SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Construction Identity: The Students of Taiwanese Businessmen’s Schools in China

Yuan Yung-chen
Speaker: Dr Yuan Yung-chen

Date: 9 February 2017Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 9 February 2017Time: 3:00 PM

Venue: Birkbeck Room: G03, 28 Russell Square

Type of Event: Seminar


The aim of the paper is to explore the identity of Taiwanese migrant students (Taisheng) who study at Taiwanese businessmen’s schools (Taishang schools) in China. The majority of Taisheng are Taishangs’ children moved to China for the purposes of family unity and harmony, because their parents work and live in China. With more and more Taishangs’ children moving to China, education has become the most important consideration for Taiwanese families in China. Taishang schools have been established in order to provide Taiwanese education and curricula to Taisheng; they are then able to continue onto higher education in Taiwan, and prevent their identity being influenced by China’s political values under China’s education system.This study has applied constructivist approach to examine the process of identification of Taisheng, constructed through their homeland’s education in a different social environment abroad, by drawing on in-depth interviews, questionnaire survey data, and participant observations gathered in all three of the Taishang schools.

Construction Identity

The main questions of this study is how the Taisheng experience their national identity in China and what factors impact their experience of national identity. Since they are not just living in the school environment, but also the local Chinese context, to better understand Taishengs’ sense of national identity, both political and social factors affecting identity were analysed, including Taishang schools, Taishengs’ social interactions and consumption practices. The findings of this paper are that the majority of Taisheng identify themselves as Taiwanese, but Taiwanese identity is not due to the effort of the schools’ mechanisms to construct this identity. Social relations make the strongest impact on Taiwanese national identity, but this impact is strongly mediated through schools, which create a ‘Taiwanese’ environment, making it very easy for Taiwanese people to socialise with each other and spend very little time with Chinese contemporaries or neighbours. Consumption practices also play an important role in shaping Taiwanese national identity, and this interacts with social relations.

Speaker's Bio

Yuan Yung-chen is postdoctoral Researcher in China Institute at SOAS. She received her PhD in Sociology from University of Bristol. Her research interests in migration, nationalism, ethnicity, and national and ethnical identity. Her research is specifically on how the ordinary people reproduce and practice identity in their everyday lives.

Her doctoral thesis, “Constructing Identity: The Students of Taiwanese Businessmen’s Schools in China” examines the process of identification of Taiwanese migrant students, constructed through their homeland’s education in a different social environment abroad.

She is currently working on the project “Doing intimacy across generations in Chinese families in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan”. This project aims to address what are the practices of intimacy across generations in Chinese families in each location, and to examine the interactions between cultural and other social, economic and political forces in shaping intimate relationships in Chinese families through a comparison of three sites.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

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