The China threat is the first and most obvious answer when it comes to the question of threat perception in Taiwan, but the issue encompasses much more. The ruling elite for years considered the subject population a threat, for example, and even the nature and severity of the China threat varies greatly depending on an individual’s identification. How do those who identify as Taiwanese see the consequences of an attack from China? There is a very different threat perception among the Taiwanese population, who view annexation by China in much the same way as their Mainlander counterparts would see annexation by Japan, for example. Persons self-identifying as Taiwanese do not view themselves as being culturally the same as the people across the Taiwan Strait, having grown apart from them (in a cultural sense) over the past 120 years that they have been separated. Moreover, after Taiwan’s long history of being colonized by one alien power after another – from the Dutch and Spanish, to Koxinga, and then the Manchu dynasty; by the Japanese; and finally by the KMT (for being colonized is how many Taiwanese perceive the ROC period) – finally the inhabitants of the island have the opportunity to chart their own future, and enjoy a newfound sovereignty and identity separate from that of any colonizing power: thus the prospect of being colonized by China is anathema, and therefore a much greater existential threat for them than for Mainlanders.
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