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Taiwanese people[I] may be generally considered the people of Taiwan who share a common culture, ancestry and speak Taiwanese Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka or indigenous Taiwanese languages as a mother tongue. Taiwanese people may also refer to the indigenous peoples of the areas under the control of the Government of the Republic of China since 1945, including Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Islands (see Taiwan Area).
At least three competing (occasionally overlapping) paradigms are used to identify someone as a Taiwanese person: nationalist criteria, self-identification (including the concept of "New Taiwanese") criteria and socio-cultural criteria. These standards are fluid and result from evolving social and political issues. The complexity resulting from competing and evolving standards is compounded by a larger dispute regarding Taiwan's identity, the political status of Taiwan and its potential de jure Taiwan independence or Cross-Strait Unification.
According to government figures, over 95% of Taiwan's population of 23.4 million consists of Han Chinese, while 2.3% are Austronesian Taiwanese indigenous peoples. The Han are often divided into three subgroups: the Hoklo, the Hakka, and waishengren (or "mainlanders"). Although the concept of the "four great ethnic groups" was alleged to be the deliberate attempt by the Hoklo-dominated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to defuse ethnic tensions, this concept has become a dominant frame of reference for dealing with Taiwanese ethnic and national issues.
Despite the wide use of the "four great ethnic groups" in public discourse as essentialized identities, the relationships between the peoples of Taiwan have been in a constant state of convergence and negotiation for centuries. The continuing process of cross-ethnic mixing with ethnicities from within and outside Taiwan, combined with the disappearance of ethnic barriers due to a shared socio-political experience, has led to the emergence of "Taiwanese" as a larger ethnic group, except on the island of Kinmen whose populace consider themselves as Kinmenese or Chinese and as well as inhabitant of Matsu Islands whereby they also consider themselves as Matsunese or Chinese.
Definitions of Taiwanese
The word "Taiwanese people" has multiple meanings and can refer to one of the following:
- All citizens of the Republic of China with household registration in the Taiwan (+ Streamlined Fujian) Free Area. This definition includes people living outside of Taiwan Province (Republic of China), including the peoples of the archipelagos of Kinmen, Matsu and Wuqiu (Kinmen) as well as other territories controlled by the Republic of China. Many of the people living in Kinmen, Matsu and Wuqiu are opposed to this definition, given that they view themselves as "Chinese from Fujian Province".
- All people living in Taiwan (or originating from Taiwan) who identify with the "Taiwanese" nationality in some form or another, rather than with the "Chinese" nationality. These people have views which are generally aligned with those of the Pan-Green (Political) Coalition. This definition excludes people who support Chinese Unification and whose views are aligned with those of the Pan-Blue (Political) Coalition (which includes most of the inhabitants of Kinmen, Matsu, and Wuqiu).
- All people living in Taiwan (of Han Chinese descent) whose ancestors endured life under Japanese colonial rule (in Taiwan). These people are commonly referred to as "Taiwanese Benshengren" within Taiwan (Republic of China), as opposed to "Taiwanese Waishengren" (which are Chinese Mainlanders who migrated to Taiwan after 1945, as well as their descendants). This definition can also include the various Taiwanese Aboriginal peoples, who are ethnically Austronesian.
- All people who have historically lived in Taiwan, including people of ethnic Japanese, Dutch or Spanish descent (or various other ethnic ancestries) who historically colonized Taiwan or settled in Taiwan back when Taiwan was fully or partially controlled by the Empire of Japan, the Empire of the Netherlands or the Empire of Spain, respectively.
- Only Taiwanese Aboriginal peoples, who have lived in Taiwan for up to 6000 years. This definition excludes all people groups who have settled in Taiwan in "recent" history (the past 1000 years), including the Han Chinese, the Manchus, the Japanese, the Dutch and the Spanish. This view is generally held by Chinese Mainlanders and by people living in Taiwan (Republic of China) whose views are aligned with the Pan-Blue Coalition, who do not agree with the view that the "Taiwanese Benshengren" should be allowed to self-identify as Taiwanese, given that they are "invaders" in Taiwan, rather than "natives".
The history of Taiwanese identity
The earliest notion of a Taiwanese group identity emerged in the form of a national identity following the Qing Dynasty's ceding of Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 (Morris 2002:3–6). Prior to Japanese rule, residents of Taiwan developed relationships based on class solidarity and social connections rather than ethnic identity. Although Han often cheated Aborigines, they also married and supported one another against other residents of the same ethnic background. Taiwan was the site of frequent feuding based on ethnicity, lineage and place of origin (Lamley 1981; Harrell 1990 harvcolnb error: no target: CITEREFHarrell1990 (help)[citation not found]; Shepherd 1993:310–323).
In the face of the Japanese colonial hierarchy, the people of Taiwan were faced with the unequal binary relationship between colonizer/colonized. This duality between "one" and "other" was evident in the seven years of violence between the Japanese and groups of united anti-Japanese Han and Aborigines (Katz 2005). Only later did the Japanese attempt to incorporate Taiwanese into the Japanese identity as "loyal subjects", but the difference between the experience of the colonized and the colonizer polarized the two groups (Fujii 2006:70–73). The concept of "race" was utilized as a tool to confirm and facilitate Japanese political policies. A system of household registers (koseki) based on the notion of race to separate and define groups of subjects. From within the group of "non-Japanese" the government divided Han citizens into "Han" and "Hakka" based on their perception of linguistic and cultural differences. The Japanese also maintained the Qing era classification of aborigines as either "raw" or "cooked" (Brown 2004:8), which to the Japanese embodied the social ramification of ethnic origin and perceived loyalty to the empire (Wolf & Huang 1980:19).
Martial law era
In 1945, the Taiwanese faced a new unequal binary relationship when Taiwan entered the political sphere of the Republic of China (ROC). Shortly following the Kuomintang (KMT) arrival, however, social conflict erupted in the midst of rampant government corruption, soaring inflation and an increasing flow of immigrants from China (see February 28 Incident). The latter were preferred for jobs in the civil service as opposed to Taiwanese who were regarded as "untrustworthy"(Phillips 2003:8–9). Recurrent violent suppression of dissent also played an important role in enforcing a separate sense of "Taiwanese-ness" (Gates 1981:253–275).
The KMT lost the Chinese Civil War and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. However, Chiang Kai-shek intended to eventually return to mainland China and retake control of it. In order to do this, the KMT attempted to "sinicize" the Taiwanese people. KMT's Taiwan Garrison Commander Chen Yi stated that after 50 years of Japanese rule, "Taiwanese customs, thought, and language would have to gradually return to that of the Chinese people". The KMT believed that a centrally controlled curriculum would forge a unified national sentiment in Taiwan. They also believed education would help build a martial spirit and stimulate enough military, economic, political, and cultural strength not only to survive, but also to recover the mainland.
Under the KMT structure, "Taiwanese" became a strong "regional" identity. The term has often been used synonymously with benshengren, a term which covered both Hokkien and Hakka whose ancestors arrived in Taiwan before the Japanese restrictions on immigration in 1895. "Taiwanese" was used in contrast with waishengren (mainlanders), who included the people who followed the KMT to Taiwan between 1945 and 1949 and their descendants. The government tended to stress provincial identities, with identification cards and passports issued until the late 1990s displaying one's ancestral province and county. During this period the terms "cooked" and "raw" Aborigines disappeared. The former "raw" Aborigines were termed Shandi Tongbao, Gaoshanzu (Mountain Race) or Gaoshan Tongbao (Mountain Compatriots).
With Taiwan's political liberalization in the 1970s and 1980s, encouraged by Taiwan's changing international status, the concept of a "Taiwanese people" became politicized by opponents of the KMT. The tangwai movement deployed concepts of "Taiwanese identity" against the authoritarian KMT government, often using extreme tactics to build a short-term ethno-centric opposition to the KMT (Edmunson 2002:34–42) harvcol error: no target: CITEREFEdmunson2002 (help)[citation not found]. The campaign saw resonance with the people of Taiwan and the term "Taiwanese" has been used by politicians of all parties to refer to the electorate in an effort to secure votes. The concept of a separate Taiwanese identity has become such an integral factor to the election culture in Taiwan, that identifying as a Taiwanese has become essential to being elected in Taiwan (Corcuff 2002:243–249). These political reforms have since been credited with the renewal of interest in Taiwanese history, culture, and identity.
The term "New Taiwanese" (新臺灣人) was coined by former President of the Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui in 1995 to bridge the ethnic cleavage that followed the February 28 Incident of 1947 and characterized the frigid relations between waishengren and benshengren during forty years of martial law. Although originally aimed at the successive generations of Taiwanese with mainlander ancestry, it has been further articulated by Lee and other political and social leaders to refer to any person who loves Taiwan and is committed to calling Taiwan home. Although critics have called the "New Taiwanese Concept" a political ploy to win votes from benshengren who regarded the KMT as an alien regime, it has remained an important factor in the dialectic between ethnic identities in Taiwan. Despite being adopted early on by former Provincial Governor James Soong (1997) and later by, then Taipei mayoral candidate Ma Ying-jeou (1999), the term has since been dropped from contemporary political rhetoric (Corcuff 2002:186–188).
In contemporary Taiwan the phenomenon of mixed marriages between couples comprising different ethnic groups has grown to include people from the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. The increasing number of marriages between Taiwanese and other countries creates a problem for the rigid definitions of ethnic identity used by both the ROC and the PRC when discussing Taiwan (Harrell 1995). In one-fourth of all marriages in Taiwan today, one partner will be from another country and one out of every twelve children is born to a family of mixed parentage. As Taiwan's birthrate is among the lowest in the world, this contingent is playing an increasingly important role in changing Taiwan's demographic makeup. By 2010, this social-cultural group of people is typically known as "Taiwan's new resident (臺灣新住民 lit. "New Residents in Taiwan" pinyin: Xīnzhùmín; Wade–Giles: Taiwan Hsin Chu-min; [ɕin ʈ͡ʂu min]).
The current state of Taiwanese identity
Taiwanese national identity is often posed as either an exclusive Taiwanese identity separate from Chinese national identity, or a Taiwanese identity within a pan-Chinese national identity. Since democratization, there has been an increase in those identifying exclusively as Taiwanese, with those identifying as Taiwanese and Chinese nationals have fallen and those exclusively identifying as Chinese nationals have almost vanished.
National Chengchi University has conducted annual polls on national identity since 1991. In 1991, 17.6% of respondents identified as Taiwanese (臺灣人) only, 25.5% as Chinese (中國人) only, 46.4% as both, and 10.5% declining to state. In 2000, the numbers were 36.9% Taiwanese, 12.5% Chinese, 44.1% both and 6.5% declining. In 2008, 48.4% identified as Taiwanese, 4.0% as Chinese, 43.1% as both, and 4.5% declining. By 2016, 58.2% identified as Taiwanese, 3.4% as Chinese, 34.3% as both, and 4.1% declining. In 2020, 64.3% identified as Taiwanese, 2.6% as Chinese, 29.9% as both, and 3.2% declining.
Likewise, in a 2002 poll by the Democratic Progressive Party, over 50% of the respondents considered themselves "Taiwanese" only, up from less than 20% in 1991 (Dreyer 2003). Polls conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 2001 found that 70% of Taiwanese would support a name change of the country to Taiwan if the island could no longer be referred to as the Republic of China.
The discrepancy in identity becomes larger when polls only give the two options of "Taiwanese" versus "Chinese". In June 2008, a TVBS poll found that 68% of the respondents identify themselves as "Taiwanese" while 18% would call themselves "Chinese". In 2015, a poll conducted by the Taiwan Braintrust showed that about 90 percent of the population would identify themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
In 2006, Wu Nai-teh of Academia Sinica said that "many Taiwanese are still confused about identity, and are easily affected by political, social, and economic circumstances." However, since then the sense of a collective Taiwanese identity has continued to increase despite fluctuations in support for pro-independence political parties. This has been cited as evidence that the concept of Taiwanese identity is not the product of local political manipulation, but an actual phenomenon of ethnic and sociopolitical identities (Corcuff 2002:137–149, 207; Hsiau 2005:157–170).
Major socio-cultural subgroups
According to governmental statistics, over 95% of Taiwan's 23.4 million people are Han Chinese, of which the majority includes descendants of early Hoklo immigrants who arrived from Fujian in large numbers starting in the 17th century. A significant minority of the Han group are the Hakka people, who comprise about 15% of the total population. The Hakkas emigrated chiefly from eastern Guangdong, speak Hakka Chinese, and originally took up residence in hilly areas. The so-called waishengren (lit. extra-provincial person, sometimes translated "mainlander") Han subgroup includes and descends from the 1.2 million people who migrated to Taiwan from China between the Surrender of Japan in 1945 to the Nationalist retreat to Taiwan following the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The non-Han Austronesian population of Taiwanese aborigines comprises about 2.3% of the population and have inhabited the island for millennia.
Migration to Taiwan from southern Asia began approximately 12,000 BC, but large-scale migration to Taiwan did not occur until the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century as a result of political and economic chaos in mainland China. The first large scale migration occurred as a result of the Manchu invasion and conquest of China, overthrowing the Ming dynasty and establishing the Qing dynasty, which was established in 1644 and remained until 1911.
In 1624, the Dutch East India Company established an outpost in modern-day Anping, Tainan in southern Taiwan after expelling the Spanish. The Dutch soon realized Taiwan's potential as a colony for trading deer hide, venison, rice, and sugar. However, Aborigines were not interested in developing the land and transporting settlers from Europe would be too costly. Due to the resulting labor shortage, the Dutch hired Han farmers from across the Taiwan Strait who fled the Manchu invasion of Ming dynasty China.
Koxinga brought along many more Chinese settlers during the Siege of Fort Zeelandia in which he expelled the Dutch. Migration of male laborers from Fujian, steadily increased into the 18th and 19th century. In time, this migration and the gradual removal of ethnic markers (coupled with the acculturation, intermarriage and assimilation of plains Aborigines with the Han) resulted in the widespread adoption of Han patterns of behavior making Taiwanese Han the ethnic majority.
It was not until the Japanese arrival in 1895 that Taiwanese first developed a collective Taiwanese identity in contrast to that of the colonizing Japanese. When the Chinese Civil War broke out between Kuomintang nationalists and the Chinese communists in 1945, there was another mass migration of people from mainland China to Taiwan fleeing the communists. These migrants are known as the mainland Chinese.
Taiwanese indigenous peoples are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. They speak languages that belongs to the Austronesian language family, and are culturally, genetically and linguistically closely related to the ethnic groups of Maritime Southeast Asia and Oceania. Their ancestors are believed to have been living on the islands for approximately 8,000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century (Blust 1999). Taiwan's Austronesian speakers were traditionally distributed over much of the island's rugged central mountain range and concentrated in villages along the alluvial plains. Today, the bulk of the contemporary Taiwanese indigenous population reside in the mountains and the major cities. The total population of recognized indigenous peoples on Taiwan is approximately 533,600, or approximately 2.28% of Taiwan's population. The cities of Yilan, Hualien, and Taitung are known for their communities. In the 1990s, Taiwanese indigenous peoples, which had traditionally viewed themselves as separate groups, united under the singular ethnonym '原住民' or 'Indigenous peoples' (Stainton 1999).
The Hoklo people of Taiwan and Penghu speak Taiwanese Hokkien and mostly originated from Fujian (specifically Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Xiamen and Kinmen). The Hoklos account for about 70% of the total population today. During Qing rule, some Hoklo men took aboriginal brides. Some of the plains aboriginals also adopted Chinese customs and language so as to be indistinguishable from the Han. Thus, many who categorize themselves as Hoklo have some degree of indigenous ancestry.
It is possible to find families where the older members still identify themselves as lowland aborigine, while the rest of the family may identify as Hoklo. Among the Hoklo, the common idiom, "has Tangshan father, no Tangshan mother" (Chinese: 有唐山公、無唐山媽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ū Tn̂g-soaⁿ kong, bô Tn̂g-soaⁿ má) refers how the Han people crossing the Taiwan Strait were mostly male, whereas their offspring would be through marriage with female Taiwanese aborigines.
Within the Taiwanese Han Hoklo community itself, differences in culture indicate the degree to which mixture with aboriginals took place, with most pure Hoklo Han in Northern Taiwan having almost no Aboriginal admixture, which is limited to Hoklo Han in Southern Taiwan. Plains aboriginals who were mixed and assimilated into the Hoklo Han population at different stages were differentiated by the historian Melissa J. Brown between "short-route" and "long-route". The ethnic identity of assimilated Plains Aboriginals in the immediate vicinity of Tainan was still known since a pure Hoklo Taiwanese girl was warned by her mother to stay away from them. The insulting name "fan" was used against Plains Aborigines by the Taiwanese, and the Hoklo Taiwanese speech was forced upon Aborigines like the Pazeh. Hoklo Taiwanese has replaced Pazeh and driven it to near extinction. Aboriginal status has been requested by Plains Aboriginals.
The term "Chinese Formosans" has been used to imply Hoklo descendants, though this term has also been used to denote the Taiwanese people (whether of pure or mixed origin) in contrast to the Japanese and mountain aborigines.
The deep-rooted hostility between Taiwanese aborigines and (Taiwanese) Hoklo, and the Aboriginal communities' effective KMT networks contribute to Aboriginal skepticism against the DPP and the Aboriginals tendency to vote for the KMT.
The Taiwanese Hakka communities, although arriving to Taiwan from mountains of eastern Guangdong and western Fujian, have also likely mixed through intermarriage with lowland Aborigines as well. Hakka family trees are known for identifying the male ancestors by their ethnic Hakka heritage while leaving out information on the identity of the female ancestors. Also, during the process of intermarriage and assimilation, many of the lowland Aborigines and their families adopted Hoklo and Hakka family names. Much of this happened in Taiwan prior to the Japanese colonization of Taiwan, so that by the time of the Japanese colonization, most of the population that the Japanese classified as "Chinese" Hoklo and "Chinese" Hakka were in truth already of mixed ancestry. Physical features of both Taiwanese aborigine and Chinese can be found amongst the Taiwanese mainstream today.
"Mainlanders" or waishengren refer to the post-war immigrants (and sometimes also their descendants) who followed the KMT to Taiwan between 1945 and 1950. The descendants of mainlanders settled first within the heart of large urban centers in Taiwan such as Taipei, Taichung, or Kaohsiung. High numbers of government officials and civil servants who followed the KMT to Taiwan and occupied the positions of the colonial government moved into the official dormitories and residences built by the Japanese for civil servants. The ghettoization of mainlander communities exacerbated the divisions imagined by non-mainlander groups, and stymied cultural integration and assimilation into mainstream Taiwanese culture (Gates 1981). Nationalization campaigns undertaken by the KMT established an official "culture", which reflected the KMT government's own preference for what it considered authentic Chinese culture. This excluded many of the local Taiwanese practices and local cultures, including the diverse cultures brought to Taiwan by the mainlanders from all parts of China (Wachman 1994). Unlike the Hoklo and Hakka of Taiwan, who felt excluded by the new government, the mainlanders and their families supported the nationalists and embraced the official "culture" as their own, with "national culture" being taught in school (Wilson 1970). The mainlanders used their embrace of Nationalist culture to identify themselves as the authentic Chinese people of Taiwan.
Burmese Chinese have settled mostly in Zhonghe District, located in Taipei County. The job boom in the factories there has attracted an estimated 40,000 Burmese Chinese immigrants (c. 2008) which are 10% of the city's population. This is "believed to be the largest Burmese Chinese community outside of Burma."
New residents or immigrants
Taiwan Hsin Chu-min (臺灣新住民 lit. "New Residents in Taiwan" pinyin: Xīnzhùmín; [ɕin ʈʂu min]) is a group that consists of mainly new residents, originally from other nations, who have either migrated to Taiwan or inter-married with a local Taiwanese. The majority of new residents originated from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines. As of 2018, there are more than 710,000 foreign labors employed in Taiwan in both blue and white collar industries. Taiwanese society has a surprisingly high degree of diversity. According to Ethnologue, published by US-based SIL international, over 20 living languages are found on the island as of 2016. These languages are spoken by the many Austronesian and Han ethnolinguistic groups that comprise the people of Taiwan.
Enmity between ethnic groups on Taiwan
The deep-rooted hostility between Aboriginals and (Taiwanese) Hoklo, and the Aboriginal communities effective KMT networks, contribute to Aboriginal skepticism against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Aboriginals tendency to vote for the KMT.
Overseas Taiwanese (Chinese: 海外臺灣人), also called "people of Taiwanese descent" (Chinese: 臺裔; pinyin: taiyi), are people who are living outside of Taiwan but are of Taiwanese ancestry or descent. Overseas Taiwanese may live in other territories such as the People's Republic of China and are not necessarily Taiwan nationals.
Taiwanese living in China (PRC)
Starting the 1980s, some Taiwanese businesspeople (Taishang) started to open factories and moved into the Mainland China for its lower labor-costs and tax-deduction policies enacted by Chinese government towards Taiwanese. Thus, manufacture-intensive cities like Kunshan and Dongguan had aggregated a significant amount of Taiwanese population, mostly Taishang and their families since then. In November 2014 the Taipei Times cited an estimate of 1 million Taiwanese living within China (PRC), i.e. "mainland China".
Historically, most Taiwanese people originated from China (under regimes before the PRC). Taiwanese people (of Chinese descent) have traveled between China and Taiwan throughout history. Taiwanese Aborigines also have a minor presence in China (PRC). After the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed, with Taiwan (previously a Chinese province/prefecture) being ceded by Qing China to the Japanese Empire, an expatriate/refugee community of Taiwanese in China was created.
The original Taiwanese Communist Party was closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The failed party would later evolve into the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, one of eight officially-recognised political parties within China (PRC) which is ultimately subservient to the CCP. Many members of this party have been Taiwanese people residing in China (PRC), i.e. "mainland China".
This article merges Taiwanese Japanese with Chinese Japanese. Taiwanese Japanese do not currently have their own Wikipedia article.
From 1895 until 1945, Taiwan was controlled by the Japanese Empire as a colony/dependency. It was known as "Japanese Formosa". Due to this period of close administrative connection between Taiwan and Japan, many Taiwanese people have been living in Japan for several generations, such as Momofuku Ando, the inventor of "instant ramen (noodles)", whose invention has been praised by Japanese people as one of the country's greatest national inventions.
The Taiwanese community in Japan tends to be treated separately from the Chinese (PRC) community, both officially and socially, and is quite close to the local Japanese population. However, controversies have arisen due to dual-citizenship of ethnic-Taiwanese politicians in Japan, e.g. Renhō, since Japan doesn't technically recognise the Republic of China on Taiwan as a legitimate country, and since Japan doesn't allow dual-citizenship, especially not in politics.
Japanese people tend to have positive views towards Taiwanese people due to shared history, shared culture, shared values, and the close ties between Taiwan and Japan. Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Taiwan was the most prominent humanitarian contributor, donating US$252 million in combined aid under then-ROC-president Ma Ying-jeou's administration. This is one major reason why Japanese people tend to have favourable views of Taiwan.
Historically, Zheng Cheng-gong (also known as Koxinga), who established the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan, was born to a Japanese mother and Chinese father. Chiang Wei-kuo, the second (adopted) son of Chiang Kai-shek (arguably the most well-known Taiwanese and ROC politician outside of Taiwan/China), was also born to a Japanese mother and Chinese father.
Taiwanese Americans (US)
According to Census data from 2010, Taiwanese Americans have the highest education level of any ethnic group in the United States, if they are not classified together with Chinese Americans.
The complete number of Taiwanese Australians is unknown since the Australian Census only records foreign ethnicities for the first two generations (i.e. the number of 3rd-gen Taiwanese Australians and beyond is unknown). However, it is known that there are around 45,000–55,000 Taiwanese Australians who are 1st-gen or 2nd-gen, and these people currently comprise around 90–95% of Australia's ethnically-Taiwanese population. In modern times, Australians of Taiwanese descent are mostly concentrated around the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, with significant populations in other major Australian cities.
The Hoklo and Hakka linguistic groups, which statistically make up the majority of Taiwan's population, can trace their historical and cultural roots to Hokkien- and Hakka-speaking peoples from what is now China, predominantly the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. The original migrations from China were as male labourers under contract to the Dutch, so there was considerable intermarriage with women from plains aboriginal groups. The human leukocyte antigen typing study and mitochondrial DNA analysis performed in recent years show that more than 88% of the Taiwanese population have some degree of aboriginal origin (Sim 2003). However, this study was criticised by other researchers and refuted by subsequent genetic studies.
A 2009 doctoral dissertation questions such findings and claims that "the great number of Han immigrants after the 18th century is the main reason to consider that the early genetic contribution from Plains Indigenes to Taiwanese Han has been largely diluted and no longer exists in any meaningful way." The lack of a totally complete and definite set of genetic record of plains Aborigines, or conclusive understanding of their proto-Austronesian roots, further complicates the use of genetic data (Blust 1988). It is important to mention that most immigrated Chinese are from southern China and that these people already had ancient Austronesian admixture. (see Baiyue people).
A 2016 study by Chen et. al found that the Taiwanese Han shared a common genetic background with Han Chinese populations worldwide but were quite distant from Taiwanese Austronesians. The Taiwanese Han Chinese clustered into three cline groups: 5% were of northern Han Chinese ancestry, 79.9% were of southern Han Chinese ancestry, and 14.5% belonged to a third (T) group. The southern Han Chinese were descended from an admixture of northern Han Chinese and the southeast indigenous population (Baiyue) of China. The T group individuals were genetically distinct from neighbouring Southeast Asians and Taiwanese Austronesian tribes but were similar to other southern Han Chinese. The T group individuals may have experienced evolutionary events independent from the other southern Han.
A 2020 study by Lo et. al revealed that most Taiwanese Han had considerable proportions of Austronesian-related ancestry. However, this Austronesian-related ancestry was also observable in other Han Chinese populations in mainland China and among Chinese Singaporeans. The researchers came to the conclusion that this ancient Austronesian-related ancestry arose from admixture events between Han Chinese and pre-Austronesian populations (Baiyue) that occurred in mainland China, and not between Han Chinese and Taiwanese indigenous people on Taiwan.
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