Taiwanese Americans are people in the US whose families come from Taiwan. As many as a fourth of all Chinese Americans are Taiwanese. Most of the Chinese who came to the US in the 1960s and 1970s came from Taiwan.
- Population: 230,000 to 919,000 in 2010.
- Languages: English, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka.
- Location: Half live in California, many others live in New York and Texas.
- Nobel Prizes:
- 1976: Samuel Ting, Physics;
- 1986: Yuan Tseh Lee, Chemistry;
- 1997: Steven Chu, Physics.
- Helped to found: Yahoo!, YouTube, Garmin, Nautica, Panda Express.
- Some famous Taiwanese Americans:
- Lucy Liu, actress;
- Jeremy Lin, NBA;
- Lisa Ling, journalist (pictured above);
- Connie Chung, journalist;
- Jerry Yang, billionaire, co-founder of Yahoo!;
- Steve Chen, designer of Cray supercomputers;
- Wen Ho Lee, nuclear physicist, falsely accused of spying for communist China;
- Ang Lee, film director, “Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994), “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), “Life of Pi” (2012). First Asian American to win an Oscar.
- Alexander Wang, fashion designer;
- Iris Chang, writer, “The Rape of Nanking” (1997).
History: In 1949, when mainland China fell to the communists, Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT fled to Taiwan as a government in exile. So did more than a million others, many of them middle and upper-class Chinese who lost everything to the communists.
The KMT was an ally of the US during the Second World War. The US protected Taiwan militarily from communist China and pumped money into it. An economic miracle followed: Taiwan went from farming to making Barbie dolls to building computers, all in less than 50 years.
That miracle was paid for in part by the billions that the US poured into the science and engineering departments of its own universities. Taiwan benefited because it sent its best and brightest, especially those good at mathematics and science, to the US for graduate studies. They made Taiwan into a technological powerhouse.
Brain drain: But the US benefited even more: three in four Taiwanese students stayed in the US, becoming an American ethnic group with one of the highest levels of education. Many became professors and engineers. They helped to make the US into a technological powerhouse.
America in the late 1960s: It was amazingly free (Taiwan was a dictatorship, the US was going countercultural), had terrible food (even the “Chinese” food was fake!), most people looked alike at first with pale skin and big noses, and their English was full of slang and idiomatic expressions.
America in the 1970s: Nixon visits China. Saigon falls. Fears that the US at some point will become unwilling or unable to protect Taiwan from communist China. The US is seen as a safe haven.
The bamboo ceiling: You have to be twice as good. Less educated Whites get promoted over you. Whites stereotype you as a worker bee uninterested in management. At best they see you as an honorary white, not a fully equal fellow American.
Taiwanese Americans mostly live in suburbia, not Chinatowns. The Chinese of Chinatown mostly come from Guangdong province: the food and language is different. Taiwanese Americans have their own shops and restaurants at suburban shopping centres.
Source: Mainly “The Chinese in America” (2003) by Iris Chang.
- Wen Ho Lee
- Asian Americans
- Notes on the American Empire
- American ethnic groups: a brief history: 1492 to 2100
- The Third Enlargement of American Whiteness