The business, and farming. The Hakkas spoke Hakka dialect

The four major ethnic groups in Taiwan are
the Indigenous people, the Hakkas, Hoklos, and the Mainlanders. The Indigenous
people, or the Aborigines, were the earlier inhabitants and there are no argument
about their identities. They are ethnically and culturally different from the
other three groups, who are essentially Han Chinese or at least classify as zhongguoren. The Mainlanders are
classified as the Chinese who migrated to Taiwan between 1945 to 1949 during
the civil war between KMT and Communist party. After the Chinese regained
control of Taiwan, “Taiwanese
i.e, Han in Taiwan would assume themselves simply to be Chinese. That moment
lasted until shortly after the mainlanders arrived” (Brown 9; Gates 1987:44,
cf. Chang 2000:62). The Hakkas and the Hoklos were
descendants of Han settlers and immigrants who migrated to Taiwan mostly
between the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century. The major difference
between the three groups is language. The Hoklos were from the Fujian Province
and spoke southern Fujian dialect, and they were mostly involved in trading,
business, and farming. The Hakkas spoke Hakka dialect and were from the
Guangdong Province and southern Fujian, who migrated to Taiwan and stayed in
rural, hilly areas to become farmers. The Mainlanders arrived after WWII and
although not all of them are technically Han Chinese, they forged an identity
together during their experiences of fleeing China and taking refuge in Taiwan.
During their arrival in Taiwan, they all registered through a system that
classified their “place of origin.” The “place of origin” would be China
regardless of their actually ethnic background. This process affirmed their
Mainlander identity. The majority of the Mainlanders spoke Mandarin, the
official language of the Mainland. The difference in language and background made
it difficult for a cohesive Taiwanese identity to form.

The Mainlanders were a minority group in Taiwan,
and at first, they saw themselves as temporary residence of the island. Their
different degree of attachment to the island spilt them apart from the local
people living in Taiwan. Their language, culture, and ancestral distinctions
also separated them from local people. The Mainlanders were widely excluded
from Taiwanese business and social sphere. Language became a huge barrier and
many Taiwanese business owners would state that they would only hire those who
spoke Hoklo, Taiwanese. That became a blunt way of discriminating against the
Mainlanders. The Mainlanders and the Taiwanese continued to have numerous of
problems due to mutually excluding one another. The February 28th Incident
became the outcome of the poor relations between the Nationalist Party, which
was supported by the Mainlanders, and the Taiwanese which grew out of thousands
of small acts (Phillips 67).

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Although the Hoklo and
the Hakka do not share the same ancestral background, they view themselves as
Taiwanese. They provide an example of how experiences and societal background
can alter the idea of identity and create a new identity exclusive to people
that have encounter the same sociopolitical experiences. The Taiwanese, since
the Japanese reign, were excluded from power and corporations. During the KMT
rule, they were also excluded from high political power which caused them to
realize their differences with the Mainlanders. They do not share the same
loyalty to the KMT government that the Mainlanders had. They did not identify
with being Chinese since during the KMT rule, they were discriminated by the
Chinese. They saw that through the years off alien rule in Taiwan since the
Ming Dynasty to the KMT, they have cultivated a new unique Taiwanese identity
that can be shared among the local people of Taiwan who came before the KMT
rule. They strongly believed that “for those whose ancestors sailed across
the Taiwan Strait and endured onslaughts waged by the indigenous
“barbarians,” the island belongs to them only/ And they are not to
tolerate any unjustified deprivation of the land” (Shih and Chen 94). It is
important to note here that the Taiwanese identity that was forged discriminated
against the “indigenous barbarians,” who are the Aborigines that arrived way
before they did.

During the February 28th Incident, also known as 2-28, the
Taiwanese identity strengthened. It was in 1947 when people gathered in Taipei
to protest an accidental civilian shooting by the police. It turned into an
island-wide uprising that was predominantly anti-KMT in which “the provincial
administration had badly underestimated the willingness of Taiwanese to
transform their discontentment into concrete action” (Phillips 75). In order to
suppress this uprising, Chiang Kai-Shek, the KMT leader, sent 50,000 troops to
suppress the revolt. Many locals were arrested and executed without trials.
Those who identified themselves as Taiwanese saw the Chinese rule as even worse
than that of the Japanese. It caused the earlier Han settlers to contemplate
their attachment to their motherland, China. The 2-28 Incident forced the
Taiwanese, who many were originally excited about reuniting with their
motherland, to realize that “the Chinese compatriots were actually new
colonizers” (Shih and Chen 95). The Incident became a rallying point for
Taiwanese liberation.

As a political result of the 2-28 Incident, the KMT enforced the martial
laws which imposed severe restrictions on civil and political activities. The martial
laws essentially suspended constitutional rights on the basis that it was for
“security reasons.” The KMT imposed Chinese culture, anti-Communist ideology,
and education reforms that taught Chinese history. They also forced students to
worship Chiang Kai-Shek while censoring and controlling the press. Locals were
forced to give up land for “land reforms,” and monetary reforms also caused the
middle class to become bankrupted. The masses in Taiwan began to struggle under
the KMT rule and these economic commands created structural inequalities in
Taiwan. The KMT enforced the National Language Policy which was meant as an
encouragement of native Taiwanese to learn Mandarin. However, it was an attempt
to force the Taiwanese to assimilate. This policy removed Hoklo and Hakka from
being languages but degraded them to dialects instead. Taiwanese were ridiculed
and humiliated for clumsy Mandarin, and students were punished for speaking a language
other than Mandarin. Language competency “became a symbol of one’s
“Chinese-ness” and national loyalty” (Phillips 69; Wu 237). However, a major
problem that occurred was that Mandarin had many regional dialects. The
standard language in China that was brought from the Mainland, was spoke
differently by the Mainlanders due to their regional differences. Language and
culture quickly became a push that forced separate identities among the groups
of people in Taiwan.

The locals in Taiwan wanted a self-government, and that drive for
self-government grew after the 2-28 incident. This incident and the tensions
that created this incident caused the Taiwanese to consider “both the Chinese
and Japanese regimes exploitative, but deemed the new government particularly
dishonest, incompetent, unpredictable, and inefficient” (Phillips 65). The
Taiwanese saw the KMT rule as corrupted, undisciplined, and disorganized
especially compared to the Japanese modern and efficient society. The
Mainlanders saw the Japanese characteristics in Taiwanese lifestyles due to
Japan’s 50 years of colonization and that caused immediate distrust. The
Chinese were extremely anti-Japanese because of World War II. When Taiwan was
returned to Chinese rule, Taiwan was already in huge economic decline. Japanese
war efforts caused Taiwan to have food shortage, high unemployment rates, and lack
of resources. However, the Nationalist Party SL1 worsened the problems and continued to use Taiwan as a military base for
the civil war in China. The Nationalist approach to the problems in Taiwan was to
create an economic model in which the government held control of the majority
of the enterprises. The nationalization of enterprises caused the magnification
of crime and corruption. The high corruption rate “was particularly offensive
to the Taiwanese, who came to recall fondly the rule of law under the strict,
yet predictable, policy state of the Japanese” (Phillips 67; Zheng 54). In other
words, the Japanese rule became more preferable compared to the Mainlander rule
and that was discovered during the high corruption rates that occurred during
KMT rule. Before Chinese power was restored in Taiwan, the Taiwanese were under
Japanese rule in which many saw the distinction between them and the Japanese.
However, Japanese officials also created laws to assimilate local Taiwanese and
many young Taiwanese did proudly serve the Japanese imperial government.

Eventually Chiang Ching-Kuo, Chiang Kai-Shek’s son, saw these
differences and problems and realized that without the inclusion of Taiwanese
in politics, KMT would not be able to claim legitimacy. During KMT rule, the
Taiwanese identity became more of a regional identity. It became a way of
separating the Hoklo and the Hakka whose ancestors came before 1985 and the
Mainlanders that came later. They identified themselves as benshengren, people from within the province. While, people from
outside the province, weishengren
referred to Mainlanders that came between 1945-1949. However, this regional
identity continued to grow and become more “inclusive, proud, and nationalist”
(Brown 12) due to Lee Teng-Hui’s influence.

Chiang Ching Kuo’s successor, Lee Teng-Hui ended up becoming known as
the father of the Taiwanese identity. He was the first president of Taiwan that
was born in Taiwan. He spoke openly about Taiwanese identity and independence
from China during his rule. He also promoted more Taiwanese technocrats into
government positions, forced senior representatives to retire, held election
for more Taiwanese to gain seats, opposed unlimited economic ties with China, and
he openly spoke about “Taiwanese suffering.” He argued that the Mainlanders
should also identify themselves as Taiwanese, and he saw both the Mainlander
and the natives as residents of Taiwan. His point of view of the Taiwanese
identity shows the change of inclusiveness in the identity. His political power
pushed the “Taiwanese” identity not just among the natives but also the group
of “Mainlander” that came to Taiwan during KMT rule. However, his most
controversial idea was that he saw Japan as Taiwan’s motherland. He felt that
“Taiwanization” was emphasized by Imperial Japanese culture and not the
Chinese. He wanted to develop and unified Taiwan and create a new identity
through revamping education against the idea of one unified China.

Currently with the “one China” policy, Taiwan is a part of China.
Taiwanese people are ethnically Chinese which created this dispute of their sovereignty.
With the argument that ancestry and culture is not what creates an identity,
but rather politics is, the Taiwanese SL2 identity is exclusive and pertains only to the natives that arrived
before the KMT period. However, recently this identity has become more
inclusive. Now the Mainlanders that arrived during the KMT period and the
Aborigines are starting to become included in this Taiwanese identity. Since
1987, most Taiwanese started to identify themselves as a blend of Han culture
and ancestry, Aborigine culture and ancestry and Japanese culture (Brown 2). The
Taiwanese might have been influenced by Japanese culture but ancestry was
mostly influenced only by the Aborigines and the Hans. The Chinese felt
strongly that Taiwan is a part of the Chinese nation, but Taiwan wants to be
separated from China and call themselves a nation. Many Taiwanese that ended up
visiting their motherland suffered from cultural shock. This emphasized the
difference between China and Taiwan. Fundamentally, the Taiwanese were experienced
“shock at the
standards of living, at the loss of Confucian civility and propriety in the
relationships, and at the apparent lack of work ethic” (Brown 12). The new
Taiwanese identity was born from political experiences and grew as people
became increasingly proud of Taiwan’s economic and political success, and this
regional identity is cultivated by the sociopolitical experiences that the
Taiwanese has gone through.

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