VOTERS’ ETHNICITY AND NATIONAL IDENTITY 71 retreated to Taiwan and appointed a great number of Mainlanders to fill major governmental and military offices of Taiwan. There was a feeling among local Taiwanese that they were discriminated against by the KMT regime. In addition, the brutal use of force by the KMT government invoked antiChinese sentiments among local residents compared to the relative benign colonial rule of Japanese government. These historical experiences eventually pushed Taiwan toward democratization. The tragic incident of February 28th, 1947 has been frequently evoked by Taiwanese activists as a symbol of Taiwanese resistance against Mainland rule. 12 Thereafter, ethnicity explicitly became a strong rallying point for Native Minnanese calling for independence from China. People began saying “we Taiwanese,” “you Mainlanders,” and vice versa in everyday lives. There was a clear boundary between these two ethnic groups. In other words, ethnic divisions had risen to the political level. Native Minannese and Mainlanders encountered conflicts of political powers.
THE ROLE OF ETHNICITY IN TAIWAN’S POLITICS Politics in Taiwan has tended to structure itself along ethnic cleavages, several structural changes and social developments basically followed the division of ethnicity in Taiwan politics. Native Minnanese tend to identify with PanGreen parties, identify themselves as “Taiwanese,” support independence from China, and vote for Pan-Blue candidates in elections (Wang 1998, 3-12). Over the past decades ethnicity has influenced voting behavior and issue opinion – for example, opinion on the national identity and the unificationindependence issues (Sheng and Chen 2003, 30). Sheng and Chen categorize the political development of Taiwan into four stages of political cleavage and party competition. The first stage was before 1969, and the main division between parties was ethnicity. After moving into Taiwan, the KMT government initiated land reforms to develop the economy. By doing so they tried to eradicate the country gentry, their main opposition. At this stage, ethnicity had not yet fostered political divisions. Nevertheless, different historical backgrounds implicitly shaped two groups: Native Minnanese and Mainlanders. Most Mainlanders moved into Taiwan with the KMT government, occupying higher and central public offices, while most Native Minnanese worked in the private sector, most of them being farmers.
12 It began with officers’ improper handling with the inspection of private tobacco products in Taipei City. Gradually, it became conflicts between officers and citizens. Moreover, it became severe conflicts between Mainlanders and Native Minnanese.