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Michelle H J Tsai

Fieldwork in Taiwan, China and France

Backstage at Paris Fashion Week with a Taiwanese fashion house (Michelle H J Tsai, 2015) Donated goods piled up outside Taiwan's Legislative Yuan (Michelle H J Tsai, 2015)Police guarding Taiwan's Legislative Yuan (Michelle H J Tsai, 2015)This research investigates the emergence of so-called “Chinese” capitalism and the cross-strait socio-political transformation brought about by Mainland China’s rise to economic prominence in the world at the turn of the twenty-first century. I focused particularly on Taiwanese transnational enterprises  investment into Mainland China, the business operation across the strait, as well as the emergence of new consumer culture and “Chinese” identity politics. I use “Chinese” not to refer to a people or location “inside China” in its territorially bounded sense, but to a broader refashioned identity constructed through global interaction.

The fieldwork was conducted in Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing and Paris, covering a variety of companies and factories ranging from  high)tech  manufacturer  to  high-end  luxury  fashion  house. What struck me most, unexpectedly,  were  the  divergent  forces  that  I  witnessed: Taiwanese  businessmen  seeking  survival  in  expanding  their  business  to Mainland China against the global economic downturn, while college students in Taiwan  striving  for  democracy  that  they  were  afraid  of  losing  in  a  closer cross-strait economic relationship, a counter-force best exemplified in Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement  in  March-April  2014  and  from  which  Hong  Kong’s Umbrella Movement was regarded to learn experiences six months later.

From top right:

At the backstage of Paris Fashion Week held at the Grand Palais, French models and stylists were preparing for the upcoming show featuring a Taiwanese fashion house, while a majority of the media outlets and guests were from mainland China.

Donated goods were piled up outside of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, showing the
Public’s support to students who occupied the parliament building as well as protesters who sat outside of the building for weeks.

While Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (the Taiwanese Parliament) had been occupied
by student protesters and the surrounding streets full of thousands of supports,
the police guarded its front gate in prevention of any further break-in.