WTNLOT: “Hong Kong and Taiwan: Evolving Identities”

Pulled from the Diplomatist. 

With 2014 marked by unprecedented protests in both Taiwan and Hong Kong and continued demonstrations

Image Credit: Hong Kong protests image via Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

in Hong Kong earlier this month, media and analysts alike point to a disconcerting trend for Beijing: an increasingly localized sense of identity among residents in both locales that correlates with a decreasing sense of a national “Chinese” identity.

Perhaps most significant is that this shift has occurred alongside unparalleled growth in cross-strait economic ties, which mainland Chinese leadership had anticipated would have just the opposite effect on Taiwan residents’ sense of identity. And Taiwan’s local elections last November seemed to further reinforce this point, with voters delivering a resounding defeat to the very party that had made increased cross-strait ties the mainstay of its current policy since it regained the presidency in 2008. The trends toward localized “Hongkonger” and “Taiwanese” identities, in other words, do not bode well for mainland China, which seems to be losing ground in this battle of identities with each passing day.

…one’s self-identity and that of an entire society is a complicated amalgamation of numerous factors, and economic growth on its own may not be sufficient for restoring a sense of “Chinese” identity to those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. As Western analysts and media frequently point out, the political system that governs a locale and the correlating political values its people hold is another significant component in identity formation….Regardless of the merits or disadvantages of an autocratic or a democratic system, the reality is that the shift from autocracy to democracy in Taiwan is one that residents are distinctly proud of and cherish, arguably even more than people in the United States, because many of those in Taiwan — unlike most Americans — have known what it is like to live under both systems. More importantly, few people in Taiwan, if any, would prefer to return to the previous autocratic political system.

In essence, although no one can be sure whether the many factors that contribute to determining identities will work for or against Beijing, one certainty does exist: there’s no going backwards. It would be unfathomable for Hong Kong or Taiwan to return to a point of lesser economic development — like that which mainland residents experienced more recently or even are currently undergoing — in a way that would help narrow the differences created by economic growth. It is equally unimaginable that residents in either Hong Kong or Taiwan — especially those in Taiwan — would willingly accept a less democratic system that could effectively bridge this current political disconnect with their mainland counterparts.

Want more (older) news? Here’s another interesting article to read. This one outlines the implications of the Taiwanese governments’ decision to indict 118 students involved in the Sunflower movement. The students, and civic groups, involved in the movement were opposed to expanded economic relations with China outlined in the Cross-Strait Service Agreement. More on the agreement can be found here.
Last month, Amnesty international wrote a report on the lack of independent oversight and the  excessive use of police force involved in monitoring the movement.


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