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Jan 07

Public Opinion in Taiwan

Written by Steve on Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at 3:33 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, General, Opinion, politics | Tags:, , ,
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I recently came across an opinion poll from the Global View Survey Research Center concerning present public opinion in Taiwan on a range of subjects. In the past, many of us have commented on the state of affairs in Taiwan, not only in terms of her relationship to China but also involving the political thought within the nation. Rather than draw any conclusions, I thought I’d make this same data available to our blog members and see what you think.

The entire report can be found at the Global Survey Research Center website. The main points are as follows, with far more information and graphs contained in the survey itself:

Survey on President Ma Ying-jeou’s Performance after Assuming KMT Chairpersonship, Ma-Hu Meeting, and Taiwanese People’s views on Unification with China and Independence

A. In response to President Ma’s returning to the helm of the KMT, 51.7 percent of the respondents did not think it would create a clean image for the KMT and 41.7 percent said Ma was not competent to promote democratic reforms within the party.

B. 43.9 percent said it was appropriate if President Ma Ying-joue and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao met as leaders of ruling parties across the Strait while 36.5 percent said inappropriate.

C. Taiwanese people’s views on independence-unification issue: 51.7 percent favored status quo, 29.3 percent independence and 8.3 percent unification. People’s stance on ultimately independence-unification issue: 47.2 percent of people were supportive of ultimate independence while 34.1 percent were not. 15.7 percent backed ultimate unification with China while 69 percent voiced opposition.

D. President Ma Ying-jeou’s approval rating is 29.5 percent and disproval rating is 58.6 percent this month. 41.8 percent trusted him but 42.4 percent not.

E. KMT lawmakers’ approval rating is 21.9 percent and disapproval rating is 58.5 percent.

I also found data from the same source in this Kuomintang News Network website:

Global Views Survey Research Center

Survey: Signing of an ECFA and cross-Strait exchanges, views on reunification and independence, President Ma’s approval ratings

1.      Do you think signing a cross-Strait ECFA is important to Taiwan’s economy?

Yes: 54.4%            No: 19.2%          No opinion/Don’t know: 26.4%

2.      Do you think that signing an ECFA with the Mainland is tantamount to reunifying with the Mainland under the PRC?

Yes: 30.7%           No: 49%              No opinion/Don’t know: 20.3%

3.      Do you think that the government would minimize the negative impact and protect people’s rights when signing an ECFA with the Mainland?

Yes: 28.1%           No: 55.3%           No opinion/Don’t know: 16.6%

4.      For Taiwan’s economy to improve, do you think cross-Strait economic exchanges should increase or decrease?

Increase: 44.6%       Decrease: 27.8%      No opinion/Don’t know: 27.6%

5.      Do you think the DPP supports increasing the scale of cross-Strait exchanges?

Yes: 17.9%            No: 59.8%          No opinion/Don’t know: 22.3%

6.      If DPP increased its cross-Strait exchanges with the Mainland, do you think it would help Taiwan in striving for its overall interests?

Yes: 49.1%           No: 32.4%           No opinion/Don’t know: 18.5%

7.      Over the next two years, do you think that the DPP needs to adjust its Mainland policy and the way they deal with the Mainland?

More open: 51.2%  More conservative: 11.9%   No need to change: 8.6%   No opinion/Don’t know: 28.3%

8.      What is your current stance on reunification versus independence?

Maintain the status quo for now, then see what happens later: 42.5%                                                                                  Support Taiwan independence: 23.9%                                                                                                                               Maintain the status quo forever: 7.6%                                                                                                                             Reunify with mainland China: 7.4%                                                                                                                                         Decline to respond: 18.69%

9.      Do you think that both sides of the Strait should reunify in the end?

Yes: 18.9%         No: 54.7%       No opinion/Don’t know: 26.3%

10. Do you think that Taiwan should become independent in the end?

Yes: 42.1%         No: 30.2%       No opinion/Don’t know: 27.7%

11. President Ma Ying-jeou’s approval and trust ratings (December 2009):

Satisfied: 23.5%        Dissatisfied: 62.2%

Trust: 38%                 Distrust: 46.4%

12. If you were to vote again in a Presidential election now, would you vote for KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou or the DPP?

KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou: 39.8%     DPP: 28.4%    Don’t know/No opinion: 31.8%

13. Figures showing satisfaction ratings of the KMT legislators in the Legislative Yuan (December 2009):

Satisfied: 20.3%        Dissatisfied: 59.8%

Note: This poll was conducted from 18:20 pm to 22:00 pm between December 14 and 16 with 1,022 people over 20 years of age surveyed. The margin of error associated with this sample is plus or minus 3.1 % with a 95 % confidence interval.

Source: Global Views Magazine Public Opinion Poll Center

There is far more information in the Global View Survey Research Center article, so be sure to check it out. The KMT information has other dates in the survey that might be of interest. I only listed the numbers as of December 2009 but you can see the trends if you look at the surveys themselves.

Any surprises?


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46 Responses to “Public Opinion in Taiwan”

  1. A-gu Says:

    I would suggest the pro-unification results seem to outliers (in favor); support for ultimate unification is rarely seen at such heights. I will have to gather a good set of poll data to prove it though.

  2. Zepplin Says:

    Different polls are not comparable, the TVBS poll below has unification at 4% instead of GVSRC’s 7%:

    http://www.tvbs.com.tw/FILE_DB/DL_DB/doshouldo/200912/doshouldo-20091218191946.pdf

    Both polls shows a clear trend of decreasing support for unification.

    No surprise there.

  3. Steve Says:

    Hi Zepplin~ Thanks for the link to that poll.

    If you go to the surveys themselves, they have tracking data with the numbers waxing and waning but remaining relatively consistent over time. Some of the variation you found might be due to the way the question was asked or who did the survey and when it was done, but I agree with you that the trend is either stagnant or decreasing for unification, being that they’re both in single digits. I also thought Ma’s numbers post-typhoon would have improved more as time passed but they also seem to have remained relatively stagnant. I wasn’t surprised that he’d beat an as yet unnamed DPP candidate because that is to be expected until the DPP picks a leader, but even with that advantage Ma’s overall support numbers are still very weak. When a single party controls all branches of government, it’s difficult to blame the other party.

    Being that I don’t live there anymore, all I know is what I hear from my wife’s relatives, but that’s not the same as being there on a daily basis.

  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    The Global Survey report’s line graph on Taiwanese views of unification etc is interesting. The plurality are for status quo. But the levels of support for each of the four positions given are essentially unchanged since 2003. So despite scandals in the previous government and a current leader seen to be warming to the PRC, general sentiments really haven’t swayed.

  5. scl Says:

    If a lot of the supporters of ultimate unification are originally from Mainland, then it is not surprising that the pro-unification numbers dwindle in Taiwan as time goes by.

    I think about 40% Quebec residents support independence. But if there is a referendum in favor of independence, Canadian government will announce the result unconstitutional for sure. I do not think any country will allow secession by resident referendum now. The only exception was Kosovo, but it occurred after Serbian military had been beaten by the NATO.

  6. Raj Says:

    scl

    The difference with Quebec is that Taiwan is already independent. A referendum to decide the island’s fate would just assert what is already the case.

    You’re also wrong on how countries react to formal bids for independence. The UK would be more than willing to allow any part of it to become independent after a referendum. It wouldn’t even insist on every British citizen being able to take part as China ridiculously claims all “Chinese” citizens have a right to decide Taiwan’s fate. There has already been a referendum for independence in Northern Ireland (which failed).

    Also look at Montenegro. They’re independent after a referendum.

  7. Steve Says:

    I thought the most interesting responses were on questions B,1,4,6 &7. I think the answers show an open attitude towards China, more open than the traditional DPP position, but still maintaining the status quo in terms of political positions. Taiwanese are not wishing for de jure independence but seem to be looking for increased stability across the strait, along with greater interaction and discussion between the two governments.

  8. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To scl #5:
    Quebec has had 2 referendums for “independence”. The most recent was in 1995, and the YES side lost 49% to 51% NO. I’m not sure where you’re getting 40%….perhaps that represents Bloc Quebecois popularity in polling currently, which would sound about right.

    “But if there is a referendum in favor of independence, Canadian government will announce the result unconstitutional for sure.” — you should familiarize yourself with the Clarity Act. Not a perfect piece of legislation by any means, but certainly no justification for a statement like yours here.

    To Raj:
    “as China ridiculously claims all “Chinese” citizens have a right to decide Taiwan’s fate.” — hear hear.

  9. barny chan Says:

    Raj Says: “There has already been a referendum for independence in Northern Ireland (which failed).”

    It’s worth pointing out that this referendum was an intentional sham conducted in the darkest days of the Troubles, and that the Nationalist/Republican (Catholic) community boycotted the referendum leading to an almost 100% vote against independence. It wasn’t a glowing highlight of British democracy in action.

  10. Raj Says:

    barny

    How was it an “intentional sham”? People were given an open choice. As it was, even with the boycott, over 57% of the electorate voted to stay in the union.

    If people boycott a vote, that’s their problem. You can’t force people to vote. The official SDLP position was that taking part would increase violence (how?), but really many Repubicans knew they would lose so they didn’t want to give further credibility to the result with a higher turnout. I seem to remember that some even demanded the Republic of Ireland have the right to vote too, which would have been barmy.

  11. Raj Says:

    Steve (7)

    I think that’s a very vague statement. Obviously Taiwanese don’t want war with China and they’d like better relations. But what is the price of those better relations – giving China power over Taiwan? If that is the price they don’t want to pay it.

    Similarly the DPP are fairly open to China, it’s China that has always set the red lines and thrown demands down. Maybe if the DPP win in 2012 China will be more flexible than it was previously, but if it again boycotts talks because the DPP won’t say the moon is made out of swiss cheese (that there is one China and Taiwan is part of it) that will be China’s fault, not the DPP’s.

    Taiwanese want many things for their future, including the ability to negotiate FTAs with other countries without China blocking them. At the moment they can survive without changing their constitution and further clarifying their independence, but if China pushes them they would choose to make it even clearer that they are independent of China.

    EDIT: Interestingly enough I hear that the DPP have won all three legislative by-elections that took place this weekend, taking the seats from the KMT. More bad news for Ma.

  12. barny chan Says:

    Raj, the referendum in Northern Ireland was a sham because demographically there could only be one result – a resounding no to independence. As for why the SDLP believed that a referendum would increase the levels of violence, you only have to look at the previous five years in Northern Ireland: the violent suppression of the civil rights movement in the late 60s; the Belfast pogrom of 69 when Loyalist mobs murdered and forced Catholic families from their homes off the Falls Road; the emergence of Free Derry and the massacre of Bloody Sunday; the fact that the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters had begun their campaign of sectarian murders in 72 and were in full swing in 73. I could go on and on, but the SDLP were right to take the position that even the notion of independence would only fuel attacks on Catholic civilians and consequently fuel the actions of the Provisional IRA who promised, in the words of Sean Macstiofain to “escalate, escalate and escalate” their own armed resistance.

  13. Raj Says:

    barny, if the result was inevitable because of demographics that’s hard cheese. If a minority want independence they can’t complain if they’re outvoted democratically. A vote isn’t a sham because of the likelihood of a result out of free choice, independence was a valid political question that could be put to the voters.

    Boycotting the referendum didn’t stop it going ahead. If it was clear what the result was going to be then there was no harm in taking part in a secret ballot. If there was, how was it ever possible for any Republican MP/councillor to be elected? Surely voters would be too scared to turn up.

  14. barny chan Says:

    Raj, I’m going to go back to your earlier comment that “some even demanded the Republic of Ireland have the right to vote too, which would have been barmy”. Many people, within and without the Republic of Ireland, think it was barmy to have a divided Ireland, and consider that conducting a referendum solely in one Protestant dominated corner barmier still. To dismiss out of hand the notion of an all-Ireland vote is akin to those who who absolutely dismiss the legitimacy of the desire for Tibetan independence because China “rescued the people from serfdom”. You might not be sympathetic to the notion, but that in itself doesn’t render it “barmy”.

    As to how it was possible for “any Republican MP/councillor” (and, by the way, the SDLP are Nationalists not Republicans) to ever get elected, as tensions in Northern Ireland increased, areas of population became progressively less mixed for safety reasons, leaving many areas exclusively Catholic. All the gerrymandering in the world (and historically there was a great deal in Northern Ireland) couldn’t prevent Nationalist/Republican representation. In any case, the small degree of Catholic representation in no way threatened the dominance of the Ulster Unionist Party and had none of the resonance of a move in the direction of a united Ireland. Yes, boycotting the referendum didn’t stop it going ahead, but the decision to not actively campaign for a vote for independence almost certainly saved Catholic lives. I suspect you have very little conception of what a dangerous and intimidating place Northern Ireland was in the 70s. When a country is effectively at war, survival trumps political posturing.

  15. Raj Says:

    barny, whether or not partition was a good idea is irrelevant – it is the status quo and was the situation in the 1970s. If the UK were to revisit the question of partition you would then logically have to revisit the question of independence for the Republic of Ireland as well because the two were linked.

    Comparing a call for a cross-Ireland vote on Northern Ireland independence to Tibetan independence is bizzare. My point about Northern Ireland was to do with the electorate, i.e. that it is illogical and very undemocratic to allow a population to be annexed against its will. It would be like Inner Mongolia having a vote on independence with Mongolia allowed to take part as well.

    So, yes, calling for people from the Republic to be included in the referendum would have been barmy.

    And do not put words in my mouth. I never said Northern Ireland was not dangerous, I put a simple point across that if it was too dangerous to vote in a referendum it would be too dangerous to vote in elections. If as you claim demographics made the referendum result a certainty I don’t see why it would have been so dangerous compared to voting in elections. After all if people were Nationalist and not Republican, they may have voted for the union.

  16. barny chan Says:

    Raj Says: “Comparing a call for a cross-Ireland vote on Northern Ireland independence to Tibetan independence is bizzare.”

    Yes, it would be bizarre to compare a call for for a cross-Ireland vote on Northern Ireland independence to Tibetan independence. But, as you know, I didn’t do that. I made the perfectly valid point that to glibly disparage those who demanded an all-Ireland referendum as being “barmy” is as sweepingly pointless as the inclination within China to simply dismiss the movement for Tibetan independence because China “liberated” the people from serfdom.

    “My point about Northern Ireland was to do with the electorate, i.e. that it is illogical and very undemocratic to allow a population to be annexed against its will.”

    You seem to be willfully missing the point that the Catholic people of Northern Ireland believed themselves annexed against their will: they not only considered themselves to be Irish, in many cases they formally held Irish nationality and passports. To them, it was a straightforward case of occupation by a hostile nation.

    “And do not put words in my mouth. I never said Northern Ireland was not dangerous”

    Again, you seem to be trying to throw up a diversion, presumably because you’ve got out of your depth. At no stage have I misquoted you or attempted to put words in your mouth. What I said was that “I suspect you have very little conception of what a dangerous and intimidating place Northern Ireland was in the 70s”. The key words are “I suspect”. I don’t actually know what degree of awareness you have of the danger at the time: you might simply not care rather than be unaware; more likely, you might have assumed that nobody posting here had sufficient knowledge of the subject to challenge you.

    “I put a simple point across that if it was too dangerous to vote in a referendum it would be too dangerous to vote in elections. If as you claim demographics made the referendum result a certainty I don’t see why it would have been so dangerous compared to voting in elections”

    I’ve already explained why: the connotations of minor Catholic representation in local politics in no way compare to an existential threat to the union. The fact that the result could only have been a vote for the status quo doesn’t alter the additional chaos and killing that would have been triggered by the symbolism of ordinary Catholics (as opposed to Republicans) actively campaigning for independence. As I’ve already pointed out, this was at the very height of the UDA/UFF policy of killing Catholic civilians and the Paisleyites were rallying hate against Catholics at every opportunity – people were terrified that the situation would tip over into all out civil war.

    “After all if people were Nationalist and not Republican, they may have voted for the union.”

    I’m sorry Raj, but you don’t appear to understand the difference between Irish Nationalism and Irish Republicanism. Nationalists of the time were no less inclined towards a united Ireland than Republicans, where they differed from Sinn Fein and the Provos was in their revulsion at armed struggle and an unwillingness to engage in acts that would result in further killing.

  17. Raj Says:

    barny

    But, as you know, I didn’t do that. I made the perfectly valid point that to glibly disparage those who demanded an all-Ireland referendum as being “barmy” is as sweepingly pointless as the inclination within China to simply dismiss the movement for Tibetan independence because China “liberated” the people from serfdom.

    It isn’t a valid point at all. I was making a fair statement that many boycotted the vote because they knew they would lose and that it was barmy to demand an all-Ireland referendum. The inclination in China towards Tibet that you refer to is, equally, barmy.

    You seem to be willfully missing the point that the Catholic people of Northern Ireland believed themselves annexed against their will

    “The” Catholic people? I think you may mean “some” or “many”. They didn’t all want independence/believe themselves annexed against their will. But for those they did, even if one agreed with them two wrongs don’t make a right. A child living now shouldn’t pay the price for something that happened almost two centuries previously.

    The key words are “I suspect”. I don’t actually know what degree of awareness you have of the danger at the time

    Then why not ask a question rather than make an implication?

    The fact that the result could only have been a vote for the status quo doesn’t alter the additional chaos and killing that would have been triggered by the symbolism of ordinary Catholics (as opposed to Republicans) actively campaigning for independence

    How does taking part in a vote equal active campaigning? It’s perfectly easy to stop your members campaigning but letting people make up their own minds whether to vote or not!

    I’m sorry Raj, but you don’t appear to understand the difference between Irish Nationalism and Irish Republicanism.

    Sorry, I confused myself early on. I know the difference.

  18. scl Says:

    To S.K. Cheung #8,

    Clarity act basically states: 1) a de facto unilateral secession of a province would violate Canadian constitution; 2) If a clear majority (more than 51%, exact meaning of clear majority is open to debate) favors independence, Canadian federal government will enter negotiation.

    That’s it. The best you can get from a referendum is the chance to negotiate with the Canadian Federal government. I still do not think any country will allow secession merely by a referendum. Forget the referendums in the former Yugoslavia, because they were all conducted under NATO occupation.

    Raj, I think Taiwan has 0 percent chance to be independent formerly. I doubt the current situation in Taiwan can be maintained beyond 2016.

  19. Steve Says:

    People, this is a thread about attitudes in Taiwan. It has nothing to do with Ireland or Canada; the situations in those countries are completely different. Please say on topic.

    If you want to continue your discussion, please feel free to do so though I’ll be collapsing those comments. You all can read them if you like, it only takes one click. I prefer the thread not be clogged up with unrelated comments, thanks!

  20. Steve Says:

    @ Raj #11: It didn’t seem vague to me or apparently to the majority of Taiwanese but might seem that way to you. When I lived there (and the numbers haven’t changed much since I left) people wanted more economic interaction with China, a lowering of tension but a continuance of the status quo in terms of their political relationship. These recent numbers show the same dynamic.

    I lived there through the early Chen administration. Whether you liked him or not, it’s a big stretch to say he was open to China. There was some political posturing in that direction but it was never serious and always done for political reasons. Even DPP supporters had that figured out.

    To say “Taiwanese” want this or that isn’t accurate because as in most democracies, some people want certain things and other people want different things. Taiwan tends to have three factions, the two smaller extremes and a pretty solid middle ground of people who get disgusted with the extremes. Many who voted for Chen in 2004 turned around and voted for Ma in 2008. They might switch their party vote in 2012 depending on how Ma handles the next two years. It is impossible at this time to predict where that will go. Right now Ma isn’t too popular, to say the least.

    The Taiwanese electorate is more intelligent than many people give them credit for. Most tend to vote for the person, not the party. Any survey is a snapshot of a given moment, nothing more than an indicator but it takes many snapshots to determine a trend. Being that the majority is moderate, they’ll be more attracted to a moderate candidate than one on the extremes. And more importantly, they care far more about local economic conditions than they do about relations with China. “All politics is local” applies just as much to them as it does to any other electorate.

  21. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To scl #16:
    your summary of the Clarity Act is correct. And a Quebec independence referendum “win” would only get them to the next step of negotiations with the Canadian government, as you rightly point out. However, the Supreme Court decision which motivated the Clarity Act stipulates that the Canadian government would be expected to enter into such negotiations. Which is why I said earlier that this statement (““But if there is a referendum in favor of independence, Canadian government will announce the result unconstitutional for sure.”) has no basis.

  22. barny chan Says:

    Steve Says: “this is a thread about attitudes in Taiwan. It has nothing to do with Ireland or Canada; the situations in those countries are completely different. Please say on topic.”

    I’ll refrain from carrying on this particular debate with Raj (I’ve made my point anyway for those who choose to click on the collapsed posts), but I don’t believe it’s off-topic to point out flaws in a proposed parallel situation.

  23. Josef Says:

    I do not think that the northern Ireland example is so off-topic: I could imagine that in some northern parts of Taiwan you could find a majority for unification, but frankly spoken: i do not regard
    the Chinese government so ruthless to repeat this dirty British game. If China (correctly) laments about the unfair treatment in the past, especially from the British, they should take a look what the British did to Ireland.

    I do not agree with Steve’s other point to call the “extreme” groups equivalent: if there would be a free vote now without any pressure from China, like example the mobbing against FCA Raj mentioned in 11, Taiwan would vote for independence. Because they do care about local economic conditions and if there is no backslash they would be happy to run their business without so many constraints. I also wonder if the decline of the unification fraction has something to do with Ma’s opening to China, as “why buy a cow when the milk is free”? Here a comparison to Switzerland, which endures a lots of pressure from the European Community to join, might be adequate: The willingness of the Swiss people to join, decreases with every bilateral contract.

    The solid middle ground is mainly interested in local economic development and vote accordingly, like you wrote, but that does not mean they switch their opinion about independence or unification: it is second priority as long as it does not impact daily life. So I would rather support Raj’s statement. Especially if you consider the age of unification- compared to independence supporters (I once quoted in FM already a China Post article, saying that Taiwanese students regard Japanese as their favourite and mainland Chinese as the most unfavoured). I think you have to distinguish your statement in 7: “I think the answers show an open attitude towards China, more open than the traditional DPP position”. with which respect?

    What I read of the time when Chen started (I was in Taiwan then, but just observed a no shooting on Kaohsiung Harbor), is, that he was initially open to China but received a very early frosty feedback. I would not dare to say it was not serious but it certainly was driven by political reasons. I wonder if China made a wrong decision trusting KMT so much,- they could have had their win-win cooperation benefits earlier.

  24. FOARP Says:

    No surprises. Public opinion remains unchanged, despite the shrillness of some of the opinion coming from both sides in Taiwan, and the megaphone-loud bellowing of mainland and overseas Chinese pro-reunificationists, the people of Taiwan know that now they have de-facto independence, relative peace and prosperity, and that a move in either direction could disrupt this.

    By the way, yes, an all-China referendum would be ridiculous. The nearest pro-independence equivalent would be a referendum in which only Taiwanese 本省人 were allowed to vote and the 外省人 descendants of KMT soldiers and officials who settled in the island after 1949 (all 2 million of them, when the population of the island was only about 6-8 million) were denied the vote.

    @Josef – Thank you for telling us that you know nothing about Northern Ireland, although simply writing “I know nothing about Northern Ireland” would have saved time.

  25. Raj Says:

    Josef

    What I read of the time when Chen started…. is, that he was initially open to China but received a very early frosty feedback….. I wonder if China made a wrong decision trusting KMT so much,- they could have had their win-win cooperation benefits earlier.

    Yes, it’s right that Chen was open to negotiation early on. But from time-to-time the CCP falls into the trap of demonising people, and it allowed the KMT to poison its mind against Chen. He wouldn’t have been open to unification but he could have easily brought around the same sort of agreements that are happening now more than half a decade earlier. As it was Chen became the Taiwanese Dalai Lama, the Devil, a man who would cause China’s downfall, etc.

  26. Steve Says:

    @ barny chan #22: Though we may not agree about parallels between Taiwan and Ireland or Canada, that wasn’t the point. If you see a parallel, you can state it but what bogs down the thread is when it becomes a back and forth disagreement about Ireland or Canada and not about Taiwan. That’s why the original comment and reply are visible but the rest of it is not. I hope that makes sense to you.

    @ Josef #23: Though we might disagree about the relevance of Northern Ireland (I see none and you see parallels), this comment is fine because you’re not talking about Northern Ireland independently from Taiwan. If you want to draw a parallel with another country or situation, that’s OK but the problem occurs when the discussion veers off into discussion about Northern Ireland (or any other comparison) on its own merits and the original subject disappears from the conversation. From my POV, I don’t see occupation, I don’t see Taiwanese in China blowing things up, assassinating politicians, etc. Though there’s friction between Taiwan and China, I never sensed that either entity hated the other. They have differences that most everyone agrees are best worked out by negotiation and not war or isolation.

    As to your second point, there IS pressure from China so any opinion about Taiwan’s status in Taiwan must take that into consideration and Taiwanese in general tend to be very practical. Any other scenario is just speculation.

    My “more open” comment referred to interaction between the two governments and for that I go back to the numbers. Questions 1,4,5,6 and 7 all support my comment. Questions 6 & 7 address your question directly.

    As to your final comment, my personal opinion is that Jiang Zemin committed several major errors in his policy towards Taiwan that had a definite negative impact on cross-strait relations. On the other hand, Chen went on and on while I lived there about not being able to have direct flights because of national security reasons. Every Taiwanese I worked with (60 in our Hsinchu office) wanted cross-strait flights. I had to take that damn Taipei to HK to Shanghai/Tianjin/Beijing flight more times than I can remember, sucking up an entire day for what should have been a two hour flight and costing an enormous amount of time and money to Taiwan businesses that dealt with China. Chen was always “open to negotiation BUT…” Based on the intransigent behavior of both sides, I doubt anything would have changed even if one side was more accommodating but again, that’s speculation on my part.

    So I disagree with Raj’s comment that Chen was open to negotiation early on. I lived there in the “early on” days and I never saw that, nor did most Taiwanese that I knew. Chen won that election because he was a pretty good mayor, many people wanted a change but mostly because the KMT shot themselves in the foot by running an unpopular candidate chosen by backroom party politics and which caused a party split.

  27. Rhan Says:

    If referendum is to be held on Taiwan independent, I think only the aborigine have the rights to vote. The rest should either shut up or move back to where they came from. Unless the referendum is held for all Chinese.

  28. barny chan Says:

    Steve Says: “@ barny chan #22: Though we may not agree about parallels between Taiwan and Ireland or Canada, that wasn’t the point. If you see a parallel, you can state it but what bogs down the thread is when it becomes a back and forth disagreement about Ireland or Canada and not about Taiwan. That’s why the original comment and reply are visible but the rest of it is not. I hope that makes sense to you.”

    To be honest Steve, not a great deal of sense. Raj sees a parallel between Taiwan and Northern Ireland and I don’t. To leave our initial posts and then collapse our respective justifications for our divergent positions seems very odd. I would understand more if the exchange had degenerated into the kind of content free abuse – “You’re a CCP Apologist!” “No! You’re a China basher!” – that’s so common here, but it didn’t. It’s OK to state that I see or don’t see a parallel but not OK to clarify the reasons why…? Weird.

  29. Steve Says:

    Barny, from #9 on, the comments move away from Taiwan into other topics. I didn’t collapse Raj’s #6; I had given it a -3 for beginning to veer off topic but Raj pushed it to -6. If anyone wants to read your respective justifications it’s one click away so I don’t think anyone is being deprived of reading what you, Raj, scl or SKC wrote.

    As a general explanation, we’ve received quite a few emails from readers complaining about off topic arguments, insulting language, conspiracy theories, etc. Look at it this way; someone comes on the blog and sees a topic that interests them. There are 60 comments, but 45 of them are “mano a mano” arguments between two or three people, threadjacking into some conspiracy theory or other, profanity, ad hominum attacks, etc. Hard to believe, but very few readers are interested. They want to read relevant, well thought out comments that add something to the conversation. If after reading those comments, if they desire to read the others they only require one click, so they are certainly available to anyone who is interested.

  30. Josef Says:

    Hi Steve,
    that means your stand-alone sentence: “Taiwanese are not wishing for de jure independence” should be read as: “given the pressure from China, Taiwanese are not wishing for de jure independence” and on this we can agree. But I still believe your view is biased by people, who like you, had big business with China. Local business and students, for example have a different weighting: for them relations to Japan, the U.S. and the western world must not be touched, which sometimes can lead to a conflict with the “opening” steps. At a crossroad the priorities “good relations” vs “independence” might change. You read a solid majority against de jure independence from the numbers, but to my opinion the situation is much more floating and volatile.

  31. Steve Says:

    Hi Josef~

    I think we’re looking at this sorta the same but with two different perspectives. “Given the pressure from China” is a given, so to speak, so when the Taiwanese people form their opinions it is one of the factors they consider. Personally, I’m not much for hypotheticals so to consider a position that is based on non-existent factors for me is a waste of time. It might not be to others.

    Actually, I did far more business and spent more time in Taiwan than I did in China. My father in law was a very well known figure in the push for human rights and democracy back in the ’50s and ’60s. My oldest brother in law was elected as an independent senator (provincial assembly) in 1978 (no opposition parties were allowed) and a founding member of the DPP in 1986. He left the PA in 1996. My youngest brother in law was his chief of staff and once made the comment to me that you can only believe about 50% of what you read in the Taiwan media. ;)

    Taking that into consideration, I spent more time in Taiwan and knew more people there than I did in China, though I also had many good Chinese friends. I couldn’t tell you the student POV because my time was spent with semiconductor industry professionals during the day and friends and relatives at night and on weekends. My guess is that I had as much interaction with local business as anyone on this forum and far more than most.

    As things stand, the solid majority is for the status quo. Could this change in the future? Sure, but it hasn’t changed much over the last decade so it’s hard to predict what will happen over time. We can all take a stab at it but it’s only hypothetical speculation. Thanks for the comment; it’s nice to see someone with a nuanced opinion.

  32. Chops Says:

    Is reunification really about the people or the land?

    If every Taiwanese migrated overseas, I’m guessing the mainlanders couldn’t care less.

    They just want that island.

  33. Josef Says:

    I think (de jure) independence is connected with international acceptance. Just today, all three (China Post, Taipei Times and Taiwan News) media report the success in a mathematic competition. Taiwanese are proud what they achieve(d) and this trend is increasing. Also the status quo is not really a satisfactory solution. So I expect on a day X a popular vote on unification and/or independence, and then there is also a northern Ireland scenario possible (I mean here the split only, not the terror).
    It is not only the pressure from China but the whole acceptance of the community of nations which influences the opinion. If (again hypothetical) the Independence movement would not have seen the repression from the U.S. and allies, but being ignored or even supported, I would expect the figures looking differently. Chen was speculating on that and lost. But due to the new presidents (Ma, Obama) things starts to move again. I don’t regard it as a complete waste of time to go into scenarios “What If” – I am living here so it concerns me.

  34. TonyP4 Says:

    Taiwan is rich for many reasons (1) Cheung bought a lot of skilled folks and foreign reserves to Taiwan (2) US helps Taiwan economically and provides some military assistance. Taiwan could be #1 (if not #2 after Japan) in foreign reserves per capita, even not counting the billions the corrupt politicians hide overseas.

    To attain the next economical growth, it depends on China for the market and its cheap labor. The unification is unavoidable and hopefully it will be peaceful. The current business tie is hard to break.

  35. FOARP Says:

    @TonyP4 – It is odd how often things which people declare to be ‘unavoidable’ or ‘inevitable’ then fail to occur. There is, simply put, no mechanism which automatically results in ‘reunification’. The presumption that no changes are needed from the government in Beijing in how it rules on the mainland before such an annexation could possibly be palatable to the people of Taiwan is also somewhat strange. Everyday corruption, and abuse of human rights in mainland China act as a reminder of why no such union can take place, nor should you assume that mere familiarity with mainland China increases pan-Chinese sentiment – in fact, as far as I can see, the effect is actually the opposite, at least judging by the large number of former pro-Chinese I know who have decided themselves pro-Taiwan after living on the mainland.

    This is, of course, not to say that no such union could ever take place, but I doubt that it could whilst the mainland remains a dictatorship remains in power – indeed this is exactly what even people like Ma have said in their public speeches on the matter.

  36. Allen Says:

    @FOARP #24,

    Yikes – are you advocating for discrimination along lines of origin? How far should we go? 100, 200, 300, 400 years?

    If we are going to argue 本省 vs. 外省人 – why not go into 客家人also (they don’t speak Taiwanese; they are out!) – or 北部人 vs. 南部人 (南部人 are the real Taiwanese; 北部人 are traitors). Why not 都市人 vs. 鄉下人? Or 有錢人 vs. 沒錢人? Why not just say KMT people should just not be allowed since they came from “outside the province”?

    OK – I am getting a little silly, but that’s because you are sounding silly. Even if I hypothetically buy your perspective that Taiwan has a right to unilateral self determination irrespective of the Mainland – the fate of Taiwan does not belong to specific groups within Taiwan – it belongs to the fate of the whole people of Taiwan.

    Geeses … your idea of extreme localism (I use that in a pejorative sense) – of dividing the certain groups of the Taiwanese people from others is as pathetic as your idea of dividing the Taiwanese people from the Chinese people.

  37. Steve Says:

    @ Allen & FOARP: Allen, I think FOARP was trying to sound silly by arguing in the opposite direction. The original argument was one of expansion (include all Chinese) so FOARP turned it on its head by using an argument of reduction (rule out KMT and their descendants). Both are illogical. We can take the first argument and continue to expand it until the entire world must vote on the topic because we are all humanity. We can take the other argument and continue to reduce it until only pure-blooded aborigines can vote. They are both examples of “reductio ad absurdum”.

  38. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “dividing the Taiwanese people from the Chinese people.” — considering that, at the time of this Global Survey report, only 7.4 % of respondents wanted reunification with China, it seems that most Taiwanese people themselves are satisfied with remaining divided from the PRC, even without FOARP planting the seed. That, however, is I suspect quite different from whether they consider themselves “Chinese people”, although the survey does not address this.

    “it belongs to the fate of the whole people of Taiwan.” — that sounds about right to me. And “bilateral self-determination” would seem to be an oxymoron.

  39. Chops Says:

    North Korea is worst off economically than Taiwan,
    but its not clamoring for reunification, and some former East Germans don’t think reunification benefited them.

    http://germany.suite101.com/article.cfm/east_germans_20_years_after_fall_of_berlin_wall

    So unless there is real tangible benefits to the Taiwanese from reunification, status quo for Taiwan is probably here to stay.

  40. Rhan Says:

    It is either all Chinese or limits it to aborigines. 本省人 or 外省人 is never true Taiwanese, they merely want to be more Taiwanese than the true Taiwanese to grab power and wealth. I respect DPP uphold of democracy thanks to the openness and tolerant of Jiang Jingguo, but at the same time I despise their racial division ideology with ulterior motive just to enrich themselves.

    “We can take the other argument and continue to reduce it until only pure-blooded aborigines can vote.”

    So Steve, you comment have higher quality than my? (Haha, i am only joking)

  41. FOARP Says:

    @Steve – Just so. Taiwan is now divided from the mainland, the very fact that anyone can suggest a referendum on independence stems from that, so to suggest that a group of people who are neither qualified to decide Taiwan’s fate by education and experience nor personally interested in the outcome be included in such a referendum merely because of racial type is ridiculous. My thought experiment of a 本省人-only referendum* is along the same lines.

    *How would they tell the difference between 本省人 and 外省人? I guess only those who arrived at the voting booth in T-Shirt and flip-flops riding 5 to a scooter would be allowed in. You get two votes if your teeth are stained red with betel-nut and four if you are dressed as/accompanied by a
    檳榔西施

  42. Josef Says:

    @FOARP. If you let Kinmen vote on unification today, you could have that today.
    My opinion about Northern Ireland you could find in Barny Chan’ collapsed comment (“..think it was barmy to have a divided Ireland”), but you are correct: I have no knowledge about Northern Ireland. I have much knowledge about other public votes after WWI concerning the slicing of Austria-Hungary, but there I would be standing alone. So I used Northern Ireland as an example to reject a similar procedure for Taiwan, (which might be a bad example, I apologize).

  43. r v Says:

    The emergence of a new and independent “Taiwanese identity” is complete media propaganda, and one that only started in the last 3 decades.

    It is nothing more than a mix of racist stereotypes mixed in with local mob mentality of “this is our turf”.

    As for the benefit to Taiwan, let’s just say that no offense, Mainland China has been bending backwards to give economic benefits to Taiwan.

    And it is economic reality, an Island like Taiwan cannot survive in economic competition without benefits from mainland China, sitting about 100 miles away. By that fact alone, Taiwan will be invariably influenced by mainland China significantly.

    And let’s be frank, and this is not intended as a threat, an independent Taiwan hostile to China’s domestic policies and domestic form of government will become an economic/military/political competitor for mainland China, and as such, mainland China will treat Taiwan with “vigorous competition.”

    On the other hand, if Taiwan is a part of China, then like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan will retain benefits in relative status quo. (more than that, democracy, etc. That would be outside of anyone’s prediction.)

    As I said, these are simple economic reality.

    If Taiwan puts up the wall of independence, it will only seal itself in.

  44. Josef Says:

    China Post, Taipei Times and Taiwan News published a survey today “Japan Taiwan’s favorite country”

    http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/arts-&-leisure/2010/03/23/249555/Most-Taiwanese.htm
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2010/03/24/2003468824
    http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1210138&lang=eng_news&cate_img=logo_taiwan&cate_rss=TAIWAN_eng

    But to give a complete picture, the (nearly) identical articles in China Post and Taipei Times also quote:
    “However, Japan lagged behind China — 31 percent to 33 percent — as the most important country with which Taiwan should try to seek closer relations, the survey found. The U.S. was a distant third at 16 percent.”
    Interesting to point out is, that people who are critical to the ECFA remark, that in case it is rejected by the Taiwanese people, an alternative must be found, which is often then seen in Japan.

  45. Steve Says:

    @ Josef #44: I wonder if the phrasing of the question affects the answer. The most important country with which to seek closer relations might slant the answer towards a country that where your relations aren’t close. Taiwan’s relations with Japan and the USA are already close, so using the word “closer” might have skewed the results. I know when I was studying political polling in college, the wording of the question determined the answer more than any other factor.

  46. A Taiwanese working in Europe Says:

    Majority of us doesn’t want to be part of China in the future. We are Taiwan. And keep in mind, the numbers are the way they are, because a huge country is pointing missiles at us threatening to start a bloody war, if we dare to “misbehave”. We don’t want to lose our freedoms and democracy and get CPC officials running our business, imprisoning people and sending another batch of Mainlanders to settle in our country. Their train drove off in 1949. They have Hainan, why the heck do they still want Taiwan? I give you a hint: They’re evil, that’s why.

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