Cultural Identity Among Chinese – 2

Part 1 of “Cultural Identity among Chinese” introduced the idea that there is more than one Chinese cultural group.  In fact, there are a whole host of sub-cultures within the larger one. Part 1 introduced us to three larger umbrella groups within Chinese culture – Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

What is each group’s identity?

When it comes to identity, the three groups are quite different.  From my understanding, the citizens of the PRC are taught a one China policy and that all Chinese are the same no matter where that person is from.  It’s a principle that sticks with them when they leave the confines of the PRC.  This leads to a lot of confusion and frustration on intra-Chinese interactions outside of China. Even I’ve experienced this when travelling through China.  It doesn’t make sense that somebody who is ethnically Chinese not understand Mandarin Chinese.

There is also a growing sense of national pride.  Chinese history is marked with defeats at the hands of Western imperial powers.  Now the dragon is rising and taking its rightful place as “the middle kingdom.”  Some other Chinese in other parts of Greater China also share this sentiment.  A certain haughtiness can accompany this new found pride and wealth as a nation.

Taiwan has a mix of identities.  The north tends to feel closer to the mainland and tend to vote for the party that favours such policies.  The south of Taiwan tends to vote for the party that favours more independence and that wants to distance the island from its neighbour.  However, people in Taiwan tend to identify themselves as Taiwanese, a group that is separate and distinct from Chinese. However, the official political story on both sides of the Strait of Taiwan is that Taiwan is a part of China and that its people should naturally consider themselves Chinese.

In Hong Kong, they almost always identify themselves as Hong Kong Chinese.  They feel a great disconnect from life and policies in the mainland.  It doesn’t help when a Mainland academic refers to Hong Kong Chinese as ‘dogs.’ Hong Kong is also the bastion of Cantonese media.  Whereas, China uses Mandarin Chinese and wishes that Hong Kong would use it more often.  Some Hong Kong Chinese also feel a closer affinity to the British years than to the current years under Chinese rule.  They feel there was more freedom and less trouble during British rule. Although history will show that not all things were rosy during British rule.

It will be interesting to see in the coming years what happens with Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is truly under PRC rule; whereas, Taiwan is not.  Hong Kong’s future lies in what the powers in Beijing decide to do.  Will they allow open elections for the Executive Director of the territory?  Will they pursue a policy of assimilation?  Will there be policies that limit the status of Cantonese?  Will Hong Kong Chinese feel like they can make their own decisions or are they simply following edicts handed down from above?

Also, don’t forget.  No group represents the individual and no individual represents the group.  That’s when stereotyping happens.  These “identities” are just general trends that are observed in these groups.

Further Reading:


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