Identity Politics and Foreign Policy: Taiwan’s Relations with China and Japan, 1895-2012

Nation is a product of self-other separation and exclusion. Divergent, or even competing, narratives about the national Self and Other advanced by various nationalist entrepreneurs can shape conflicting policy preferences regarding the foreign country in question. The two primary Others for defining Taiwan's identity, China and Japan, have been frequently set against one another in its political discourses as elites wage a pitched battle over whom the Taiwanese are and where their future lies. This was evident during Japanese colonization in 1895-1945, the rule by the KMT regime after the war, and post-democratization period. For the new KMT government led by Ma Ying-jeou since 2008, anti-Japanese resistance is a cornerstone of its nationalist foundation, but a Taiwan-centered identity in opposition to China and popular affection for Japan prevent Ma from promoting an explicit pro-China, anti-Japan nationalism. As long as China and Japan get along well and Beijing maintains a moderate approach to cross-strait relations, Taiwan prefers to befriend both powers and enjoy the economic and security benefits. Should the Sino-Japanese rivalry intensify and Beijing turn more assertive to Taiwan, however, Taiwan's neutrality would face stern challenges both from China and Japan externally and from internal forces contesting national identity.

Suggested Citation

Yinan He. "Identity Politics and Foreign Policy: Taiwan’s Relations with China and Japan, 1895-2012" Political Science Quarterly Vol. 129, No. 3 (Fall 2014).