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How the Rise of China Is Changing Taiwan

Co-authored by four high-profile International Relations scholars, this book investigates the implications of the global ascent of China on cross-Strait relations and the identity of Taiwan as a democratic state.

Examining an array of factors that affect identity formation, the authors consider the influence of the rapid military and economic rise of China on Taiwan’s identity. Their assessment offers valuable insights into which policies have the best chance of resulting in peaceful relations and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait and builds a new theory of identity at elite and mass levels. It also possesses implications for the United States-led world order and today’s most critical great power competition.

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This chapter focuses on Taiwan in historical perspective. The goal is to review the most important aspects of the evolution of Taiwanese identity, cross-Strait relations, the rise of China, the role of the US, and how these matters are connected to each other. These lines of inquiry capture the essential components for an account of the likely pathway for cross-Strait relations, which in turn obviously have reverberations that further impact on cause and effect within the regional system of Northeast Asia and even beyond. Thus, emphasis is placed on a review of historical events that are believed to be important for the development of a comprehensive understanding of the situation today.

This chapter proceeds in seven additional sections. The second section moves forward from early history to the arrival of the Japanese in 1895. The third section covers the era of Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945. The initial decades of Nationalist rule are reviewed in the fourth section from 1945 to 1979. Corresponding to the 1980s, the Taiwanese economic miracle and identity-related developments appear in the fifth section. The sixth section – an era of one country with many problems – covers the 1990s. The seventh section focuses on key interactions involving the DPP in power vis-à-vis the US and PRC in the new millennium. The eighth and final section sums up the history of Taiwan as presented in this chapter.

Taiwan, also known as Formosa, is an island about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the Asian coastline.

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This chapter focuses on the evolution of Taiwanese identity. The question, ‘what does it mean to be Taiwanese?’, has never been obvious or easy to answer. Instead, responses vary across time, geography and individuals. Since identity represents a sense of belonging to a larger group, such ideological factors as values, ideas and emotions that affect the collective contribute to identity formation. Additional important aspects of evolving Taiwanese identity include cross-Strait relations, the ascent of China and the ongoing role of the US in Northeast Asia. While it is beyond the scope of the present investigation to cover all of the relevant academic literature in the preceding interconnected subject areas, what follows is a good faith effort. The review is deemed sufficient to identify the most important patterns in what academic literature has said about Taiwanese identity, most notably in connection with the other aspects discussed in the book thus far. In peeling back the layers of Taiwan’s identity choice, we also begin to uncover how and why Taiwanese identity is highly political and increasingly convergent with the changing tides of political support on the island.

This chapter unfolds in eight additional sections. The second section covers early Taiwanese identity. The third section identifies historical imperatives. The fourth section covers the politics of Taiwanese identity. The fifth section assesses the impact from the rapid ascent of China to world power status. The sixth section turns to how the PRC exerts pressure on Taiwanese identity.

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This volume focuses on Taiwanese identity and cross-Strait relations at a time when the ascent of China has proven to be the greatest sustained story of international relations in the new millennium. How the people who live in Taiwan view themselves is a function of great power competition. Taiwan, formally the Republic of China (ROC), exists in the shadow of one giant, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and is a key client state of another, the United States (US). Each of these features influences both the evolution of Taiwanese identity and the playing out of cross-Strait relations. Embedded in history with an eye on the future, this study will pay some attention to developments prior to the flight of the Kuomintang (KMT), the losing side in the Chinese Civil War, to the island of Formosa in 1949. However, most attention will be paid to events since that time and especially in recent years, which have witnessed dramatic changes in the capabilities of the PRC, Taiwanese identity, and cross-Strait relations. In such dynamics, the US stands out as the key third-party actor among those external to Northeast Asia, with potential to impact the direction and magnitude of further developments (Jentleson, 2016). In our approach we consider especially the pull between ideological and self-interested motivating factors on shaping identity. The overall objective of this volume is to assess the evolving nature of Taiwanese identity and cross-Strait relations in connection with a rapid rise of China. As such, it also possesses implications for the US-led world order and today’s most critical great power competition.

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This chapter conveys and assesses elite reflections obtained from multiple waves of research interviews conducted in Taiwan. Material from those dialogues will facilitate our reassessment of the conventional wisdom identified in Chapter 4 and reflect support for the construction of our diagrammatic approach. Recall the systemist Figure 4.2, which conveyed cause and effect for the rise of China, Taiwanese identity, cross-Strait relations and the role of the US as gleaned from the academic literature. The depth from descriptive analysis of interviews in this chapter is intended to complement the breadth obtained from survey research assessed in Chapters 6–7. All of this will be compared in Chapter 8 with the graphic story of cause and effect told by the academic literature and encapsulated in Figure 4.2 from Chapter 4. Analysis will culminate in an elaborated systemist visualization that builds upon Figure 4.2 through incorporation of what has been learned in Chapters 5–7.

Content from the interviews is assembled into the following categories: meaning of identity; the 1992 Consensus and identity; deepening business, trade and economic ties; Sunflower Movement of 2014; textbook controversy and colonial legacy; China’s rise, identity and the US role; and Tsai’s presidency and cross-Strait relations. This is an intentionally inductive approach that covers sets of issues as these combine together naturally through the interviews. Moreover, this comprehensive approach is in line with principles from analytic eclecticism and systemism that underlie the project as a whole.

Work continues in four additional sections.

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This chapter reports and assesses popular reflections on the basis of evidence gathered during an online survey in 2015. The contents of the survey permit assessment of Taiwanese voters’ participation and identity formation, along with their views about cross-Strait relations and the role of the US in Northeast Asia. Evidence gathered through the surveys strongly corroborates the patterns from elite reflections and interviews reported in the preceding chapter while also offering data on some aspects that have been covered less so far.

This chapter provides empirical support for the theoretical approach of analytic eclecticism and systemism described in Chapter 4. As shown in that theoretical chapter, the issue of Taiwanese identity, the rise of China, cross-Strait relations and the US presence in Northeast Asia cannot be satisfactorily and effectively explained with one single theoretical paradigm. Several prevailing International Relations paradigms – realism, liberalism and constructivism – would lead the dynamics of cross-Strait relations in their respectively distinct directions. Empirical evidence presented in this chapter, together with material presented in the preceding and next chapter, is part of the effort to unite inter-paradigm ideas and evidence to produce improved explanations of what goes on across the Taiwan Strait.

Work in this chapter on survey results for popular reflections unfolds in three following sections. The second section conveys basic traits of the survey and sample. The third section offers analysis and synthesis by linking elite interviews with surveys on issues that pertain to the political economy of China’s rise, cross-Strait relations, Taiwanese identity and US activity in Northeast Asia.

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This study has focused on Taiwanese identity, the ascent of China, cross-Strait relations and the role of the US in Northeast Asia. An ensemble of methods has been applied in order to learn more about how these items theoretically and empirically impact upon each other. Our method thus draws on the broad-brush approach often employed to think about confusing and conflicted identities and their fundamental ideational questions, such as those posed by King Lear and Wu Hsing-Kuo. The significant difference in time and location for the preceding questions reinforces the point that issues of identity are global and immanent.

What, then, can be said about Taiwanese identity in connection with the ascent of China, cross-Strait relations and US activity in Northeast Asia? A look back at preceding chapters will set the stage for the tasks that remain to be carried out. All of this works towards a sense of where identity stands among the ideal points identified in Table 1.1, which include primarily ideology- or interest-based, along with gradations in between.

We began in Chapter 2 with a historical overview of Taiwan from early times, with emphasis upon the period after the KMT migration in the late 1940s and especially the years in the new millennium. This material created a context for research on our basic question about identity, while also providing a basic background to those who are specialists in neither Taiwan nor Northeast Asia.

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People in Taiwan increasingly view their identity as separate and different from those on the Mainland. The Taiwanese sense of self in the new millennium is complex, dynamic and relational (Liu, 2016). Cross-Strait relations play a crucial role in influencing how the people of Taiwan view themselves and their relationship with the PRC (Kastner, 2016). In Taiwan, many citizens now feel they have the choice of identifying as Taiwanese, Chinese or both, rejecting the notion that their past dictates their present (van der Horst, 2016; Green, 2017). Furthermore, we saw in Chapters 5 and 6 that a wide variety of factors influence elite and mass identity formation in Taiwan. In particular, the qualitative and quantitative empirical analyses discussed in this study thus far demonstrate that there has been a significant shift in identity formation; Taiwan’s democratization process now plays a major role in affecting the preferences of those who see themselves as Taiwanese (Friedberg, 2005).

What is it to be Taiwanese? This is the question that Jacobs and Kang ask in Changing Taiwanese Identities (2018). We start this chapter with an even stronger question, what is it to be only Taiwanese? Our focus here is on the factors that influence someone to identify as exclusively Taiwanese. We are especially interested in building on the survey results of Chapter 6 by examining individual characteristics and contextual conditions that influence identity in Taiwan in addition to the critical factors democracy and the US.

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This chapter theorizes about identity, change in capabilities and dyadic relations. The frame of reference for this work combines analytic eclecticism and systemism. Analytic eclecticism guides assembly of causal mechanisms into an integrated whole, while systemism – a means towards visual representation of hypotheses – provides the method. The intended empirical domain of application concerns Taiwanese (and to some extent Mainland Chinese) identity, the dramatic rise of the PRC, dyadic cross-Strait relations, and the role of the US as the key ingredient from outside of Northeast Asia.

Why bother with analytic eclecticism and systemism in the turn towards theorizing? Consider, as the obvious alternative, implementation of a particular school of thought as the foundation for theory. Carried out in Chapter 3, a review of paradigmatic research reveals that realist and liberal perspectives, while offering a range of insights, are not sufficient to explain the dynamics of the rise of China, cross-Strait relations, Taiwanese identity and US influence. Thus, attention turns to analytic eclecticism as a guide for assembly of causal mechanisms from diverse points of origin (Sil and Katzenstein, 2010a, 2010b). Our approach emphasizes theorizing that is inclusive, notably going beyond paradigmatic boundaries. Analytic eclecticism also stresses the importance of relevance to policy.

Analytic eclecticism is not without its limitations. An important shortcoming of analytic eclecticism in its original form is the potential for research findings to lack coherence because there no longer is a paradigm to guide investigation. To head off the problem of contradictory theorizing and evidence, systemism is incorporated into the process.

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