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‘Being Taiwanese isn’t a political choice’: Backlash causes Pew to reverse Taiwanese-as-Chinese decision

Taiwanese American population

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    Pew Research Center has corrected its April demographic report on the number of Taiwanese people living in the United States after receiving backlash from the community for lumping them in with Chinese Americans.

    Rectified report: The new study, published in early September, estimates the number of Taiwanese people living in the U.S. in 2019 ranged from 195,000 to 697,000, NBC News reported.

    • Pew Research Center’s Jeffrey Passel said he used several survey questions from the American Community Survey (ACS) and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, such as race, ancestry and birthplace, to measure the Taiwanese population in the U.S.
    • The 2019 ACS study showed 375,000 people identified as Taiwanese for the ancestry question, 195,000 under race and 409,000 individuals under birthplace.
    • The new study also explained the complexity in looking into the numbers behind the U.S. Taiwanese population. Some of the complicated issues raised in the report include those who identify Taiwanese as their ancestry but do not put Taiwanese as their race, and others who were born in Taiwan but did not identify as Taiwanese in race and ancestry.
    • The rectified Pew report did not explain why it categorized self-identified Taiwanese people as part of the larger Chinese population in its April report, according to Taipei Times. The new study also did not address the backlash it received from Taiwanese American activists.

    Backlash: More than 500 Taiwanese and Asian American community leaders penned an open letter to Pew Research Center demanding an explanation and apology for their April study, NBC News reported.

    • The letter stated that it was offensive to conflate Taiwanese and Chinese Americans into the same category since Taiwan is not a part of China.
    • The Chinese government holds an opposing stance and has aggressively increased their campaign in recent years to claim Taiwan.
    • Part of our response to the original report is that Taiwanese people have been denied agency for so long,” Leona Chen, the editor-in-chief of the nonprofit news site, said. “There’s a sense that you have to protect something that’s constantly threatened and historically endangered.”
    • The U.S. census has reportedly never included Taiwan in its survey about race and ethnicity. The American Community Survey and the decennial census forms only have six Asian subgroup boxes, including Chinese, Filipino and Japanese. Those who wish to identify as Taiwanese must check the “Other Asian” box and write in Taiwanese at the bottom.
    • We want to communicate that being Taiwanese isn’t a political choice,” Chen added. “It’s a fact of who we are.”

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