Taiwanâ€™s Mainlanders: A Diasporic Identity in Construction This article has been published in open access since 01 March 2009. The old is dying, and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there arise a great diversity of morbid symptoms (Antonio Gramsci, cited in Crapanzano, 1986: 47). 1Diaspora is a relatively new concept to the study of Taiwan; but is nonetheless a useful conceptual tool in understanding shifting ethnic relations during the island nationâ€™s tumultuous and yet unfinished process of decolonization. Taiwanese political discourse of the past two decades has constructed Taiwanese society as comprised of four ethnic groups. These are the indigenous peoples of Austronesian descent (approximately 2% of the population), whose presence on Taiwan dates back over 6000 years; the Hoklo (72%), whose paternal ancestors started arriving from Fujian Province of China during Dutch occupation of part of Taiwan in the 1600s; the Hakka (13%) whose ancestors came from Guangdong Province mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries, and finally the Mainlanders (13%), who arrived with Chiang Kai-shek after the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945 (Corcuff, 2002: 163). 2Mainlanders, the group under discussion in this article, are called waishengren in Chinese or goa-seng-lang in Taiwanese, both meaning â€œpeople from outside the province.â€ This ethnic identity, determined by an imaginary province of origin that some individuals had never even seen, was even a legal category on official documents until 1992. The process by which waishengren and their Other (benshengren or â€œpeople of the provinceâ€) became social categories of ethnicity demonstrate clearly how legal categories metamorphose into ethnic categories in ways unimagined by their creators (Corcuff, 2002: 171). 3As Taiwanese nationalism gains ascendancy over Chinese nationalism in Taiwanese society, Mainlanders are increasingly adopting a diasporic identity as Chinese in Taiwan (Chang, 2005). The labels and boundaries between ethnic groups are clearly related to the construction of a national identity on Taiwan; and need to be interrogated for the lessons they can teach us about the relationship between migration, decolonization, diasporas, and nationalism. Although these processes of national fragmentation and ethnicisation are part of the global Zeitgeist of our times (Elbaz and Helly, 1995), the case of Taiwan is particularly interesting because the boundaries between diasporas and the nation have changed so rapidly. 4In order to understand the relationship between diasporic imaginations and nationalism in this fascinating case study, it is important to ask the following questions: To what extent do Taiwanâ€™s Mainlanders constitute a diasporic community? How do discourses of Chinese diaspora in Taiwan contrast with, or articulate with, co-existing discourses of colonialism and resistance, as well as discourses of republican or multicultural citizenship? What do these competing discourses say about how the larger meaning of diaspora? Diaspora as a form of ethnic identity In anthropology, constructionist approaches to ethnicity are based largely on the insights of Norwegian anthropologist Fredrik Barth who argued that ethnic groups are not objective entities, but are rather formed through boundaries they form with others in specific historical circumstances (Barth, 1969). Since diasporas constitute one particular variety of ethnic group, James Clifford similarly used the term diaspora as â€œa signifier, not simply of transnationality and movement, but of political struggles to define the local, as distinctive community, in historical contexts of displacementâ€ (Clifford, 1994: 308). Diaspora, argues Clifford, exists largely in tension with nationalist and autochtonous identity formations in which different groups use different criteria to claim â€œnativeâ€ status on the same territory. 6Within this larger political context, diasporas often share a number of broad characteristics. Safran defined diasporas as â€œexpatriate minority communitiesâ€ characterized by an experience of dispersal from their homeland, collective memories of that homeland, a belief that they are not accepted in their new land, a desire for return, support of their homeland, and a collective identity constructed around their place of origin (Safran, 1991: 83-84). Diasporic identities are closely related to national identities, as they define who belongs to, but also whom is excluded from a given nation as â€œimagined communityâ€ (Anderson, 1991). Diasporas are non-native in relationship to ethnic nationalisms, but can be more easily absorbed into civic nationalisms. As with national borders, therefore, the boundaries between diaspora and nativist identities are often contested from both sides. 7Diaspora studies have usually focused on immigrant communities. The Jews constitute the paradigmatic case of diaspora due to their dispersal throughout the world; strong collective identity; ritualized memories of the lost homeland; and a desire for spiritual, if not physical, return to Israel. Armenians, Africans throughout the North Atlantic, and immigrant Asians are also frequently studied as diasporas. Less commonly studied as diasporas are those peoples, such as Europeans in North America or Africa, who dispersed to other parts of the world as part of a colonizing project (Schnapper, 2001: 11). 8In the process of decolonization, however, diaspora becomes relevant to those situations, especially for members of communities who have stayed behind rather than returning to their places of origin. Yet in order to avoid an overuse of the concept of diaspora, it is important to limit it to cases in which there is some institutionalized exchange between the home and diaspora communities, as well as at least an imaginary desire to â€œreturnâ€ (Schapper, 2001: 31). Without those two elements, the English and the French of Canada do not constitute diaspora communities, but, as argued below, the Mainlanders of Taiwan do. In colonial and post-colonial situations, the formation of diaspora identity constitutes an unfinished process of struggle and negotiation in which past colonialism shapes contemporary struggles. The postcolonial construction of such diasporas is as important in the study of Taiwanâ€™s Mainlanders as it is for whites in South Africa. Mainlander ethnic identity Although most of the anthropological literature on Taiwan since the 1970s has subsumed Mainlanders and Native Taiwanese under the general rubric of â€œChinese culture,â€ the ethnic boundaries between them have also been recognized as salient, especially the boundary constructed between Mainlanders and â€œNative Taiwanese,â€ referring to both the Hoklo and the Hakka. Although the boundaries between these groups are also a product of Chinese Nationalist rule (see below), they have been increasing reinforced in public discourse since the gradual democratization and decolonization of Taiwan that began in the 1980s. 10Group identities constructed around the four ethnicities of Mainlanders, Hakka, Hoklo and Aboriginal have been particularly prone to mobilization during political rallies and at election time. As the Native Taiwanese gained power in Taiwan, the Mainlanders have lost many of the privileges they enjoyed in the past. In this context, they fear being classified as members of an ethnic minority or political scapegoats. Many Mainlanders feel threatened by this shift in political power and by the ethnic discourse that has come with it; and thus believe rumours that Native Taiwanese have even shouted out â€œMainland pigs go home!â€ at political rallies. Yet in a democratic country where alternative nationalisms can be freely expressed and contested, it is difficult to return to the old discourse that â€œwe are all Chineseâ€â€“ especially since in practice the groups have never been equal. Instead, Mainlanders seem to be reluctantly constructing a new diasporic identity to negotiate a new place a Taiwan that is going through a process of decolonization comparable to that of South Africa (Wu, 2002). 11Mainlander dis-ease with Taiwanese nationalism is readily apparent in Taiwan. After the 2004 presidential elections, for example, when Native Taiwanese candidate Chen Shui-bian won the presidency for the second time, a heavily-accented Mainlander taxi driver explained to me that the results would surely be disastrous. He argued that Chenâ€™s Taiwanese nationalism was dangerous and could easily lead to violence against â€œforeignersâ€ like himself. When I argued that surely all people who carry Republic of China passports are Taiwanese, he referred to the Native Taiwanese saying, â€œThey donâ€™t recognize that. They think we Mainlanders are not Taiwanese. To them, we are Chinese. We are foreigners.â€ He broke into tears as he contemplated on the possibility that political change might bring about an official declaration of Taiwanese independence and thus the end of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Conversations such as this, which reflect Mainlander discomfort with political developments in Taiwan, provide a useful point of departure for the study of the Mainlander diaspora as a new form of ethnic identity in the country. The historical genesis of Mainlander identity on Taiwan Due to their phenotypical similarities, the differences between Mainlanders and Native Taiwanese seem small compared to those between â€œblackâ€ and â€œwhiteâ€ Africans unless one keeps in mind that all ethnicities are relationships of power rather than essentialized objects in themselves. Not unlike different ethnic groups in Africa, the boundary between Mainlanders and Native Taiwanese was formed out of conflict, violence and oppression. After Japanâ€™s defeat at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Allied Forces under General MacArthur transferred the Japanese colony of Taiwan to the administration of the Republic of China without consulting the local people about their future. 13Those people already living on Taiwan, the indigenous Austronesian tribes and the numerical majority of â€œNative Taiwaneseâ€, were soon faced with the problem of accommodating newcomers from China. Due to historical circumstances, the social distance between the groups was large. The indigenous peoples spoke Japanese and a variety of Austronesian languages. Native Taiwanese spoke Japanese and Hakka or Hoklo, the latter known now as â€œTaiwaneseâ€, while the Mainlanders spoke Mandarin Chinese with various degrees of proficiency and various Chinese dialects. Although it is often claimed that Hakka and Hoklo (Taiwanese) are merely dialects of Chinese, the difference between Taiwanese and Mandarin is as different as that between Dutch (or Afrikaaner) and English. The Austronesian languages are not related to Chinese at all; but are instead related to other Pacific islander languages such as Maori, Hawaiian and Chamorro. 14Between 1945 and 1949, several waves of people started arriving from China to Taiwan, including members of the new military administration under Chen Yi, those sent by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to establish civil and military authority, and Chinese civilians looking for job opportunities. After the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party was forced to retreat to Taiwan, bringing with them more military personnel and an unknown number of civilian refugees. They depended on the Nationalist government for housing and living; and initially expected that their return to China would be imminent. Not expecting to settle down permanently in Taiwan, they identified strongly with the Chinese Nationalist Party, with their places of origin in China, and felt a strong sense of cultural superiority over the Taiwanese (Corcuff, 2002: 172-174). 15Relations between the two groups were particularly strained in the aftermath of the tragic events of the 1940s. After the Republic of China arrived on Taiwan in 1945, the new government began by confiscating property belonging to the Japanese colonial government, Taiwanese enterprises and even individuals. They appropriated large amounts of local commodities â€“ including basic needs such as sugar, salt and rice â€“ to be shipped to the mainland; a situation that led to critical shortages and inflation in Taiwan (Morris, 2004: 20). Chinese soldiers terrorized the local population by stealing, looting and raping. Resentment led to the Taiwanese making unfavorable comparisons with the Japanese, saying that the takeover was a situation of â€œthe dogs leaving and the pigs coming.â€ 16Disaster struck on the evening of February 27, 1947, when agents of the Taipei City Monopoly Board tried to confiscate the contraband cigarettes that a woman peddler was selling on the street. When she was injured in the ensuing scuffle, neighbors tried to defend her and a riot broke out, leading to the police shooting of a bystander. As news of the event spread throughout Taiwan, local leaders set up â€œFebruary 28 Resolution Committeesâ€ to demand investigation of the incident, democratic and economic reforms, and limited self-rule. Governor Chen Yi promised to negotiate, but actually requested military reinforcement from China. When troops arrived, they first killed Taiwanese indiscriminately on the streets and then rounded up opposition leaders for execution. The exact casualty numbers are still unknown, but estimates range from a few hundred to more than 20 000. Martial law was imposed afterwards and would last forty years â€“ the longest period of martial law in human history. Those years are now known as the time of â€œwhite terror.â€ 17It was in this difficult transition from Japanese to ROC rule that the Mainlanders began to be perceived â€“ and to perceive themselves â€“ as a distinct ethnic group. As Corcuff wrote: The people associated with the geographical entity of Mainland China were also associated with a regime, an army, a police force, but more important still, an ideology, a project for winning back the lost continentâ€¦ A new ethnic category was in the process of being born (Corcuff, 2002: 166). 18In many ways, the Mainlanders of this generation already resembled diasporas as defined by Safran as expatriate minority communities characterized by memories of their homeland, a desire to return, and a collective identity constructed around it. The crucial difference between the first generation of Mainlanders on Taiwan and immigrant diasporas, however, was that the Mainlanders held the reins of power in Taiwan. Unable to return to China, at least in the short run, they committed themselves to the Chinese Nationalist Party and to reshaping Taiwan to their own image as the Republic of China. Rather than a relationship of immigrants to a host majority, it was a relationship of colonial domination. Colonizing Taiwan Colonialism, in the sense of postmodern anthropology, is many things at once: an ideological project and an institutional order, a process and an existential state-of-mind, but above all, a construction and negotiation of difference in situations of unequal power (Comaroff, 1998). In the 1960s, when decolonization was beginning in Africa and the memories of February 28, 1947, were still fresh in the memories of the Taiwanese, colonialism was clearly the existential state-of-mind of most Taiwanese: Today most of the 10,000,000 Formosans look upon the nearly 2 000 000 mainlanders who fled to Formosa with the collapse of Kuomintang rule as foreign overlords and describe the Chinese nationalist regime as a colonial tyranny far more oppressive than the former Japanese rule. That the overwhelming majority of Formosans favour the establishment of an independent Formosan state, without ties to mainland China and, preferably, without the presence of Mainlanders, is a fact that can no longer be ignored (Meisner, 1963: 91). 20In the early decades of Chinese Nationalist rule, just as under Japanese administration, the government discriminated against Native Taiwanese in favor of the colonizers. This systematic discrimination fostered a sense of ethnic identity among both Mainlanders and Native Taiwanese (Gates, 1981: 261). In addition to political domination, the government owned or controlled most of the larger industries and commercial enterprises, the transportation system and public utilities. In employment, they systematically discriminated against Native Taiwanese employees, often blocking hiring or promotion with the excuse that the Taiwanese did not speak Mandarin well enough. In the school system and military, as well, Taiwanese were subordinated to Mainlanders. The Chinese Nationalist state, not to mention local officials and police, also used their political domination to extract taxes, fees and levies for political campaigns from Native Taiwanese farmers. All of these practices kept alive a feeling of antagonism towards Mainlanders (Meisner, 1963: 100-101). Anthropologist Hill Gates argued the construction of ethnic difference actually benefited both ethnic groups and the government. In the early decades of Chinese Nationalist rule, a separation of Mainlander soldiers and the Taiwanese lower class helped maintain political stability and control the population (Gates, 1981: 269). 21The cultural domination of the Chinese Nationalists over Taiwan was firmly implanted by the 1960s in processes well known to scholars of the cultural dimensions of colonization (e.g. Comaroff, 1989, Comaroff and Comaroff, 1989, Cooper and Stoler, 1989, Dirks, 1992). Chinese Nationalist education and media denigrated Taiwanese local culture, including life-styles, cuisine, and religion as backwards and rural. Members of both groups internalized those values (Gates, 1981: 253). In order to force the Taiwanese to learn Mandarin Chinese, children were often beaten, humiliated, or fined for speaking Japanese, Taiwanese, or even aboriginal languages in school (Morris, 2004: 25). The Chinese Nationalist party-state took all possible measures to implant their symbolic rule over Taiwan, tearing down Shinto shrines and other Japanese monuments, renaming streets after place names in China, and erecting statues of both Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek all over the island. Like colonial regimes in Africa, the Chinese Nationalists had to fabricate what Comaroff (1998: 329) called â€œan entire space-time worldâ€ with its logic insinuated into the most mundane practices of citizens now re-membered as Chinese. 22The educational system taught children that China represents all that is modern and good, and that they should be proud to be Chinese rather than foreign, Japanese, or even locally Taiwanese (Simon, 2005: 35-36). Beginning in 1968, Chinese Nationalists with missionary zeal even brought adult women into â€œMothersâ€™ workshopsâ€ on Confucian ethics, emphasizing that Taiwanese women are traditional Chinese wives and mothers who should thus work for free in their husbandsâ€™ subcontracting workshops (Greenhalgh, 1994; Hsiung, 1996). Taiwanese who resisted sinicization, and especially those who advocated the independence of Taiwan from the Republic of China, faced imprisonment or worse. Some political prisoners were summarily executed (Arrigo, 1998). 23As so often happens in colonial situations (Fanon, 1967), many Taiwanese internalized the idea that the language and cultural markers of the colonizers were more prestigious than those of the local people. Under the sway of colonial mentality, Peking opera was elevated to high culture, while local opera and puppet shows were denigrated as high class. The National Palace Museum in Taipei highlighted the pageantry of Chinese history, while younger generations of Taiwanese learned nothing about their islandâ€™s past. Socially, Native Taiwanese often worked as servants for Mainlanders, but even the poorest Mainlanders would not work as servants for the Native Taiwanese (Meisner, 1963: 101). The prestige of the Chinese was even reflected through hypergamy, as there was a trend for Native Taiwanese women to marry Mainlander men but not for Mainlander women to marry Taiwanese (Meisner, 1963: 103). A generation later, the children of such couples still tend to self-identify as Chinese Mainlanders rather than as Taiwanese. In the 1970s, however, the dialectic of history began to work in another direction as the experience of subordination led to counter-hegemonic movement.