “socialism” notwithstanding. Instead, China is an economic giant (per capita GDP) seeking to incorporate Taiwan’s own considerable economic value into its own market under the rubric of “national reunification”, just as it succeeded in doing with Hong Kong and Macau.

Unlike Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan does not view itself as potentially being handed from a colonial master directly to Beijing; but rather it has been ruled from Taipei for decades. But also unlike Hong Kong and Macau, the legal basis for this rule was that it was the legal authority of “China”, a role that has now been taken over by the PRC. And the scant direct diplomatic recognition Taiwan enjoys in the outside world remains on this basis. The few (mostly Pacific Island) countries that still recognize “the ROC” are consistently economically pressured by the PRC, which competes with “the ROC” for contracts in these islands10. The PRC pressures foreign businesses to toe the Beijing line in terms of nomenclature for the island11, particularly those dealing with international sport12, or travel (leading to odd compromises by travel companies13), or other internationally visible arenas.

In short, the PRC in practice tries to encircle Taiwan economically, and as the bigger power, is suspected of attempting to do so through their growing business ties14. Since militarily the two sides are still at a standstill, their respective militaries are much more symbolic as a means of confrontation than business. Of course the PRC would win any direct military confrontation, but at tremendous cost in resources for a highly developed island with a valuable role in computer technology15, not a mere rock in the water convenient for parking aircraft carriers. The value of the island means that the PRC will not provoke a war, and the Beijing government has for decades emphasized their desire for “peaceful reunification”, but the CCP is clearly concerned with keeping Taiwanese identity censored “abroad” as it is at home, even hitting Taiwan where it hurts, in the field of technology16.

For its part, the GMD wishes to delay this incorporation, but only so as to negotiate more favorable terms for eventually unification. (Officially their hope is that the mainland government would “peacefully reunify” with the ROC, but realistically one can imagine that economic terms are of more pressing concern to GMD officials than nomenclature.) Just as the GMD does not really command mass support in Taiwan relative to the DPP, but is rather a “safe” electoral bet, so too is it not the main engine of international intrigue with regard to the island’s status.

To a great extent, reunification is prevented not by the GMD’s opposition to the CCP (their main partners in the region, and for whom they are often accused of being a mouthpiece by Taiwanese), but by indigenous popular resistance to “Chineseness”, which developed first against the GMD and their repressive nationalist model, and by the tacit support of imperialist powers for the ambiguous position Taiwan presently holds as a buffer against China. While numerous international powers of varying influence could be said to have an interest in keeping China (or any other country) “in check”, the US and Japan are historically and presently of most concern.

The United States views China as a rival and Taiwan as a tool against its rival. But the United States and China have more mutually beneficial business arrangements than could possibly be worth sacrificing over Taiwan. The United States will continue to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip in its ongoing dealings with China, that is indeed part of China’s motive for wanting to regain Taiwan, and not merely because, like Hong Kong, it would be lucrative on its own.

More ambiguously but of no less historical importance is Japan. Japan is a major economic partner for both China and Taiwan, and like the United States, would prefer to maintain Taiwan’s present ambiguous position, rather than upset a lucrative balance of power keeps a regional rival in check17.

One thing is for certain: contrary to the perception that Taiwanese politics are obscure and parochial, they are in fact reflections of historical, economic, and social contradictions of great significance in the Asia-Pacific region, concerning not only imperialist powers, but all of humanity.


* Much as the GMD would later flee to the island after its defeat at the hands of the communists. Presumably when GMD members still active on the island think of the Kingdom of Dongning’s surrender to the Qing, they wonder if a similar day of reckoning is not far off for them.

** There are in fact numerous “surrounding islands”, and the vagueness of the treaty has led to ongoing conflict between Japan and its neighbors: the ongoing Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands(尖閣諸島;Senkaku Shotō / 釣魚臺列嶼;Diàoyú Lièyǔdispute revolves around a series of uninhabited islands that Japan incorporated into the Okinawa prefecture the same year; China (but not Japan) considers that they were to be “returned” following Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II.


Brown, Melissa J. (2004) Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Diamond, Jared M. (2000) “Linguistics: Taiwan’s gift to the world”. Nature, 403(6771), 709-10.

Hsiau, A-chin (2005) “Epilogue: Bentuhua– An Endeavor for Normalizing a Would-Be Nation-State?” in Cultural, Ethnic, and Political Nationalism in Contemporary Taiwan. Eds. John Makeham and A-chin Hsiau. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 261-276.

Jacobs, J. Bruce (2005) “‘Taiwanization’ in Taiwan’s Politics” in Cultural, Ethnic, and Political Nationalism in Contemporary Taiwan. Eds. John Makeham and A-chin Hsiau. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 17-54.

Kuhn, Philip A. (2009) Chinese Among Others: Emigration in Modern Times. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Lai, Tse-han, Myers, Ramon H., and Wei, Wou. (1991) A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Taylor, Jeremy E. (2005). “Reading History Through the Built Environment in Taiwan” in Cultural, Ethnic, and Political Nationalism in Contemporary Taiwan (pp. 159-183). Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 159-184.


– A City of Sadness(悲情城市;Bēiqíng Chéngshì). Dir. Hou Xiaoxian(侯孝賢). Perf. Liang Chaowei(梁朝偉), Xin Shufen(辛樹芬),Chen Songyong (陳松勇), Gao Jie (高捷) , and Li Tianlu (李天祿), Era Films, 1989, Film.

– Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale(賽德克·巴萊:太陽旗;Sàidékè·BāláiTàiyáng Qí). Dir. Wei Desheng (魏德聖). Perf. Nolay Piho, Umin Boya, Masanobu Andō(安藤 政信), and Junichi Haruta(春田 純一),Vie Vision Pictures, 2011, Film.


1 “Defense Ministry’s Regular Press Conference on Aug.30, Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China”, 2018, http://eng.mod.gov.cn/news/2018-08/31/content_4823737.htm. Accessed: September 12, 2018.

2 “First ‘comfort women’ statue is installed in Taiwan as South Korea marks first memorial day for forced wartime prostitutes”, 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/08/14/national/politics-diplomacy/first-comfort-women-statue-installed-taiwan/#.W5oDDlJRcdV. Accessed: September 12, 2018.

3 “Taiwanese protest outside de facto embassy after Japanese kicks ‘comfort woman’ statue”, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2163575/taiwanese-protest-outside-de-facto-embassy-after-japanese-kicks. Accessed: September 12, 2018.

4 “Taiwan-U.S. Relations”, 2017, https://www.roc-taiwan.org/us_en/post/24.html. Accessed: September 16, 2018.

5 “US recalls diplomats in El Salvador, Panama, Dominican Republic over Taiwan”, 2018, https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/us-recalls-diplomats-in-el-salvador-panama-dominican-republic-over-taiwan. Accessed: September 13, 2018.

6 “US to continue arms sales to Taiwan, it says”, 2018, http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2018/04/07/2003690849. Accessed: September 13, 2018.

7 “The Republic of China Yearbook”, 2016, Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan), http://ws.ey.gov.tw/001/Eyupload/oldfile/UserFiles/YB%202016%20all%20100dpi.pdf, 45-46.

8 Ibid, 43-44.

9 Ibid.

10 “Empty hotels, idle boats: What happens when a Pacific island upsets China”, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pacific-china-palau-insight/empty-hotels-idle-boats-what-happens-when-a-pacific-island-upsets-china-idUSKBN1L4036. Accessed: September 16, 2018.

12 “IOC clarifies basis for use of ‘Chinese Taipei’ at Olympics”, 2018, http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201807310007.aspx. Accessed: September 16. 2018.

13 “Taiwan grateful to United Airlines for imaginative website solution to ‘one China’ rule”, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2161888/taiwan-grateful-united-airlines-imaginative-website. Accessed: September 13, 2018.

15 “US tech companies return to Taiwan as China ties sour”, 2018, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Business-Trends/US-tech-companies-return-to-Taiwan-as-China-ties-sour. Accessed: September 16, 2018.

16 “Apple fixes iPhone crash bug whenever Taiwan was mentioned”, 2018, https://www.zdnet.com/article/a-weird-bug-crashed-some-iphones-to-censor-taiwan/. Accessed: September 13, 2018.

17 “Strong but constrained Japan-Taiwan ties”, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/strong-but-constrained-japan-taiwan-ties/. Accessed: September 16, 2018.


Dilek Uygül

After completing her undergraduate education at Ankara University, in 2005 she left her master’s  program in International Relations at Middle East Technical University to go to Taiwan on a scholarship from the National Ministry of Education of Taiwan. After completing one year of Mandarin language training at National Taiwan Normal University(國立師範大學)she began a master’s program in International Relations at National Zhengzhi University(國立政治大學), graduating upon writing her thesis entitled “National Identities and Cross-Strait Relations: Economic Liberalization vs. Political Democratization”(《國家認同與兩岸關係:經濟自由化 vs. 政治民主化》)in 2009. She lives and works in New York since 2010.