UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The origin and evolution of Taiwanese nationalism, 1921-1947 Yang, Mike Kai-Kan


This thesis analyzes the development of the nationalist movement in Taiwan during the period 1921-1947. In particular, the thesis traces the confluence of the movement into pro-independence "Taiwanese" and pro-reunification "Chinese" nationalist groups. Some scholars have suggested that a strong "Taiwanese" nationalism emerged as an immediate response to the ceding of the island to Japan in 1895, and has remained as an unchanging force in Taiwanese politics to this day. The author shows that this is not the case: nationalism as a strong political force did not emerge until the early 1920s, and was initially overwhelmingly "Chinese" rather than "Taiwanese" in content. Modern "Taiwanese" nationalism as we now know it - staunchly pro-independence in nature - did not emerge until the late 1940s. Using concepts first formulated by political scientists Anthony Smith and Ernest Gellner, the thesis examines the changing content of nationalism in Taiwan. Following Smith and Gellner, the author distinguishes between the political and ethnic underpinnings of modern nationalism, and equates "Taiwanese" nationalism with a predominantly "statist" argument, while associating pan-Chinese nationalism with an "ethnicist" point of view. This allows the author to identify three distinct phases in the evolution of the nationalist movement in Taiwan. Each phase was characterized by a different domestic political situation, which in turn influenced the content of the nationalist movement. Japanese rule prompted one nationalist response, while the initial period of renewed mainland rule created a quite different one. Finally, the increasingly oppressive rule of the central government, culminating in the Erh Erh Pa incident and the White Terror, provoked yet another type of nationalism. The thesis examines each phase in turn and reveals that each was characterized by a different degree of cooperation/conflict between the "ethnicist" and "statist" elements. As the author shows, the professed goals of the nationalist movement tended to oscillate between the extremes of pro-reunification and pro-independence, depending on whether the "statist" or "ethnicist" camp was dominant within the movement.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.