Since the early 1990s, people identifying as Taiwanese has grown more than 5 times in Taiwan. Though it still fluctuates somewhat, it seems that the Taiwanese identity is here to stay.
The Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (台灣民意基金會) has recently released its polling on Taiwanese identification. The poll shows and explosion of people self identifying as Taiwanese, as opposed to Chinese, a marked shift from just a few decades previous.
Taiwanese identity trends (polling and graph by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation)
The data shows that this change is not particularly new. In fact, the biggest shift came in the early 90s. From 1991 to 1993 there was a massive drop in people identifying as both Taiwanese and Chinese, falling from 73.1 percent to 33.8 percent in just 2 years. Interestingly though, identification as solely Chinese also rose during this period, jumping from 12.9 to 33.1 percent, perhaps in reaction to this seeming rejection by many of the Chinese identity. However, it wasn’t until the mid 2000s that identifying only as Taiwanese came to be the consensus.
In 2006, the choice of most Taiwanese people clearly became the Taiwanese identity. This was a decade after the first free and fair elections in Taiwanese history that led to the presidency of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and just under 2 decades out from the end of martial law in Taiwan. In this year, those claiming only the Taiwanese identity jumped to 60.2 percent. People identifying as Chinese or both Taiwanese and Chinese dropped to just over 17 percent each, 17.3 and 17.8 percent respectively.
This trend basically continued from there, slighting bouncing up and down, though since 2011 identification as exclusively Taiwanese has not dipped below 70 percent. This identification reached its zenith in 2020 with 83.2 percent of those in Taiwan identifying as Taiwanese only. In that year, 6.7 percent identified as both Chinese and Taiwanese, while only 5.3 percent identified as Chinese.
It is interesting that last year the number identifying as Taiwanese dropped slightly down to 76.8 percent. Individuals identifying as Taiwanese and Chinese increased just under 5 percentage points, from 6.7 to 11.3. Chinese identification also increased, though only 2.2 percent, from 5.3 to 7.5, which is within the margin of error for the polling information, +/-2.99 percent.
It will be fascinating to see where identification in Taiwan goes from here. The number of people identifying as solely Taiwanese is unlikely to drop significantly in the coming years. Though perhaps there will be a diversification of identity with people beginning to identify more as certain segments of Taiwanese such as Hakka or indigenous Taiwanese.