Young Taiwan and the Spirit of Protest: National Identity and Political Action Among Taiwanese College Students

Trading colonizers through the centuries until the Chinese nationalists’ flight to the island in 1949, Taiwan’s conception of national identity has been constantly in flux. There has been a rise in youth movements in the last few years, and January 2016 saw a shift in political direction when a candidate from a traditionally pro-independence and pro-Taiwanese political party was elected president. Given the context of this historic presidential election and the rise in youth political participation, evaluation of how these students view their country may inform how questions of national identity and the future of Taiwan as a nation have changed, and will continue to change under President Tsai’s administration. This study examines the interplay between national identity, political action, and opinions about cross-Strait politics among Taiwanese college students through analysis of survey responses obtained on Taiwanese university campuses in spring 2016. This study found that the majority of respondents strongly consider themselves Taiwanese, and that the majority cite cultural differences as the major area of difference between China and Taiwan. Most respondents indicated that they feel that ties with mainland China should be closer. However, analysis of just the profiles of respondents who participated in the last election or in demonstrations reveals different results. Participatory respondents feel that domestic issues are the most important issues facing Taiwan, believe that cultural and political differences constitute the most important area of difference between the two countries, and feel strongly that ties between Taiwan and the mainland should not become closer. 


  • East Asian Studies

Additional authors: 

Dr. Liang Luo