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China and Inner Asia
In Session: DNA Evidence and China Studies
4: Taiwanese DNA and Chinese DNA: Genetic Nationalism in Taiwan and China
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Delaware State University, United States
On both sides of the Taiwan Straits, the late-20th century scientific breakthrough in gene-based population genetics has received substantial endorsement from the state and met with sustained commitment from scientific communities as well as profound interest across the society. The encounter and endeavor started in China with the country joining the Human Genome Project (HGP 1990—2003) and Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) in the late 1990s. In Taiwan it started with the island nation establishing the Taiwan Biobank and its efforts fighting SARS in the early 2000s. These early projects have led to a state entrepreneurialism that treats the science and its application as a key strategic project that ensures the development of domestic biomedical industry and the nation’s competitiveness in 21st-century global science. The fast-growing popularity of the science, however, has a lot to do with its implications to national and ethnic identity politics. In addition to an individual’s DNA-based genealogical identity, knowledge and technology produced by this science provide scientific grounds for political discourse of an integral (China) and independent (Taiwan) nationhood by rewriting population history of both sides. For this reason the science and its application have provoked enduring public and cross-strait discussions and debates, adding “scientific” factors to each other’s nationalist claims.