Twofish's Blog

July 30, 2006

On kids and national identity….

Filed under: china, Relationships, taiwan — twofish @ 10:43 am

Right now my kids are in Taiwan right now, and the plan is that they family will spend summers there, and I hope to use Taiwan as a base of operations to make trips to Shanghai, and to see relatives in Zhejiang and Anhui.  Once direct flights start between Taiwan and the Mainland, everything is going to change.

One implication of this is that they are going to have multiple national identities.  They are going to think of being “American” or “Chinese” in much the same way people think of being “Texan” or “Shanghaiese”.  Since they are going to be travelling between the United States, Taiwan, and mainland China so much, no one is going to have an exclusive claim on their “national identity.”  (This includes both “ethnic” identity and “political” identity since my kids will have both United States passports and Republic of China passports.)

The problem I’ve always had with the notion of “Taiwan independence” and the problem it is going to have with globalization, is that the ideology of Taiwan independence makes these multiple identities impossible, and suggests that if you do have multiple identities then there is something wrong with you.  It’s not the “you are Taiwanese” part that has bothered me, it is the “you are not-Chinese” part.

One way of handling this is by attempting a separation between “culture” and “politics.”  You are political American but culturally Chinese.  The Singaporeans came up with that idea and it seems to work well in Singapore and Malaysia, but it doesn’t work well in my situation.  I do want my children to be full participants in the political life of the United States, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Again this runs against “Taiwanese independence” ideology, which states that only people living on Taiwan have a legitimate right to determine the political destiny of Taiwan.

This again flies in the face of global reality, and Chen Shui-Bian hit this problem earlier this year.  The problem is that a TI supporter tells an American with no particular connection to Taiwan that they do not have the right to influence Taiwan’s internal affairs, and then the American looks at him and says “wait a moment, if Taiwan’s domestic problems cause a major political crisis, isn’t it the Seventh Fleet that will have to bail Taiwan out, and isn’t it American sons and daugthers that will risk being shot at.”  At that point the idea that only Taiwanese have the right to determine Taiwan’s political future becomes untenable.

I don’t think that the “nation-state” is becoming obsolete, but I do think the whole notion of “exclusive national identities” is going to disappear pretty quickly in a generation or two.  I don’t think that my kids are going to be the only “transnationals” out there, and it wouldn’t surprise me that if by 2050, people think that you are odd if you *aren’t* a dual national.

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