Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Taiwanese localization movement

Localization (本土化 Pinyin: Běntǔ hu) is a political term used within Taiwan to support the view of Taiwan as a centered place rather than as solely an appendage of China. This involves the teaching of Taiwanese history, geography, and culture from a local perspective, as well as promoting languages native to Taiwan, including Holo, Hakka and aboriginal languages.

Although originally part of the Taiwan independence movement, its aims are now largely also endorsed by supporters of Chinese reunification on Taiwan. In its rejection of a monolithic officially sponsored identity in favor of one rooted in local culture, it bears some resemblance to the Xungen movement in Mainland China.


The localization movement has been expressed in forms such as the use of Holo in the broadcast media and entire channels devoted to aboriginal and Hakka affairs.

Textbooks have been rewritten by scholars to more prominently emphasize Taiwan. The political compromise that has been reached is to teach both the history of Taiwan and the history of mainland China and to avoid as much as possible the issue of whether Taiwan is or is not part of China.


The roots of the localization movement began during the Japanese era in Taiwan 1895 to 1945, when groups organized to lobby the imperial government for greater Taiwanese autonomy and home rule. After the arrival of the Kuomintang on Taiwan, the Taiwan home-rule groups were decimated in the wake of the 228 Massacre of 1947. The Kuomintang viewed Taiwan primarily as a base to retake the Mainland and quickly tried to subdue potential political opposition on the island. The KMT regime did little to assimilate into Taiwanese society, often Mainlanders lived in vacated Japanese neighborhoods where they were segrigated from the Taiwanese. They continued to dress and speak differently while forcing policies on the Taiwanese to help the majority assimilate into the minority culture. The promotion of Chinese nationalism within Taiwan and the fact that the ruling group on Taiwan were considered outsiders led to some support for Taiwanese independence movement which had originated in the period of Japanese rule.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was a shift in power away from the Mainlanders to local Taiwanese. This, combined with cultural liberalization and the increasing remoteness of the possibility of retaking the Mainland, led to a cultural and political movement which emphasized a Taiwan-centered view of history and culture rather than one which was China-centered. Localization was strongly supported by President Lee Teng-hui.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the trend toward localization was also co-opted by pro-unification groups who, while supporting Chinese nationalism, also began to regard the actions of Chiang Kai-shek in the 1950s and 1960s as excessive. Morever, many prominent pro-unification politicians, most notable Soong Chuyu, who once banned the language in the electronic media, began taking the habit of speaking in Holo on semi-formal occasions.


As of 2003, there is no significant opposition to the concept of localization on Taiwan. The majority of citizens on Taiwan also support the idea of both sides of the Taiwan Strait conducting affairs on an equal basis. The PRC has taken a neutral policy on Taiwanese localization and does not consider the localization movement to be a violation of its One China Policy or equivocal to the independence movement.


There is, however, a deep dispute between supporters of Taiwan independence who argue that Taiwan is and should be enhancing an identity which is separate from the Chinese one and supporters of Chinese reunification who argue that Taiwan is and should create a distinctive identity that exists within a broader Chinese one. Groups that support Chinese reunification and Chinese nationalism have emphasized the distinction between localization and what some perceive as desinicization and argued that they do not oppose the promotion of a Taiwanese identity, but rather oppose the use of that identity to separate itself from a broader Chinese one.

Related topics