A few days ago I was a guest on the Voice of America television program Issues and Opinions to discuss the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan. The program was broadcast to China and aside from a lively discussion about various issues in the elections, it was made very interesting by many calls from listeners and viewers from all over China.
Here is a brief summary of some of those calls, with the aim of giving some insight into what people in China say and think about relations with Taiwan. Of course, these views are never mentioned by the rulers in Beijing and are also quite at odds with what the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration presents as being the position of the Chinese people.
One questioner from Hubei Province said: “The Taiwanese election is the right of the 23 million people of Taiwan. Right now, we don’t have that right here.”
A second caller from Shanghai said: “I have a suggestion. I think the ROC [Republic of China] should be changed into the People’s Republic of Taiwan.”
A caller from Yunnan Province: “Taiwan is working toward mature democracy. I personally prefer President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but that doesn’t matter, because it is the choice of the 23 million people of Taiwan.”
Another caller from Hubei: “The DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] in the past gave us the impression that they want to go for independence while Ma wants to unify with China. But for Taiwan’s future, you need to find a balance between those two positions. A critical point in finding this balance is keeping a strong democracy. As for the ‘one China’ policy, they will have to change it, because the people in Taiwan and China don’t like it. And the WHO/WHA [World Health Assembly] incident treating Taiwan as a ‘province of China’ shows that Ma has been very weak and inconsistent in his policies.”
A gentleman from Tianjin was rather clear in stating his preference for the Taiwanese presidential election: “Ms Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should become the next president of Taiwan, period.”
A Mr Chang from Hunan Province: “I am going to Taiwan in January, but I will not interfere in the elections. That is for the people in Taiwan to decide.”
A Mr Liu from Hubei: “I support Ma, but in support of him, I do not have the right to decide — that is the right of the 23 million people of Taiwan. If Tsai and the DPP win, they should really know what they are doing, because it is very hard to deal with the [Chinese] Communist Party [CCP].”
A gentleman from Zhejiang Province: “I don’t think we can let President Ma stay in power because if he stays, Taiwan will be swallowed up by China and there will be no more Taiwan. That will be the end of Taiwan.”
This is just a small selection of calls received from China, but it shows that a significant majority of them feel that it is up to the 23 million people of Taiwan to decide their own president. They may have different views on who to support, but several mentioned that this didn’t matter: It is up to the people in Taiwan to decide.
Several viewers from China also felt that Ma had been a weak president, one giving the example of the WHO/WHA episode where the WHO instructed its institutions to refer to Taiwan as a “province of China.” Many of them urged Taiwan to be strong on its democracy and indicated it needs to be firm in resisting pressure from the CCP, otherwise it would be swallowed up by Beijing.