Creating 'Taiwanese Citizenship': Identity, Difference and Cultural Policy

Dr. Li-jung Wang
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Civil rights concepts have taken root in Taiwan slowly and rights in the political, economic and social arenas remain underdeveloped. Principal reasons underlying these problems include a weak sense of civic consciousness in traditional Taiwan society and the lingering, suppressive effects on civil rights of Taiwan's long period under martial law rule. The rise of democratic movements up through the 1980s and the lifting in 1986 of martial law controls began a process of granting citizens specific political rights; in particular, the rights to free speech, assembly and movement.

Political freedoms, however, opened a fervid debate regarding the issue of national identity. Should those living on Taiwan be considered "Taiwanese" or "Chinese"? In 1993, the KMT, the ruling party at the time, created a new policy initiative defined under the title, "Community Renaissance". It was hoped that a growing sense of civic consciousness would arise from increased community involvement to supplant conflict along lines of nationality.

However, "Community Renaissance" fairly quickly encountered new challenges. The first was the challenge represented by the movement for multiculturalism, fuelled since the 1980s by advocates for Taiwan's various ethnic groups. Their demands cover such issues as autonomy, land, and special ethnic representation rights for indigenous peoples and (specifically for the Hakka community) special linguistic and cultural rights. Another challenge to "Community Renaissance" policies came from Taiwan's rapidly growing international communities — namely foreign contract laborers and foreign spouses.

Through the process of formulating and verifying these issues, it is clear that Taiwan's previous muddled approach to civil rights development is giving way gradually to a clearer course. Government emphasis on civic participation and policies fostering the creation of communities are gradually taking effect and becoming key components of Taiwanese citizenship. Concepts of multiculturalism are also taking an increasingly prominent role in government policies. The concept of civil rights in terms of Taiwan's international communities, meanwhile, continues to be ignored or actively rejected.

Keywords: Citizenship, Identity, Cultural policy, Transnational community, Multiculturalism
Stream: Political Science, Politics
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Creating 'Taiwanese Citizenship'

Dr. Li-jung Wang

Assistant Professor, The Department of Sociology, University of Yuan Ze

Ref: H05P0095