“Foreign Brides” Meet Ethnic Politics in Taiwan



A great number of women from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia recently arrived in Taiwan to marry men of lower social strata. Such an unusual pattern of migration has stimulated debates about the status and the citizenship of the new arrivals. This study analyzes Taiwanese responses toward these marriage migrants by using a national survey conducted in 2004. Three aspects of restrictive attitudes were tapped concerning these newcomers: (1) rights to work; (2) access to public health insurance; and (3) full citizenship. Immigrants from China were most opposed, compared to women with other origins (Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, and the US). The seemingly unrelated regression estimation regression results do not support the split labor market hypotheses, as marriage migrants do not appear to be economic threats toward members of the lower classes. In contrast, ethnic nationalism plays a key role in determining the natives’ restrictive attitudes. The case of Taiwan represents a special genre, where ethnic politics selectively arouses the social rejection of women immigrants of certain origins.