Taiwan Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The ethnic groups of Taiwan have been most heavily influenced by movements from the People's Republic of China. In this lesson, we take a look at the ethnic makeup of Taiwan.

A Different China

When most of us think of China, we immediately think of the People's Republic of China, the world's largest country by population and home to one of the world's fastest growing large economies. However, there is a different China. The island of Taiwan is home to the Republic of China, where the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek set up their government after the victory of the Chinese Communists in 1949. However, if you just thought that Taiwan, as we'll call it in this lesson, was made up of just one ethnic group, you would be incorrect. We'll learn about the different groups of Chinese that make up Taiwan, as well as its original inhabitants.

Flag of Taiwan

Chinese Taiwanese

The vast majority of the people in Taiwan today are best identified as Chinese Taiwanese. In order to really get what is meant by that, let's dissect that term. They are simply Taiwanese people who are ethnically Chinese, no different than how Chinese Americans are Americans who are ethnically Chinese. In fact, many of the Taiwanese Chinese left mainland China at about the same time that thousands of Chinese were also leaving for the United States. In Taiwan, they make up about 84% of the total population. Like the population of the People's Republic of China, the majority of these people identify as Han Chinese. However, many other ethnic groups within China ended up in Taiwan as well.

Mainland Chinese

Speaking of the People's Republic of China, thousands of people fled as the Communists came to power in that country. The natural place for them to flee to was Taiwan. In fact, this is where the Nationalists set up their government that still claims control over all of China, despite the current communist regime. This group of people is known as the Mainland Chinese, and they make up around 15% of the total population of Taiwan.

Still, it was not an easy transition for the Mainland Chinese to arrive in Taiwan. For lack of a better term, they took over, imposing their ideas of Chinese culture on everyone. That was a disaster for the culture of the last group we'll discuss in this lesson.

Chiang Kai-shek was leader of the Chinese Nationalists

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