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International shift toward China heightens search for identity in Taiwan

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About 45 percent of people surveyed by a polling agency at National Chengchi University in Taipei favored the pace of new relations with China, down from 48 percent in an earlier poll, according to results released this year. Those saying relations are forming too fast rose from 26 to 32 percent between the two surveys.

Informal victories for Taiwan, such as the computer game championship, tickle the island’s public as they give the country credibility. Sports heroes such as Taiwan-born, No. 1-ranked LPGA golfer Yani Tseng and NBA basketball star Jeremy Lin, whose parents are Taiwanese, serve the same cause.

Otherwise, Taiwanese worry that outsiders will consider Taiwan and China as one and the same.

The Taiwanese government has picked up its public relations campaigns. Forty activities this month in Hong Kong, for example, will showcase Taiwan’s independent films and booksellers, cultural assets of interest in the Chinese territory, but hard to find in the mainland.

“We are resolved to use our culture to pursue dialogue with Hong Kong,” says Lee Ying-ping, director of the Kwang Hua Information and Culture Center under Taiwan’s government offices in Hong Kong. 

Taiwan reaches out to other parts of the world also, including the United States, that it feels are important for international recognition. However, Hong Kong matters in particular because it has legally fallen under China's rule since 1997 and Beijing is struggling to instill a sense of pro-mainland nationalism. If Taiwan's outreach is more effective, it would certainly frustrate China.

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