Saturday, July 9, 2005


While I was in Singapore, a couple of people asked me if I was Taiwanese. My first reaction was, "No, we're all Chinese." However, all the Chinese people I met in Singapore called themselves Singaporean. I guess my answer should have been, "I'm Canadian" but I think they were asking me if I was "from" Taiwan, whatever that means.

So my answer back to them was, "What do you mean by Taiwanese?" Of course, this was not the answer people were expecting so I had to explain the difference between BSR (within-province people or what the "Taiwanese" call themselves) and WSR (outside-province people), and a brief primer on modern Chinese history. There are many people who consider themselves to be "Taiwanese" AND not "Chinese"; typically you find them wearing green clothing and speaking the Taiwanese dialect (basically Fukienses). I'm not 100% sure but I think they consider you "Taiwanese" if you came to Taiwan island before 1945 or one of your parents are Taiwanese if you're born in Taiwan after 1949. You are definitely not Taiwanese if you moved to Taiwan after WWII, i.e., after the Chinese civil war. I think if people want to identify their nationality as Taiwanese, that's perfectly reasonable and similar to Singaporean or Hongkongese. However, when they say they're not Chinese, I think that's stupid since "Taiwanese" people are either originally from Fukien or Hakka, unless you're the "native" Taiwanese who are more related to Filipino or Indonesian/Malay people. I think they are confusing politics with history.

This silliness is not only limited to Taiwan. During their latest pregancy, my friend and his wife needed to fill out some forms at the hospital here in California. Under ethnicity, they found separate boxes for Chinese and Taiwanese. They were curious so they asked the nurse what the difference was. The answer was that there's is no difference medically; they added the choice because some people complained that they were NOT Chinese and wanted a check box for Taiwanese. Sigh...

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