Many people in China and the US assume that the new Taiwanese national identity is a political ploy which originated with Taiwan's government. Based on ethnographic research in both Taiwan and China, Melissa Brown argues that Taiwanese identity -- in both its ethnic and national forms -- are based on social experience. Because the people of Taiwan and China have had such different social experiences since 1895, Taiwanese identity as distinct from Chinese identity is real. The reality of Taiwanese identity poses challenges for resolving the debate over Taiwan's future relations with China, particularly in nationalistic responses due to lack of Chinese experience with Taiwanese society.
Melissa J. Brown is Assistant Professor of Anthropological Sciences and Research Affiliate at Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. She has been researching changing identities in Taiwan and China since 1991. Her books include Negotiating Ethnicities in China and Taiwan (University of California, Institute for East Asian Studies, 1996) and Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities (University of California Press, 2004).