The rise of China in the past two decades and its impact on the rest of the world have caught the attention of scholars from various disciplines. One of the most important issues is the extent to which China, with its investment and development aid, can affect the politics and economy of other countries (Alden 2007; Brautigam 2011; Monson 2009; Roett and Paz 2008). Some scholars have argued that China’s investments and aid help the receiving countries (Powles 2010; Tarte 2010; Zhang 2010); others are concerned that the rise of China will generate more conflict in these countries (Izumi 2010; Porter and Wesley-Smith 2010). However, most of these studies examine the situation from the perspective of political economy, and few pay attention to the viewpoints of the people in these countries: how they perceive China and whether their perceptions have changed in the past two decades are issues that have rarely been subject to analysis. Taiwan, a country with strong historical connections to China and facing serious disputes with China over its political status, feels the China impact more strongly than other countries in the region. Given that more than a million Taiwanese people have moved to China, it is crucially important to understand how these people, especially their children’s generation who have been raised on the mainland, perceive China in order to predict how Taiwan might be affected by China in the future. Since the lifting of martial law and the removal of the restrictions on travel in 1987, more than a million Taiwanese people have moved to China for business reasons, to start new careers, to be with family, etc. Many studies have focused on the question of whether increased cross-Strait economic interaction will entail political integration, as suggested by the theory of neo-functionalism (Chao 2003; Wei 1997). Some of these studies have also considered whether China will be able to influence the politics and economy of Taiwan via Taiwanese entrepreneurs in China (Keng and Schubert 2010). The ways in which Taiwanese people with ‘experience of China’ perceive China can therefore help to measure the potential influence of a rising China on Taiwan and other countries nearby. While most studies on Taiwanese people who have resided in China, temporarily or permanently, focus on Taiwanese adults (Deng 2002; Deng and Wei 2010; Tseng 2011; Lin 2009, 2013), this chapter concentrates on the experiences of young Taiwanese people growing up in China. Previous studies have shown
that most Taiwanese adults with experience of China, excluding a few tycoons, do not support political integration across the Strait (Lin 2011, 2013; Lee 2014), but little research has been carried out on how Taiwanese youth perceive China (Deng and Wei 2010; Lan and Wu 2011; Lin 2012). All the individuals discussed in this chapter were born in Taiwan but moved to China during their childhood. After moving to China, all of them studied at one of the Taishang Schools (see below) for at least three years. How they identify themselves (especially with respect to the common ‘Taiwanese or Chinese’ dichotomy) is one of the questions that I will address in this chapter. By exploring their identity, we may also be able to better predict their perception of the cross-Strait relationship in the future. After associating with these young Taiwanese people for several years, I realized that they had gone through a special process of identity transformation: from being Taiwanese and wishing to return to Taiwan, to being Taiwanese and regarding China as the place to build their homes. This transformation shows how China has partially affected the lives and thinking of this specific category of Taiwanese people.