What Is the Meaning of National Identity?

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One’s national identity refers to the sense of belonging one has to a state or a nation, or a sense of solidarity one feels with a particular group without regard to one’s actual citizenship status. This is not a trait with which people are born; rather, experiences from the common waystations of people’s lives build their sense of national identity. Factors like language, national colors, national symbols, the history of the nation, blood connections, culture, cuisine, music and other factors all play a part. If one views national identity positively, it is typically called “patriotism,” but if one views this negatively, it is sometimes known as “chauvinism.”

When a nation or country undergoes a military, cultural or economic threat, or when that nation becomes part of a foreign empire, national identity tends to become stronger. One example of this occurred in Poland, which was divided between Prussia (now Germany), Austria and Russia between 1795 and 1918. Even though the country no longer had an existence as an independent state, the people retained a strong sense of national identity. Another example is that of Taiwan: Taiwanese identity became much stronger after the fall of the Republic of China to the Communist government, then became stronger still after Communist China began to threaten Taiwan with military might and rhetoric.