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Exceptional membership and liminal space of identity: Student migration from Taiwan to China


International Sociology

Published online on


The opening of China’s economy has attracted an inflow of Taiwanese migrants, including student migration for higher education. Taiwanese migrants in China have created a ‘transnational social field,’ which is simultaneously an exceptional space of sovereignty and a liminal terrain of identity. Based on in-depth interviews with 61 Taiwanese students in China, this article looks into the paradoxes between nationalization and globalization at the intersection of state policy, migration trajectory, and identity politics. The Chinese government has offered Taiwanese citizens exceptional membership and privileged access to college admission, in order to uphold China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan and promote the agenda of reunification. Taiwanese students capitalize on such institutional privilege and cultural ties to facilitate their transnational mobility and flexible capital accumulation. They also develop different strategies to negotiate their ethnic or national identification: assimilating as Chinese, reasserting a Taiwanese identity, and claiming a cosmopolitan identity.