Monash University

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The construction of national identity in Taiwan's media: a historical analysis

posted on 2017-02-14, 00:24 authored by Hsu, Chien-Jung
The national identity of the Taiwanese, who have experienced the colonial rule by both the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalists, is a complicated topic. Both alien ruling powers indoctrinated Taiwanese with either a Japanese identity or a Chinese identity. The Japanese employed Dōka (assimilation) to integrate the Taiwanese into the Japanese Empire, and the Chinese claimed the Taiwanese as the descendants of both the "Yan Emperors and Yellow Emperor" of the Chinese nation. Since democratization and Taiwanization under Lee Teng-hui’s presidency, the Taiwanese can express dissent as well as their Taiwan identity; since democratization, Taiwan identity grows steadily in contemporary Taiwan. Since the late 1890s, the media, serving as an ideological apparatus, has been one of the major battle fields for constructing or debating national identities in Taiwan. Both the Japanese and the Chinese colonial rulers utilized the media in efforts to shape Japanese and Chinese identities for the Taiwanese. Taiwanese elites used the media during Japanese rule to push alternative identities in opposition to Japanese identity. Some opposition to Chinese Nationalist's martial law also utilized the media during that period to reveal a Taiwanese consciousness. After democratization, Taiwan identity media, including underground radio stations and the Internet, rose to occupy a remarkable market share competing with China identity media. Meanwhile, media ownership became the main factor that determined the media's national identity—whether it be China identity or Taiwan identity. However, the rise of China’s economy, the close Cross-Strait economic relationship and the media owners' close relationships with China have grown to influence the national identity favored by some media outlets. For over a century of Taiwan's history, the media have exerted influence on the shape of the people's national identity through the representation of some societal elements such as language, kinship, religion, culture, myth, and democracy. Both the Japanese and the Chinese pushed a "national language" policy in the media to make the Taiwanese people a part of the Japanese Empire or the Chinese nation. The Japanese official media pushed Dōka onto the Taiwanese people while many Taiwanese elites expressed alternative national identity against Dōka in some newspapers. The Chinese Nationalist party-owned, state-owned, and military-owned media as well as its patron-client media propagated Chinese nationalism by using kinship, religion, culture and myth to represent a fundamental association of the Taiwanese people with the Chinese nation. By contrast, some opposition in their concern for Taiwan tried to connect "democracy" to a Taiwanese consciousness. After democratization, the media demonstrated diverse formulations of national identity. The China identity media repeated the same arguments used during the martial law period to construct a China identity. The Taiwan identity framed a Taiwan identity through such things as kinship (Austronesian descent) and language. The Taiwan identity media further employed the notion of "democracy" to make Taiwan identity distinct from China identity. The thesis concludes that the media have served as an agent for the construction of three broad conceptions of national identity—Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese identity—over the last century of Taiwan's history.


Principal supervisor

Bruce Jacobs

Additional supervisor 1

Dennis Woodward, Joel Atkinson.

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Department, School or Centre

Languages, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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