Taiwanese American

Taiwanese American

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Taiwanese Americans
Táiwān yì měiguórén

poptime = 500,000
0.16% of the US populationcite web |url=http://www.fapa.org/TAHW/2001/kleczka.html |title=TAHW STATEMENT BY REP. GERALD D. KLECZKA (D-WI)]
popplace = California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Washington, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois
langs = American English, Chinese: Mandarin, Taiwanese (Hokkien), Hakka
rels = Buddhism, Christianity, Chinese folk religion, Freethinking, Taoism

A Taiwanese American is an American of Taiwanese ancestry. This term also sometimes fluidly applies to those whose parents or relatives are associated with the post-1949 Republic of China, commonly known as "Taiwan" since the 1970s. Whether Taiwanese Americans are in fact also Chinese Americans is a subject of controversy. ["Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures Volume 2 * Cultures L-Z" page 858, ISBN 978-0-306-47770-6 (Print) ISBN 978-0-387-29907-5 (Online)] Supporters of Taiwan independence often object to classification of Taiwanese Americans as Chinese Americans and overseas Chinese while opponents of Taiwan independence often object if Taiwanese Americans are not included in these groups.Dubious|date=October 2008 The controversy over the inclusion or exclusion of Taiwanese Americans as Chinese has extended to the name of the government bureau of the Republic of China handling Taiwanese Americans affairs which was controversially changed in 2006 from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission to the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission.

Some demographic research tends to clump immigrants from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as well as overseas Chinese who have immigrated from South East Asia into the broadly-defined Chinese American category as both the governments of the Republic of China and the United States regard Taiwanese Americans as a subgroup of Chinese Americans. [cite web|url=http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/SF4-race.html|title=Race groups|publisher=United States Census Bureau|date=2002-08-09|accessdate=2007-03-21] [cite web|url=http://www.ocac.gov.tw/english/public/public.asp?selno=706&level=C&no=683|title=About OCAC|publisher=Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, R.O.C. (Taiwan)|accessdate=2007-03-21] [cite web|url=http://www.ocac.gov.tw/english/public/public.asp?selno=1163&no=1163&level=B|title=The Ranking of Overseas Chinese|publisher=Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, R.O.C. (Taiwan)|accessdate=2007-03-21]

Most statistics for the number of Taiwanese Americans, including one by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), puts an estimate at around 500,000.

Immigration history

Prior to the 1950s emigration from Taiwan was negligible. During Taiwan's early history, the island was sparsely populated by Austronesian aboriginals and in the 17th and 18th centuries it served as a destination point for migrating Chinese, primarily Minnan and Hakka. In 1895 Taiwan was ceded to Japan “in perpetuity and full sovereignty,” as agreed upon in the Treaty of Shimonoseki which ended the Sino Japanese war. Japanese colonial control severely curtailed any movement off the island in the interest of containing dissent against the Japanese Empire.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, opportunities for immigration from Taiwan to the United States were virtually nonexistent before the 1950s. Previously, in the 1840s when American companies began recruiting cheap, accessible labor from Asia to develop Hawaii and the frontier West, Taiwan was too small to be a target for recruiters.

In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party took control of mainland China, and the remnant armies of the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-Shek retreated to Taiwan. Because of the Cold War, the United States continued to recognize the Kuomintang-led Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of all of China from 1949 until 1979. As a result, immigration from Taiwan was counted under within the same quota for both mainland China and Taiwan. However, because the Communists banned emigration to the United States until 1977, this quota for immigrants from China was almost exclusively filled by immigrants from Taiwan. After the national origins system was relaxed and repealed by Immigration Acts in 1952 and 1965, many Taiwanese people came to the United States, forming the first wave of Taiwanese immigration. Their entry into the United States was facilitated by the immigration act of 1965, which created a system in which persons with professional skills and family ties in the United States were given preferential status, regardless of the nation of origin.

In 1979, the United States broke diplomatic relations with the Republic of China. However, the Taiwan Relations Act gave Taiwan a separate immigration quota from that of mainland China.

Before the late 1960s, Taiwanese immigrants to the United States tended to be "waishengren" (mainlanders) who were people that immigrated to Taiwan with the Kuomintang after the fall of mainland China to the Communists. Later immigrants tended to increasingly be "benshengren", whose ancestors had lived on Taiwan before 1949. With improving economic and political conditions in Taiwan, Taiwanese immigration to the United States began to subside in the early-1980s. The proportion of "waishengren" among Taiwanese Americans is significantly higher than the "waishengren" population in Taiwan.Fact|date=June 2008

Occupations and citizenship status

Many Taiwanese Americans are very highly educated. They often hold such occupations as doctors, engineers, professors and scientists. Taiwanese Americans also hold various positions in America within the aerospace, defense, research, academic, and healthcare sectors. Several distinguished academics, including noble prize winners are Taiwanese Americans. Among Taiwanese Americans, medicine is regarded as a particularly high status for historical reasons. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan before 1945, Benshengren were barred from politics and administration but were encouraged to become doctors and nurses, leading to this profession being regarded as a high status means of social advancement.

In the 1960s, many Taiwanese Americans chose to make America their permanent home and had children in the U.S. By the late 1970s, improving economic conditions in Taiwan slowed the rate of immigration. During the 1990s, political liberalization in Taiwan encouraged many who had left Taiwan for political reasons to return.

Legally, the children of Taiwanese parents in the United States are considered to be both American citizens and citizens of the Republic of China. Although the oath of naturalization for the United States contains a statement renouncing other citizenships, the Republic of China does not recognize this renunciation as sufficient to end ROC citizenship, and requires that a person who wishes to renounce ROC citizenship make another oath before an ROC consular officer. Fact|date=June 2008 Without the formal renounciation, the ROC government on Taiwan considers Taiwanese immigrants with American citizenship to continue to be citizens of the Republic of China. In addition, the ROC technically regards almost all ethnic Chinese as citizens of the Republic of China, the important status is not merely ROC citizenship but also residency registration on Taiwan, which allows an ROC citizen hold an Republic of China National Identification Card and have a special passport endorsement which allows the holder to enter the island. Accquiring US citizenship does not cancel the holders status as a resident of Taiwan, which makes Taiwanese Americans eligible to vote in the ROC elections, provided that they physically travel to their place of residency.


Politically, Taiwanese Americans play a fairly active role in the politics and culture of the Republic of China which is aided in large part by recognition of dual citizenship. The identity politics of Taiwan also influences at least first generation Taiwanese Americans. Many future Kuomintang officials including Lee Tenghui, James Soong and Ma Ying-Jeou received their education in the United States. On the other hand, the United States was a major destination where anti-Kuomintang figures such as Peng Ming-min and Shih Ming-teh were effectively exiled. Still others including Nobel Prize laureate Lee Yuantze were educated in the United States.

The close connections between Taiwan and the United States has led to some interesting political dynamics. From time to time, the issue of loyalty to Taiwan is raised. For example, the fact that the President of the Republic of China Ma Ying-Jeou has sisters and a daughter who are American citizens was raised during the 2008 election campaign. In addition, James Soong has been criticized for having extensive property holdings in the United States and for the fact that his children are American citizens. Similarly, this has been raised as an issue in the feud between Li Ao and Lee Yuantze, whose children are also American citizens. This issue is partly one of socio-economic status as people with extensive connections with the United States are considered richer and more privileged than the average Taiwanese.

However, this issue has not become a large part of Taiwanese political discourse largely because links with the United States are so extensive on both sides of the political spectrum, that no one can use this issue to their political advantage. Both the pan-Blue coalition and pan-Green coalition rely on Taiwanese Americans for votes. In the 2004 ROC Presidential Election an estimated 10,000 Taiwanese Americans traveled to Taiwan to vote in an election in which the margin of victory was 30,000, and both groups campaigned extensively in the United States and held campaign rallies on Taiwan to welcome their voters.

While dual citizens in Taiwan are banned from high political office, there has not been a significant movement within Taiwan to ban dual citizenship in general. The Supreme Court has ruled that all citizens, dual or singular, are entitled to the same right. US natural born citizens were emphasized in the decision.Fact|date=October 2008

Immigrants vs. native-born

First generation immigrants from Taiwan usually share a common language, Mandarin, although many also speak Taiwanese and to a lesser extent, the Hakka language, depending on heritage and whether the individuals are exposed to Mandarin through Mandarin "Chinese" schools. As with most immigrants to the United States, linguistic fluency in the heritage language quickly disappears in the second generation. Many second generation Taiwanese Americans are exposed to Taiwanese, but their level of proficiency varies. Many second generation immigrants speak Taiwanese as their heritage language and know little Mandarin, while others, especially whose families are from the Taipei Metropolitan Area, speak Mandarin as their heritage language and know little Taiwanese. Second generation Taiwanese of Hakka descent tend to speak better Mandarin as their heritage language. There are many first generation Taiwanese of full Hakka heritage who may speak all three languages. Taiwanese Americans of mixed Hoklo and Hakka Heritage may speak only Mandarin as their heritage language. Second Generation Taiwanese who are of mixed Hoklo Taiwanese and "waishengren" (mainlander) heritage or full mainlander heritage may only know Mandarin at most and not a word of Taiwanese.


Owing to their relative wealth and education attainment, many Taiwanese immigrants have not settled in the old Cantonese-speaking Chinatowns. Instead, they have generally immigrated directly to American suburbia and in effect, they started new Taiwanese communities. For example, beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the height of Taiwanese immigration, the Taiwanese emigrants were instrumental in the development of Monterey Park, California in Los Angeles - thus causing it to earn the moniker of "Little Taipei" and derisivery as "Mandarin Park" - and vicinity and in Flushing, New York, which generally reflected new investments and capital flowing from Taiwan into newer Taiwanese enclaves instead of the well-established and mostly dilapidated Chinatowns.

While Monterey Park is no longer the major Taiwanese community in Los Angeles today, Flushing remains the main vibrant Taiwanese cultural, commercial, and political center in New York City. In Los Angeles County, California, newer communities such as Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, , Arcadia, Diamond Bar, Walnut, San Gabriel, Temple City, give the ambience of "Little Taipei" . However, many annual Taiwanese cultural events (especially during Taiwanese Heritage Week) are still held in Monterey Park. As an attempt to duplicate the Taiwanese success of Monterey Park in Houston, Texas, Taiwanese immigrant entrepreneurs pioneered in the mid 1980s what is now widely considered as Houston's new Chinatown on Bellaire Boulevard (although many Vietnamese-born Chinese immigrants have increasingly settled and set up shop in the area as well). A number of Taiwanese American businesses and organizations still operate and flourish in this part of Houston.

The prestige and performance of particular school districts, as well as access to careers in high-tech firms, have in general played significant parts in influencing the settlement patterns of Taiwanese Americans.Areas with high concentrations of Taiwanese immigrants include the San Gabriel Valley (Greater Los Angeles), Santa Clara Valley (Cupertino, San Jose), El Cerrito, California (Oakland) and southern Orange County in California. Outside of California, there are also major Taiwanese concentrations in Flushing, New York, Rockville, Maryland (northwest of Washington, D.C.), Sugar Land, Texas (near Houston), Richardson, Texas (near Dallas), Bellevue, Washington (and adjacent areas) (part of the Greater Seattle Area's "Eastside" communities). Additionally, the northeastern suburbs of the Atlanta, Georgia area has also received a significant influx of Taiwanese immigrant residents. The Taiwanese population was formerly dominant in Monterey Park, California. The San Gabriel Valley has a larger population of "49er" Taiwanese (also known as Waishengren), essentially outnumbering native Taiwanese. Since the middle 1980s through the 1990s, however, large numbers of mostly 49er Taiwanese Americans seeking greener pastures began moving out to more upscale neighborhoods like San Marino, Arcadia, and Temple City in Western San Gabriel Valley; Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut, and Diamond Bar in Eastern San Gabriel Valley; with immigrants from the People's Republic of China and Cantonese and Teochew (mostly from Vietnam) taking their place in Monterey Park.

Similarly, for the past 10 years, Benshengren have been immigrating to upscale neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Orange County such as Cerritos and Irvine respectively. The city of Cerritos is located in Los Angeles County but borders Orange County and has a large diversity of Asian immigrants. The city of Irvine has a very large Benshengren population, though now more and more Waishengren and Mainland Chinese immigrants have flocked to the city. The Irvine Chinese School, which serves mostly the American-born children of Taiwanese immigrants, is one of the largest Chinese Schools in the Orange County area. These immigrants belong to branches from some of the most politically and economically powerful Taiwanese families (with the surnames Chiang, Chen, Cheng, Kung, Tsai, and Wu).

Convenient Taiwanese-oriented strip malls and shopping complexes are typically complete with supermarkets and restaurants, thus Taiwanese American suburbanites have very little need to visit the older Chinatowns. In addition, shops offering imported Taiwanese goods allow for young Taiwanese expatriates in the United States to keep up with the current trends and popular culture of Taiwan. Taiwanese Americans have also brought with them Taiwanese cuisine to the communities they have settled, which, possibly excluding bubble tea, is not generally well-known or served outside these aforementioned Taiwanese immigrant enclaves.


Organizations geared towards Taiwanese Americans include the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Taiwanese American Citizens League, and the Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association. In addition, most cities with concentrations of Taiwanese Americans have a Taiwan association or Taiwan Center.

American media

The Taiwanese also run several of North America's major Chinese-language newspapers, such as the "World Journal" and the "International Daily News". However, these influential and highly-circulated newspapers are not geared solely to the Taiwanese, but rather serve the Chinese-speaking immigrant readership. Pacific Journal is weekly Taiwanese-run newspaper that is geared more exclusively toward Taiwanese readers.

Due to the significant Taiwanese American community, Taiwan media dominates the Chinese-language airwaves in the United States. Cable and satellite television of Taiwan-based media keeps Taiwanese Americans abreast of news developments and programming in Taiwan. For example, satellite stations ETTV America and CTI cater to Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese immigrants.


There are several businesses targeted towards the Taiwanese American immigrant population, such as the 99 Ranch Market chain. Other well-known Taiwanese American businesses include Lollicup (serving boba tea).

Other businesses run or co-founded by Taiwanese Americans include Acer, Yahoo!, Viewsonic, Nautica, Nvidia, Garmin, Newegg.com, and YouTube.

Prominent Individuals

See also

*Asian American
*Demographics of the United States
*Diaspora politics in the United States
*Hyphenated American
*Nationality Law of the Republic of China: American Taiwanese, opposite of Taiwanese American
*Chinese American


External links

* [http://www.fapa.org/ Formosan Association for Public Affairs]
* [http://www.itasa.org/ ITASA - Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association]
* [http://www.tacl.org/index.php Taiwanese American Citizens League]
* [http://www.tafworld.org/ Taiwanese American Foundation]
* [http://www.taiwaneseamerican.org/ TaiwaneseAmerican.org]
* [http://www.taiwancenter.com Taiwan Center of America]
* [http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/stp-159/STP-159-taiwan.pdf U.S. Census 2000 - People Born in Taiwan]

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