Taiwan is a democracy under threat. After a bloody and calamitous civil war, both sides of the Taiwan Strait were separated and Chinese leaders have since vowed to realize China’s unification with military force, if necessary. China’s forceful response to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and the constant intrusions of Chinese warplanes into Taiwan’s airspace have sensitized Taiwan citizens’ sense of threat. Has this heightened threat perception increased the island residents’ propensity of moving away from the Chinese identity and toward the Taiwanese identity?

Employing the threat theory and theories of identity, Dr. T.Y. Wang, University professor and chair of the department of politics and government, and his coauthor analyzed 2018–2020 panel data collected in Taiwan. The results were presented at the International Conference of Taiwan Institute for Governance and Communication Research on October 28, 2021. Wang presented the paper virtually.

After controlling the effects of socio-demographic variables and partisanship, the findings show that Taiwan citizens’ identity has shifted significantly toward Taiwanese identity in 2019 and 2020, particularly more so in 2020. The overall effects further lead to an even more widening gulf between Taiwanese and Chinese identity. These findings have further validated the theoretical argument that threats or perceptions contribute to identity formation and consolation. They also show the employments of threat is not always effective in reaching the intended objective, as the case of Taiwan has demonstrated. If Beijing leaders are truly committed to a peaceful resolution of the Cross-Strait dispute, they need to be creative in their approaches and policies in order to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese citizens.