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Session B8
The Development of Taiwan as a Society
沙學漢 David Schak
Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University, Australia

In 1950, as the full KMT government began its rule there, the last thing one would have expected was that Taiwan would become a diverse ethnic society imbued with civic nationalism. In 1950, it was multi-ethnic with no sense of common identity.  Politically it was essentially ruled over as a colony. Socially, it was a society only in form, merely people in a bounded territory ruled over by a government. Its social organization was a congeries of small communities of first peoples, Hoklo and Hakka speakers, and Mainlanders. All were divided by language and dialect; moreover, the first peoples were territorially separated and divided by tribal alliance, the Hoklo and Hakka by village or factional alliance, and the Mainlanders by where they came from in China, which sometimes was reflected in where they worked or lived. . Yet by the 1990s, Taiwan's transformation into a society with a strong sense of common identity regardless of ancestry was palpable, and that sense has continued to strengthen.

This paper will trace the transformation of Taiwan from simply a place where people lived, or for the Mainlanders, a place from which they yearned to leave in order to return home, to a place in which identification with society as a whole is widespread and is based on its democratic institutions and its civility rather than some imagined primordial unity. It will explain how various social, economic, political, and cultural events beginning in 1945 brought about this transmutation, took people out of their local communities into the wider society where they met and formed friendships with strangers and expanded their conception of Taiwan, and forged a unity through the struggles to replace an authoritarian government with a democracy, seized the right to express their identity and retrieve their ethnic dignity, and fighting successfully to prevent the fouling of their environment.