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Mainland Affairs Council

General Policy Archives(1994-2008)

Combined Analysis Report on Public Opinion Surveys on Cross-Strait Relations in 2007

  • Date:2008-01-01

January 1, 2008
Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan

I. Foreword
In order to ensure that the government's formulation of China policy is integrated with public opinion, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has long commissioned academic institutes to conduct public opinion surveys. It has also continued to compile the findings of public opinion surveys conducted by other sectors of society for further analysis and summarization to provide an important basis for the government's policy implementation. Looking back over the past year, important developments in cross-strait relations included President Chen Shui-bian's "four imperatives and one non-issue"; dispute over the Beijing Olympic torch, in which the torch ultimately was unable to come to Taiwan due to China's insistence on dwarfing Taiwan; China's strong interference with the government's active promotion of Taiwan’s bid to join the United Nations to highlight Taiwan-centric consciousness; another record high in Taiwan's China-bound exports and investments; and the failure to reach an agreement to implement the opening up of tourism in Taiwan for Chinese tourists after several rounds of negotiations. These various processes and incidents in cross-strait interactions all have attracted widespread attention among all sectors of society. Public opinion surveys have also focused on related issues, and the public views on cross-strait relations indicated in these survey results are worthy of concern.

II. Combined Analysis of Public Opinion Surveys
This analysis is based on a total of 34 public opinion surveys conducted by various organizations in 2007, including five MAC-commissioned surveys conducted by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University, the China Credit Information Service, and Burke Marketing Research Ltd., as well as 29 surveys conducted by 10 survey organizations. The results of these related public opinion surveys are analyzed as follows:

1. Cross-strait exchanges and negotiations
(1) Views on overall exchanges
Between 35 percent and 41 percent of the public believe that the pace of cross-strait exchanges is "just right"; 29 to 32 percent believe it is "too fast"; and 19 to 23 percent believe it is "too slow." About 60 percent of the public believe cross-strait exchanges are conducive to eliminating cross-strait hostility and strengthening mutual trust.

(2) Views on cross-strait economic and trade exchanges
Regarding restrictions imposed by the government on China-bound investments by Taiwanese businesspeople, between 44 percent and 52 percent of the public believe that such limits should be "slightly tightened" and 30 to 38 percent believe they should be "slightly eased." Additionally, 61 percent of the public believe that the asymmetrical flow of personnel and capital across the Strait is not normal, while 62 percent of the public worry that this kind of irregular exchange and interaction will be detrimental to Taiwan's overall interests. Consequently, over 70 percent of the public believe that the government needs to adopt "proactive management" measures for cross-strait exchanges. Regarding views on direct cross-strait transportation links, 69 to 77 percent of the public agree that direct cross-strait transportation links should be opened conditionally (for example under the principles of national security, dignity and parity), while only about 16 percent of the public believe such links should be opened unconditionally. The public are relatively divided on the question of whether or not increasingly convenient transportation links between Taiwan and China will increase their willingness to go to China for sightseeing, study, employment or residence, with 45 percent of the public responding "Yes" and an equal percentage responding "No."

(3) Views on cross-strait negotiations
Nearly 60 percent (59.2 percent) of the public believe that the consensus reached by the “Economic, Trade and Cultural Forum” held in Beijing between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) cannot be implemented without government-to-government negotiations. As a result, 65 percent of the public believe cross-strait negotiations should be conducted with the government taking initiative so as to ensure that the overall interests of Taiwan can be comprehensively considered. Furthermore, regarding China's assertion that Taiwan should first accept the “one China” principle before both sides can proceed with negotiations, the overwhelming majority (72.2 percent) of the public say this is unacceptable.

2. Future and position of the country
(1) Views on unification vs. independence
When the questionnaire is divided into six parts based on the possible responses to the question, the largest number (35 to 52 percent) of the public support "maintaining the status quo and deciding on independence or unification later." In addition, less than 10 to 21 percent support "maintaining the status quo indefinitely," 11 to 17 percent support "maintaining the status quo and independence later," and less than 13 percent support "maintaining the status quo and unification later." Generally, about 70 to 80 percent (69 to 87 percent) of the public support maintaining the status quo in a broader sense, consistent with the trends of previous surveys. At the same time, only a very small minority (less than 10 to 15 percent) support "independence as soon as possible" or "unification as soon as possible."
When the questionnaire is divided into three parts based on the possible responses to the question, the proportion of people advocating for "maintaining the status quo" (23 to 62 percent) is slightly greater than the proportion advocating for "Taiwan independence" (15 to 45 percent). A smaller percentage (less than 10 to 19 percent) support "cross-strait unification."
When "maintaining the status quo" is omitted as an option and the public are required to choose between "independence" and "unification," over 50 percent of the public (50 to 57 percent) support "Taiwan independence," while 24 to 34 percent support "cross-strait unification," indicating that the proportion advocating for independence is about 25 percentage points higher than the proportion advocating for unification.

(2) Views on the rectification of names
A high percentage of the public (70 to 80 percent) believe that the rectification of names is the internal affair of Taiwan and that China has no right to interfere in or inquire about this matter. Regarding whether the rectification of names will create tensions in cross-strait relations, 50 percent of the public agree that it will create tensions, while 43 percent disagree.

(3) Views on national position
Between 69 percent and 77 percent of the public agree that "Taiwan is an independent sovereign country"; 80 percent believe that the people of Taiwan should determine Taiwan's future; and 76 percent of the public disagree with the view that “all of China's 1.3 billion people should jointly participate in deciding Taiwan's future.” Moreover, a high percentage of the public (85 percent) believe that all agreements signed between Taiwan and China concerning the sovereignty of Taiwan must be approved by the Taiwanese people through a referendum. At the same time, 65 percent of the public disagree with the position that "Taiwan and China belong to one China and share a common destiny"; and 78 percent of the public agree that it is best if Taiwan and China maintain their relations on a state-to-state basis.

(4) Views on Taiwanese self-identity
About 50 percent of the public consider themselves "Taiwanese," 36 to 40 percent identify themselves as "both Taiwanese and Chinese," and less than 10 percent of the public consider themselves "Chinese." Furthermore, when the option—“both Taiwanese and Chinese”—is omitted, the proportion considering themselves "Taiwanese" is 54 to 69 percent, the proportion considering themselves "Chinese" is 11 to 18 percent, and the proportion identifying themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese is less than 10 to 23 percent.

(5) Views on China’s “one country, two systems” formula
Regarding China's stance on resolving the cross-strait issue under the "one country, two systems" formula, the overwhelming majority of the public (55 to 72 percent) disapprove the "one country, two systems" formula, while only a minority of the public (13 to 23 percent) agree.

3. China's attitude toward Taiwan
(1) Public perception of China's hostility toward Taiwan
Between 59 percent and 67 percent of the public believe the Chinese government is unfriendly to the Taiwanese government, while only 17 to 23 percent believe it is friendly. Moreover, 40 to 51 percent of the public believe the Chinese government is unfriendly towards the people of Taiwan. Overally speaking, the percentage of the public believing the Chinese government is unfriendly toward Taiwan is higher than the percentage believing that the Chinese government is friendly toward Taiwan.
As for the Taiwanese people's impression of the Chinese government and people, the survey results indicate that 50 to 70 percent of the public have a negative impression of the Chinese government, and more than half of the public have a negative impression of the Chinese people.

(2) Views on China's "anti-separation law"
74 percent of the public believe China's "anti-separation law" is a hostile action toward the government and people of Taiwan. Moreover, 81 percent of the public disagree or do not accept the position of the "anti-separation law" that "Taiwan is a part of China" and that "Taiwan and China must unify," and a high percentage of the Taiwanese public (91 percent) disagree with the Chinese authorities on changing the cross-strait status quo through non-peaceful means. Furthermore, the vast majority of the public (56 to 63 percent) also believe that since China enacted its so-called "anti-separation law," it has intensified diplomatic and military suppression against Taiwan in the international arena; and 66 percent of the public believe that China should abolish the "anti-separation law" for the sake of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

(3) Views on China's use of force against Taiwan
Over 60 percent of the public believe that China's military expansion already poses a threat to Taiwan's security. They also believe that Beijing is single-mindedly intent on annexing Taiwan and therefore it will not compromise on the issue involving Taiwan's sovereignty. As such, the Taiwanese people should no longer harbor any false illusions about China.

4. Development of diplomatic relations and participation in international organizations
(1) Views on cross-strait relations and diplomatic relations
About 34 percent of the public support prioritizing the development of cross-strait relations, about 32 percent of the public support prioritizing the development of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and other countries, and 19 to 31 percent of the public believe both are equally important. Overally speaking, the public is roughly split evenly on the issue of whether to prioritize the development of cross-strait relations or diplomatic relations. However, when further asked if the development of diplomatic relations will cause tensions in cross-strait relations, the vast majority of the public (64 to 68 percent) agree that the government should continue to develop diplomatic relations.
Furthermore, with regard to the Chinese government's incessant suppression of Taiwan's participation in the international community as well as China’s peremptory actions to wrest away Taiwan's diplomatic allies, 62 percent of the public feel indignant about China's suppressive actions against Taiwan, including China’s use of money diplomacy to snatch away Taiwan's diplomatic ally Costa Rica. Moreover, 64 percent of the public believe China should bear responsibility for the deterioration in cross-strait relations, and a high percentage of the public (78 percent) believe China's statement that it "will do anything that is beneficial to the people of Taiwan" is not consistent with Beijing's actions and is aimed at deceiving the Taiwanese people.

(2) Views on Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations (UN)
Between 70 percent and 80 percent of the public disagree with or cannot accept China's statement that, "Taiwan must gain China's approval to join any international organizations," and that "As a part of China, Taiwan is not qualified to join the UN." Moreover, the survey results indicate that the majority of the public (accounting for an average of over 70 percent) not only strongly agree that “Taiwan should seek the UN membership under the name of Taiwan” but they also believe that the government's promotion of Taiwan’s UN bid will help safeguard Taiwan's national security. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of the public (70 to 85 percent) believe that the Chinese authorities’ attempts to obstruct Taiwan's participation in international organizations have had a negative effect on cross-strait relations.
Regarding Taiwan’s planned referendum on its UN bid, 36 to 72 percent of the public agree with holding the referendum and 24 to 41 percent disagree, indicating that the proportion of the public supporting the referendum is greater than the proportion disagreeing. Moreover, about 70 percent of the public believe that the referendum is an internal affair of Taiwan, that the United States has no right to interfere, and that Taiwan does not need to take into account the United States’ attitude. Additionally, 56 to 78 percent of the public still agree to continue holding the referendum even if the US government opposes.

(3) Views on allowing the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan
If China stops dwarfing Taiwan, a high percentage of the Taiwanese public (70 to 80 percent) agree to allow the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan, and 73 percent support the government to continue negotiations with Beijing to enable the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan. Furthermore, if Beijing refers to the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) of Taiwan and Taiwan’s athletic delegation as “Chinese Taipei” in Chinese moniker, over 70 percent of the public will agree to allow the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan; and if Olympic Torch relay route through Taipei is designated as the overseas relay route, not China’s domestic route, nearly 60 percent of the public will agree to allow the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan.
Regarding Beijing's demand that the national flag, national emblem, and national anthem of the Republic of China (ROC) cannot be displayed during the process of the Torch relay activities, as high as 87 percent of the public believe this is unreasonable, and 64 percent of the public will disagree with allowing the Olympic Torch to come to Taiwan if such restrictions are stipulated.

III. Conclusion
Overally speaking, during the past year, the trend of public opinion in Taiwan may be summarized into the following several characteristics:

1. Promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations is the main theme of public opinion.
The Taiwanese public regard "promoting cross-strait relations" as one of the top-five issues that government leaders need to resolve in the future. Finding ways to pursue cross-strait peace and stability through exchanges and interactions is the goal and expectation of the Taiwanese public regarding the development of cross-strait relations. The Taiwanese public’s perception of China is that the Beijing authorities are unfriendly to the government and people of Taiwan. At the end of 2007, the percentage of the public believing that China is hostile to the government and people of Taiwan reached a new high (66.8 percent and 50.6 percent, respectively). China has deployed over 1,300 missiles targeting at Taiwan and has drafted an "anti-separation law" to provide a legal basis for using force against Taiwan. China’s such actions not only entirely run counter to China's claim of "firmly grasping the theme of the peaceful development of cross-strait relations," but they also render ineffective China's policy of winning over public opinion in Taiwan by "placing hopes on the Taiwan people." China should give up its hostility toward Taiwan and make joint efforts with Taiwan in promoting the positive development of cross-strait relations. This would accord with the theme of the Taiwanese people's hope for cross-strait peace.

2. Public opinion highlights Taiwanese identity and insistence on Taiwan-centric consciousness.
The overwhelming majority of the public agree that "Taiwan is an independent sovereign country" (China Times: 74.9 percent; Taiwan Thinktank: 75.6 percent), that "The future of Taiwan should be decided by the Taiwanese people " (Taiwan Thinktank: 79.5 percent), that "Taiwan is not a part of the People's Republic of China" (Institute for National Policy Research: 77.3 percent; Taiwan Thinktank: 79 percent), and that "China has no right to inquire into or interfere with Taiwan's internal affairs (such as name-rectification campaign and constitutional reform)" (Taiwan Thinktank: 81.9 percent). Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the public disagree with China's stance on resolving the cross-strait issue under the "one country, two systems" formula. Public opinion surveys also indicate that national identity in Taiwan has already achieved a majority consensus and is the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. Public opinion in Taiwan also clearly rejects the framework of the "one China" principle which has been imposed by China as a precondition for handling cross-strait issues.

3. Public opinion continues to support expansion of Taiwan's international space.
The Taiwanese public believe that since Taiwan has an independent national sovereignty, they ardently hope that the international community will respect Taiwan's participation in international activities under the name of "Taiwan" as well as their right to enjoy the same basic human rights that are enjoyed by the people of other countries. Over 70 percent of the public support "joining the UN under the name of 'Taiwan'." This is also the heartfelt wish and expectation of the overwhelming majority of the Taiwanese people. Additionally, more than half of the public approve holding a "referendum on Taiwan’s UN bid." Even in the face of China’s strong pressure and the United States’ overt opposition, the Taiwanese public still support demonstrating their unswerving will to join the United Nations through a referendum. Public opinion surveys also indicate that the Taiwanese people are unsatisfied with China's diplomatic suppression and attempts to snatch away all of Taiwan's diplomatic allies. Furthermore, if developing diplomatic relations will cause tensions in cross-strait relations, the majority of the Taiwanese people agree that the government should continue to develop diplomatic relations. These figures demonstrate that the Taiwanese people hope that Taiwan can have more international space and be more active on the international stage; and that external opposition forces cannot affect the public’s continued support for Taiwan’s efforts in further deepening its democracy.

4. Public opinion expects the balanced development of cross-strait economic and trade exchanges.
There have always been highly polarized debates in Taiwanese society over the impact on Taiwan caused by the increasing cross-strait trade interdependency. Based on public opinion surveys, it is observed that there seems to have existed divergence of opinion over economic and trade issues. The public not only believe that the asymmetrical flow of capital across the Strait is not normal, but they also worry that this kind of exchange and interaction will be detrimental to Taiwan's overall interests. As such, they hope that the Taiwanese government can adopt "proactive management" measures for cross-strait exchanges. On the other hand, however, there is a gradual upward trend in the percentage of the public believing that restrictions imposed by the Taiwanese government on China-bound investments by Taiwanese businesspeople should be "slightly eased." The Taiwanese public tend to favor easing restrictions on "the opening up of tourism in Taiwan for Chinese tourists" and "investments in Taiwan by Chinese enterprises," indicating that they believe that the current tilt toward China in cross-strait economic and trade relations should be balanced. Moreover, under the precondition of safeguarding Taiwan's overall interests, the Taiwanese people hope that the opening up of tourism in Taiwan for Chinese tourists and other economic and trade exchanges can be implemented in a gradual manner. This shows the pragmatic side of Taiwanese public views on cross-strait economic and trade interactions.

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2008