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The Decline of “Chinese Identity” in Taiwan?! — An Analysis of Survey Data from 1992 to 2012


This paper attempts to provide a concrete response and analysis to the decline of Chinese identity in Taiwan. Our focus is on the problem of “Chinese identity” and how this identity is gradually fading, as is evident in long-term public opinion polls conducted by various academic institutions in Taiwan between 1992 and 2012. This paper provides two perspectives to analyze the phenomenon. One is that the occurrence of political events impacts identification, and creates a lasting effect on younger generations. These events seem to have a greater and more continuous impact on the younger and better educated generations. Second, the gradual passing with age of the first generation of waishengren (people of Mainland Chinese origin who came to Taiwan after World War II and their descendents) has contributed somewhat to the decline of Chinese identity, but not enough to be a critical factor. Therefore, this paper provides a preliminary explanation that political events play a key role in influencing the decline of “Chinese identity” in Taiwan.

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  1. 1.

    At the time, the Lien-Soong protest was “invalid election result.” Later during litigation, their protest was separated into two parts, “invalid election,” and “invalid election result.” See Tun-jen Cheng and Da-chi Liao, ibid

  2. 2.

    The term “national identity” here refers to whether one believes oneself to be Taiwanese, Chinese, or both. Different researchers might use different terms, but this paper believes “National identity” to be the most appropriate. For detailed information please see reference [2].

  3. 3.

    Yu Shan Wu observes the decline of Chinese identity may relate to the missile crisis, but his article does not aim to explore the change of Chinese identity. See reference [7].

  4. 4.

    The earliest possibility for taking the influence of education into account is 2002 because the generation which was age 15 in 1997 would have been 20 years old in that year and thus could be surveyed on their voting behavior. Dramatic drops in Chinese identity first appeared between 1994 and 1996 when education would not, as yet, have had any influence.

  5. 5.

    Currently Chi Huang is attempting to conduct pseudo- panel data tracking, but is still in the explorative stage. See Chi Huang, Ibid.

  6. 6.

    Our readers may notice that the height of the Chinese identity in the year of 1993, as shown in Fig. 1 (around 26 %), is much lower than the data from the same year provided in this section (48.5 %) because we’ve used different data sources. Figure 1 shows the surveys conducted by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center. However, in this section (p.13), we use the data from surveys conducted by five different survey units on behalf of the Mainland Affairs Council. The 1993 survey is conducted by China Credit Information Service Ltd. while 1994 was conducted by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center. Therefore, the following reasons may explain the difference in survey results for 1993: first, different way of framing questions by different survey units; second, different ways of conducting surveys. While the survey conducted by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center uses face to face interviews, the survey conducted by China Credit Information Service Ltd. uses telephone interviews. Since different survey units usually provide different numbers, we look for similar trends across different survey units in utilizing different sources of survey data. The key point here is the year of 1994 (after the Qiandao Lake incident) was a turning point in the decline of “Chinese identity” in Taiwan across different survey results.

  7. 7.

    For data from each period, including classification and sampling numbers, please see Appendix 2.

  8. 8.

    Please see Appendix 2.

  9. 9.

    Hoklo has always been the majority of population, and the highest percentage of total population in each period. Data showed that its percentage in various periods were 70.3 % in 1992, 73.5 % in 1996, 76.6 % in 2000, 74.3 % in 2004, and 77.2 % in 2008. It is no wonder that due to sheer numbers, they are also the majority when choosing “Chinese identity.”


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Correspondence to Boyu Chen.


Appendix 1 A list of survey data used in the study (1992–2012)

year Conducting unit Sample size
1992 Election Study Center, NCCU 1523
1992 Department of Political Science, NTU 1398
1995 Election Study Center, NCCU 1485
1995 Department of Political Science, NTU 1383
1996 Election Study Center, NCCU 1396
1996 Department of Political Science, NTU 1406
1998 Election Study Center, NCCU 1207
1998 Department of Political Science, NTU 1357
2000 Election Study Center, NCCU 1181
2000 Department of Political Science, NTU & DPS of Soochow U 1410
2001 TEDS 2022
2004 TEDS 1823
2004 TEDS A:1252
2008 TEDS 1240
2008 TEDS 1905
2012 TEDS 1826

Appendix 2 The division of periods, data used and sample size

This research utilizes 16 survey research data, and mainly divides them into five periods.

The research first sets up six periods: period 1 (1992), period 2 (1996), period 3 (2000), period 4 (2004), period 5 (2008), and period 6 (2012). In accordance with the occurrences of events, period 2 is further divided into early stage and latter stage. The dividing line is drawn between the missile crises happening period and their afterward. Period 3 then is divided into the early stage before the occurrence of “two states theory” and the latter stage after that had been stated. (see Table 3 below)

Table 3 The five periods, relevant events, sample sizes and data sources

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Liao, DC., Chen, B. & Huang, Cc. The Decline of “Chinese Identity” in Taiwan?! — An Analysis of Survey Data from 1992 to 2012. East Asia 30, 273–290 (2013).

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  • National identity
  • Chinese identity
  • Taiwanese identity
  • Political events
  • The Taiwan strait