Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?

By John F. Copper | Go to book overview
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Taiwan's society and culture are basically traditional and Chinese. More specifically, they are rural southern Chinese in origin, though both have changed and evolved in Taiwan--affected by interaction with the Aborigines, the population's contact with other people in the region, European and Japanese colonization, and considerable Western influence (particularly American in recent years). In addition, rapid economic growth and the material culture and urbanization it engendered, plus the rise of a large middle class, have produced profound social change and have given rise to many of the social conditions and problems present in Western countries. The breakdown of the traditional culture has produced beneficial social change, but has also caused social instability, giving rise to various kinds of social ills. But Taiwan's problems are no more acute, and probably less serious in most respects, than in most other rapidly modernizing countries. Still, they are viewed by most citizens with alarm. Socially, Taiwan has been growing away from China, though recently an increase in contacts seems to be reversing this trend.

Social Structure and Order

Before the twentieth century, the various groups inhabiting Taiwan, which had generally little contact with each other, had quite distinct social systems.1 The Aborigines' social systems were tribal, with the social order differing markedly between two broadly defined groups: the mountain Aborigines and the lowland Aborigines. The mountain Aborigines maintained social structures that were more communal and less settled; the lowlanders' social systems were more settled and in some ways resembled Chinese agrarian society. Customs, mores, and social systems, however, varied considerably among the different tribes. In terms of tribal


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