Taiwan is a country that has more or less lost its own identity in recent history. The country is not very much even a country anymore, but simply a Republic of China. By this, I mean that while it is a self-ruling, technically independent state, it’s complicated past and present relationship with China has changed the way the world views it today. It is categorized on many official websites as being a state under China’s sovereignty, though many in the nation are fighting to retain its independence. While it its government used to be what ruled over the entirety of China, formerly known as the Republic of China (ROC), China’s communist rule, known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), forced it out to the island of Taiwan. There it has remained it’s own country despite the fact that the PRC considers it as somewhat of a territory and refuses diplomacy with any country that recognizes the ROC that governs it. Thus, it has lost several aspects its identity amidst its complex relationship with China.
For example, it is no longer recognized as a member of the UN as of 1971, out of respect of China.
However, Taiwan does still has a representative in the United States fighting to regain its recognition on the international playing field. Joanne Ou (pictured above) is the director of Taiwan’s United Nations Task Force. The task force’s mission is to fight to get Taiwan a seat once again at the United Nations, amongst other international organizations.
Taiwan is also no longer a member of the International Monetary Fund as an independent state-actor, though it does still report on its economic growth or decline. Last year, the IMF reported that Taiwan’s economic growth had decreased by 0.5 percent, from 1.5 to about 1 this year and 1.7 the next year, respectively, according to a Taiwanese source.
And thirdly, the World Trade Organization also only somewhat recognizes Taiwan, though it previously only mentioned it under the wing of China. In 2001 it successfully concluded negotiation of including Taiwan in the WTO as a Separate Customs Territory.
Another example of how China has all but overtaken Taiwan internationally, is that though 70% of native Taiwanese people speak its native language, Hokkien, the official language of the nation is Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin was spoken by persons and families of those who emigrated from China to Taiwan after it became a republic of China. In the late 1940’s-50’s, it was the official sanctioned medium of instruction in Taiwanese schools, and is today universally understood and spoken throughout Taiwan.
There were many aboriginal tribes that were the original inhabitants of Taiwan, and each tribe spoke its own language. The areas inhabited by each tribe and the languages they spoke are shown above on the map. According to Taiwan News, Taiwan is home to over 20 living languages today, including some of those aboriginal languages. Taiwan also offers foreign languages as subjects in schools across the republic, most recently including Vietnamese.
Language is very influential in Taiwan, as it hosts so many languages in such a small space. Many of its students and citizens are bilingual, learning languages from home, the standard Mandarin, and foreign languages in school.
Despite its unstable relationship with China on both a national scale and international scale, Taiwan and its people still do much work to retain its individuality. Though it hasn’t offered much success in the past, efforts have not halted to put Taiwan on a global scale in both its presence in international organizations and its classrooms, educating children to speak the words of their ancestors and the neighbors around them.