Apr 27, 2011

Taiwan: Deeper Cross-Strait Ties But Independence Still Key

A poll shows that deeper economic ties with the People’s Republic have not lead to a decrease in the support for independence of Taiwan among its citizens

Below is an article published by the Taipei Times: 

Sixty-two percent of respondents are concerned about a crisis of political autonomy and increased difficulty maintaining the “status quo” because of deeper economic exchanges with China, according to a recent public opinion survey published by the Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology. 

The survey also showed that the allure of economic benefits had not changed people’s national identification. 

On the question of unification with China, respondents said China’s booming economy had not produced within them a greater identification with the country. Asked what they thought about unification if there were to be significant economic and political cross-strait developments, 21 percent of respondents said they thought it would be a good idea, representing a drop from last year’s figure. However, opposition to unification has risen to 66 percent. 

In addition, 47 percent of respondents supported Taiwanese independence, while identification with Taiwan has shown no sign of falling. 

The results of the survey were announced during a seminar entitled “The China Effect in Taiwan,” with academics Jay Chen (陳志柔), Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), Lin Thung-hong (林宗弘) and Chang Mau-kuei (張茂桂) attending. 

The survey represents the preliminary findings of research into the impact on Taiwanese society of cross-strait relations over the past few years. 

Wu, presenting a paper on the political effects of China’s rise, said the Taiwanese public has already developed a sense of political and community independence, and despite many people advocating closer economic relations with China, this has not affected their political or community identification. 

However, Wu said that 61 percent of survey respondents believe that it will be more difficult for Taiwan to maintain the “status quo” as cross-strait economic relations become closer. 

Also, people were universally concerned about a crisis of political autonomy, irrespective of their national affiliation. Furthermore, 74 percent of people who identified themselves with Taiwan felt these concerns. 

According to the survey, 60 percent of respondents believed that unification with China would become easier with closer cross-strait economic relations, while 69 percent thought asserting Taiwanese independence would become more difficult under similar conditions. 

Wu said the stronger allure of China over the past few years had done little to change people’s national affiliations. 

People also believed that economic ties were no “free lunch,” and that economic relations would not only make it impossible to maintain the status quo, but would also restrict political freedom of choice. 

Chen, a research associate at the Academia Sinica, said the survey also found that in terms of social background, the young and the middle-aged, as well as people of relatively low socio-economic status, tended to oppose further trade and social ties with China. In terms of gender, women tended to be less positive about cross-strait cultural and social exchanges than men. 

Chang, talking of the impact of Chinese tourists, said that 39 percent of respondents expressed a negative impression, although as many as 24 percent had a positive impression. 

Lin, a research associate, focused on the support of political parties, saying that people who benefited from cross-strait trade tended to be pan-blue supporters, while those concerned with rising unemployment or the widening wealth disparity tended to support the pan-green camp.