Redefining the Meaning of “Chinese”

Didi Kirsten Tatlow quotes Taiwan specialist Mark Harrison’s suggestions that China could learn from Taiwan in building a more inclusive Chinese identity. From the New York Times:

Because what China cannot seem to do — and probably not for a long time yet — is this: build a broadly attractive definition of what it means to be “Chinese” for all its various ethnic groups, including the increasingly restive Tibetans and Uighurs, and thereby genuinely bring together the different voices within its borders, Dr. Harrison said.

Tied to that: It cannot, for now, show the world that a Chinese society can be open, tolerant and democratic. But Taiwan can.

[…] “For the Chinese, being Chinese is an objective fact. You can’t become Chinese. You are born it. But for the Taiwanese there’s the possibility of choosing to be Taiwanese,” a process that allows meaningful cultural differences while being a part of the nation, he said.

[…] “What Taiwan says is that there is nothing immutable about being Chinese, and there are a lot of other ways of thinking about being Chinese that are beyond the nationalism of the People’s Republic of China,” Dr. Harrison said. That model could eventually convince ethnic minorities that they are truly equal members of the Chinese state.

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