Alternative Names

Alternative names that refer to the group of people recognized as Taiwanese Americans or a portion thereof are "Taiwanese Chinese Americans" and "Chinese Americans." This points to difficulties regarding the boundaries of both self-identification and identification by others (Fung, 2002; Ng, 1998). From a political point of view, all immigrants who arrived in the United States from Taiwan, the Republic of China, as opposed to the People's Republic of China, could be called Taiwanese Americans. However, until 1988 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) recorded newcomers from Taiwan in the same category for origin, China, as immigrants from mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as ethnic Chinese from other places in Southeast Asia (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1998). Although the U.S. Bureau of the Census created a separate category for Taiwanese in the 2000 Census, this designation does not appear in the general population statistics. In addition, not all immigrants from Taiwan insist on a separate identification from Chinese Americans or practice dual identification as both Chinese and Taiwanese.1

The name "Taiwanese" has several meanings that differ in their emphasis on linguistic, cultural, and political commonalities (Huang, 1997; Tu, 1998). The different connotations have political implications, since it is not officially resolved whether Taiwan is a part of or independent from mainland China.

Throughout its history, the island of Taiwan has been settled by four distinct groups of people: the Aborigines (yuanzhumin), who came from various islands of the South Pacific; the Hoklo (fulao) who started in the 16th century to migrate in large numbers from the coastal areas of southern Fujian province in mainland China (Ahern & Gates, 1981), together with the Hakka (kejia) from northeastern Guangdong province and the hilly areas of southern Fujian province (Constable, 1996; Leong, 1999); and finally a small group of political refugees from various places in mainland China, who arrived together in 1949 after the collapse of the Nationalist regime and are called the "Mainlanders" (daluren). In Taiwan, the latter group is literally labeled "people from outside the province" (waishengren), in contrast to the "people from this land" (bendiren), namely the Taiwanese. After separation from Communist China, the Nationalist party established a new government on Taiwan and declared Mandarin Chinese to be the official language.

The definition of what it means to be Taiwanese differs even among those immigrants from Taiwan to the United States who were considered local Taiwanese in Taiwan. Some recognize only speakers of the southern Min dialect (Minnan/Hoklo) as Taiwanese people. Others refer to the descendants of both early Hoklo and Hakka settlers as those who are culturally Taiwanese. Yet others consider themselves to be culturally Chinese since their distant ancestors had originated from China. In addition, some descendants of Mainlanders in Taiwan have begun to refer to themselves as Taiwanese because they were born on Taiwan or are the children of a mixed marriage. Obviously, the identity of Taiwanese Americans is complex, has fluid boundaries, and is continuously evolving. Here the focus will be on all immigrants from Taiwan to the United States.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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