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Chu, "Ethnic identity and nationalism in Taiwan," 1998

USC thesis in Anthropology.
August 24, 2009

John Sheng Chu, M.A

Abstract (Summary)

There have been dramatic changes in Taiwan in the last ten years--prosperity, democratization, assertion of many ethnic identities, and immense uncertainties about future relations with Mainland China. Large parts of the political elites, both ruling and opposition, understand that polarization of ethnic identities and increasing conflict among irreconcilable ethnic groups could undermine prosperity and political stability. As a result, many elite members try to avoid extreme positions and statements. But there are powerful cultural and social changes at work which the elites cannot and do not control. Some survey data show an increase in assertion of polarized identities. And this thesis seeks to test some of these results and to ask questions in new ways. Hence, it confirms some of the findings of polarized identities, but not without the important qualifications.

An important feature of contemporary Taiwan is the very large amount of travelers, businessman, and Taiwan citizens shifting residence to the United States, especially to the Los Angeles area. Thus, it is possible to conduct a public opinion survey in greater Los Angeles that samples people whose attitudes were shaped by the life-styles in Taiwan and who may still live there or may return there one day. These findings may show interesting differences in views as people view the Taiwan's ethnic identity and current political situation from a greater distance and, perhaps, they may confirm results of surveys done in Taiwan.