The Geopolitics of Employment Choices – a Case Study of Young People from Borderland Kinmen, Taiwan.

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Gina YANG, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
This research study focuses on the geopolitics of employment choices among youth in Kinmen, Taiwan. Kinmen County is located in the southwest of the main island of Taiwan and only six kilometers to the east of Xiamen, China. Due to its close proximity to China, it was placed under War Zone Administration (WZA) during the Cold War and experienced a state of siege of forty-three years. Being geographically far away from the main island of Taiwan, Kinmen was isolated with the preservation of a patriarchal clan culture. After the Cold War ended in 1992 with China-Taiwan cross-strait relations gradually eased, Kinmen has quickly transformed from being a war frontier to become a frontline borderland for business and politics between Taiwan and China. Tourism industry-related businesses began to emerge on the small island. The government of Kinmen was also quick to act by allocating financial resources and physical spaces to accommodate rising tourism needs. Duty free shops are built to attract mainland Chinese tourists. War-themed tours from visiting barracks and tunnels to tasting sorghum (kaoliang), a strong distilled liquor unique to the island of Kinmen, are organized on a daily basis. How do rapid social transformation and the neoliberalisation of Kinmen affect the everyday life and material conditions of young people? How do intersecting factors of gender and social class influence employment opportunities? How does ongoing China-Taiwan cross-strait tensions and geopolitics affect the physical and social mobility of young people in Kinmen? How is social inequality produced and reproduced for young people growing up on a marginalized Taiwanese territory? Based on 40 in-depth interviews and participant observation, this ethnographic research examines how young people growing up in borderland Kinmen negotiate, strategize and make decisions on work and employment against a background of globalizing neoliberalism and the rise of China.