Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 8 News List

'Identity problem' is not political

By Hsu Yung-ming徐永明

Taiwan has a high level of consensus on the nation's independent and sovereign status. According to a survey published by the Taiwan Thinktank on Nov. 8 about the public's expectations of the US after President George W. Bush's re-election, more than 70 percent of people regard Taiwan as a sovereign and independent nation. Only 15 percent of people disagreed.

Cross-referencing those results by party membership indicates that support for Taiwan as an independent and sovereign country cuts across the political spectrum. Most people, regardless of their political affiliation, believe in it.

Since Taiwan's presidential election this year, people have said that Taiwan has a problem of political identity. But, according to this survey, as many as 62 percent of people agree with the sentiments expressed in President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) Double Ten National Day speech in which he said that "Taiwan is the Republic of China (ROC) and the ROC is Taiwan."

Only 20 percent disagreed. This indicates that there may be a need to correct the conventional wisdom about Taiwan's "identity problem." The nation's identity problem may not be based on recognition of Taiwan's sovereignty, but rather on differences between various classes and political parties. Based on another cross-referencing of figures, more than half of respondents agreed with this theory, also regardless of their political affiliation.

Prior to Chen's Oct. 10 speech, there were actually discussions within the KMT about whether to use the formulation that "Taiwan is the ROC and the ROC is Taiwan" as a platform for the party's next phase of development.

It is a pity that the Central Standing Committee of the KMT did not adopt it. The survey can remind political parties and political figures that Taiwanese people's attitude to Taiwan sovereignty is maturing, that a stable consensus is being developed and that it is not dependant on political affiliation.

The spokesman of China's Taiwan Affairs Office criticized Taiwan by claiming that the formulation "Taiwan is the ROC; the ROC is Taiwan" is a channel for seeking Taiwan's independence. But, the survey shows Taiwanese people do not see it this way.

The survey shows that 57 percent of people think that this formulation is a description of Taiwan's current situation, 24 percent do not know due to their unfamiliarity with the issue, and 18 percent believe that it is a proposition of Taiwan's independence. When we said that Taiwan's identity crisis is in the past, we assumed that Taiwan and the ROC are two conflicting political symbols. But Taiwanese people have a substantial acceptance of the consolidation of these two concepts.

People used to believe that this formulation was simply a platform of one or another political party, but this survey indicates that the understanding of the Taiwanese people has changed. They now believe that this is a description of Taiwan's current situation, and this is an opinion that transcends political factions and educational background.

According to the same survey, 57 percent of people regard themselves as Taiwanese, close to 20 percent think they are both Taiwanese and Chinese, and only 14 percent think they are Chinese. Such findings conform to a long-term trend in which the proportion of people who identify themselves as Taiwanese is increasing.

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