Trends and Choices-Taiwanese and Chinese Identities: An Examination of Language and Culture Textbooks in Taiwan

Article excerpt


The aim of this study is to examine how political ideology and cultural representation in grade-seven Chinese language/culture textbooks have influenced the formation of Taiwanese students' national identity with respect to four different political leaders: Chiang Kai-shek (1970s), Chiang Ching-kuo (1980s), Lee Teng-hui (1990s), and Chen Shui-bian (2000s). This research reveals the relationship between politics and education by examining Chinese textbooks in Taiwan. Using an in-depth qualitative research methodology this study codes and classifies the ideological and thematic perspectives of these textbooks, and seeks to explicate the differences in the Taiwanese political outlook and its effect on the school discourse formation in relation to national identity construction.

This paper is organized into six sections, section 1 offers the background of the study which will lay the foundation for comprehending how the historical and sociopolitical contexts of Taiwan have influenced school discourse formation which, in turn, affected Taiwanese identity construction. Section two discusses the theoretical framework by introducing Foucault's (1979) concept of discourse which emphasizes that discourse is formed and reflected through political power, and Fairclough's (1992) dialectic view of discourse as determined by social structure while also contributing to social change. Fairclough's dialectic view of discourse and social structure provides a means to investigate the relationship between school discourse and sociopolitical changes in recent Taiwanese society. Also presented are Apple's (2000) view of textbooks as official or selected knowledge, and Kramsch's (1998) concept of discourse community which play significant roles in influencing one's collective identity formation. In addition, this section also addresses Brown's (2004) notion of national identity which indicates that national identities are socially constructed based on common sociopolitical experiences rather than common ancestry/culture. Section three presents the data collection and the methodology of this project. Section four offers empirical results. Section five offers the interpretation of this study based on the empirical findings with respect to the four different political leaders from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Finally, the last section concludes this paper by addressing the issue that the Chinese textbooks underwent three conceptual changes in terms of the political, cultural, and global aspects in relation to national identity construction.

Background of the Study

Known historically as Ilha Formosa, the beautiful island, by the Portuguese who voyaged to Taiwan in the mid-1500s, Taiwan is located in East Asia between the Pacific Ocean and the Taiwan Strait, roughly 100 miles off the coast of China.

The first residents in Taiwan were the Aborigines of Southeast Asia, the Austronesian people, whose language belong to the Austronesian Malaya family. According to the oldest site of archaeological discovery in Chang-bin, a rural township located in Taidong County in southeast Taiwan, the original Aboriginal people might have inhabited Taiwan for nearly fifty thousand years (Chiang, 2005; Huang, 2005). From 1626 to 1642, the Dutch and Spanish had occupied Taiwan. During the Dutch and Spanish rule, although the Taiwanese Aborigines were distributed all over the island and constituted the majority of the population, they had still not formed a confederated political organization connecting the tribes (Chiang, 2005). In the early 1660s, Chinese people began to immigrant to this island. In 1683, the Chinese government (Qing dynasty) took over Taiwan. In the nineteenth century, more Chinese people had immigrated to Taiwan from the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong in southern China. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the ethnic groups of Taiwan were mainly divided into two groups. One group was made up of Taiwanese Aborigines. …