Taiwanese Nation-building and the Unification Debate

Open Access
Klanderman, Jason Alexander
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kathlene T Baldanza, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael James Milligan, Honors Advisor
  • Taiwan
  • History
  • Identity
  • Nation-Building
  • China
  • KMT
  • DPP
  • ROC
This thesis explores the evolution of Taiwanese identity from the early 17th century through the present. It examines how successive foreign occupation of Taiwan influenced the development of the unique Taiwanese national and cultural identity. The project also examines how Taiwan became connected to China, and how the Chinese and the Taiwanese interpret historical events to assert their claims of sovereignty and independence. I posit that a unique national and cultural identity has developed on Taiwan between the early 17th century and the present. This identity is independent, yet strongly linked to Mainland China but its expression was often violently repressed. From 1945 through 1987 the Kuomintang (KMT), the Nationalist party that came from Mainland China occupied Taiwan under martial law. The Kuomintang ended martial law in 1987 and started to democratize Taiwan. As a result of this foreign occupation and the strong ethnic and cultural ties to Mainland China, the question concerning Taiwanese national identity is whether it is a part of China or whether it is its own nation. I argue that since 1987, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Taiwan has accelerated the development of a national Taiwanese identity that is independent of China by acting as a mouthpiece for the movement. The DPP thus brought Taiwanese out of the shadows from where it was suppressed by KMT martial law, but it was ultimately unsuccessful in bringing about an accompanying desire for de jure Taiwanese independence among the majority of voters largely due to the extra-political forces of geopolitics.