Paradigm Series: China's Need of Size vis-a-vis Identity

  Previous  |  Next  

Thursday June 13, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

When one speaks to Chinese and to Taiwanese about identity one quickly notices a big difference in their paradigmatic perspectives. Taiwanese do not need size to feel comfortable in their identity. Taiwan is an island of 23 million people and whatever their ancestral roots, true Taiwanese feel very comfortable identifying with that island and the size of its population.

True, Taiwan has a population that is larger than approximately 75 per cent of the nations in the United Nations--a fact that is a constant embarrassment to the international community which does not recognize Taiwan as a nation. Nonetheless, Taiwanese are content with belonging to a nation with that size of population and an equivalent land mass with the Netherlands and Belgium.

Taiwanese do not need to tell you "how big" their nation is, or what a prominent role it has played in the ups and downs of Asian history. Taiwanese are happy with their island nation.

Chinese who are living on, or visiting Taiwan are different. They need size to identify with and for a sense of security in their self-image; they are embarrassed to link themselves only with the island. To them it is a puny province; they are not content to live within its borders. They have to claim they are part of a nation of 1.3 plus billion people to have a feeling of security in their identity. If they have any love for Taiwan, it is only as a small part of a larger mass. As was said, they can only feel secure in size. When one begins to understand how this psyche plays out, then one begins to see one of the main paradigmatic perspectives that differentiate Chinese from Taiwanese. The next step is to see the "Animal Farm" paradigm that runs throughout Chinese but not Taiwanese thinking.