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Senior Paper on China-Taiwan Relations Named Nation’s Best

Lincoln Davidson
Lincoln Davidson '15

Political Science major Lincoln Davidson '15, of Lewisburg, Pa., has recently received ASIANetwork's 2015 Marianna McJimsey Award, which recognizes the nation's best undergraduate paper on Asia. Davidson will present his paper, "Linked Without Linking: The Role of Mainland China's Taiwanese Students in Cross Strait Unification," at the 2015 annual meeting of ASIANetwork in St. Louis in April.

ASIANetwork is a consortium of approximately 160 colleges in North America committed to promoting the study of Asia in the liberal arts.

Davidson wrote the paper for his senior political science seminar "The Rise of China" with Brown Professor of Political Science Shelley Rigger. In it, Davidson analyzes the lives of Taiwanese students living in Mainland China and the role they might play in someday uniting China with Taiwan.

Davidson explained that a concept in political science called "integration theory" suggests that Taiwanese students may jumpstart the unification process because they harbor loyalties to both countries. "Taiwanese students understand both Chinese and Taiwanese cultures and have ties to policy makers in both countries," he said. "Therefore, integration theory argues that this group is the most likely to act as a catalyst for unification."

Practical Benefits

However, interviews with Taiwanese students in Shanghai and Beijing gave Davidson little evidence to support the premise suggested by integration theory. Instead, Davidson learned that Taiwanese students advocate for a mutually beneficial relationship between China and Taiwan, but fall short of pushing for full-scale unification. For example, Taiwanese students lobbied Beijing's city government for access to state medical insurance, and lobbied their home country to recognize their degrees from Chinese universities. "Taiwanese students sought very practical benefits from both China and Taiwan rather than a unification between the two," Davidson explained.

Davidson added that Taiwanese students in Mainland China often feel alienated by both countries. "Taiwanese students are told by their friends that they are somehow ‘more Chinese' because they study in China, although this is not the case," he said. "They adamantly identify as Taiwanese."

Davidson's interest in Taiwan and China began as a high school student when he took Chinese language classes at Bucknell University. Davidson then spent a gap year before college living and studying in Taiwan as a Rotary exchange student. "Taiwan is a very special place. It's still the coolest place I've ever been," he said.

In 2012, Davidson joined Professor of Anthropology Fuji Lozada on a semester-long trip to China with the Davidson in Shanghai program. At Shanghai's Fudan University, where the students studied and lived for a semester, Davidson met the head of the school's Taiwanese Student Association. He then began researching the lives of Taiwanese students living in China with support from a Dean Rusk Grant, a Bank of America Kemp Scholarship and an Abernethy Grant.

He compiled the results of his research into a major paper for Rigger's seminar "The Rise of China." Davidson said the paper would not have been possible without the college's grant programs and supportive faculty. "When I told my friends at other schools about Davidson's level of support for my international research, they almost didn't believe me," he said.

Davidson added, "My professors have been very helpful in pointing me toward new opportunities and cultivating my interests. It was also tremendous to have the mentorship of Professor Rigger, who is a recognized expert on Taiwan."