Cultural Overview

Incorporated into the Chinese empire during the Tang dynasty (618-907), the island has not always been an integral part of China, having been occupied by the Dutch (1624-61) and Japanese (1895-1945). With Japan's defeat in World War II, the Kuomintang (K.M.T.) government took control of Taiwan, retreating there in 1949 after losing the civil war to the Chinese Communists. Since then, Taiwan and Mainland China have been separate political entities. In 2000, Chen Shui-bien, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (D.P.P.), won the presidency, ending de facto K.M.T. rule.

The officials, soldiers, and supporters of the K.M.T. who came to Taiwan created a clear ethnic distinction between Mainlanders (post-1945 immigrants who are primarily Mandarin speakers) and Taiwanese (pre-1945 immigrants who speak Hokkien and Hakka). By 1991, Taiwan's population was made up of 75% Hokkien, 8% Hakka, 14% Mainlanders, and 2% aborigines. (Of Austronesian descent, aborigines were the original inhabitants of the island.) Under K.M.T. rule, Mainlanders were an advantaged ethnic group, enjoying greater access to political and social resources than Taiwanese. Many Taiwanese considered themselves oppressed, and ethnic differentiation is a source of tension on the island.

With massive infusions of aid from the United States, the K.M.T. government engineered the transformation of Taiwan from a "developing" island to a "newly industrialized country" (N.I.C). Initially strengthening agriculture to provide a base for industrialization, the K.M.T. adopted a policy of industrialization through export in the 1960s. By 1990, Taiwan was the world's 13th-largest trading economy, a producer and exporter of high-technology as well as consumer goods, and its populace had a per capita income of more than $8,000 and a level of education resembling that of people in developed rather than developing countries (S. Harrell & Huang, 1994). An economic "miracle" (Gold, 1986), Taiwan's industrial structure is based on and sustained by vertically integrated and geographically dispersed small-scale businesses.

Contemporary culture reflects this interlocking context of historical, political, and economic processes. Taiwan is both traditional and progressive; a continuity of the past and a discontinuity from that legacy; unique and related to the cultures with which it interacts (S. Harrell & Huang, 1994). Therefore contemporary Taiwanese culture is built on an ambivalent struggle between convention and modernity, native and foreign, and local and cosmopolitan. These contradictory tendencies are inevitably reflected in social attitudes and practices. While Western feminist thought has affected some middle-class women and men, traditional patriarchal norms continue to exert their constraints.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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