If the presidential election last month had been conducted along the lines of the Occupy movement and its opposition of the 99 percent who are low and middle-income earners to the 1 percent who are wealthy, or along the lines of the opposition between a local economy and the global economy, then it would not have been very surprising to see big business come out in support of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in response to the piggy bank campaign and the support of small and medium businesses for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
In early December last year, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) and Delta Electronics Inc chairman Bruce Cheng (鄭崇華) took the lead in announcing support for Ma, but they did not mention the so-called “1992 consensus.” In late December, Formosa Plastics Corp president Wang Wen-yuan (王文淵), who was said to have come under pressure from Beijing, came out in support of the “1992 consensus,” and he was followed by Evergreen Group founder Chang Yung-fa (張榮發).
On Jan. 11, former United Microelectronics Corp chairman John Hsuan (宣明智) said that he represented 128 leaders from companies in the Hsinchu Science Park and traditional and financial industries, in backing Ma and the “1992 consensus,” to avoid opposition from China and to ensure their industries’ survival. On the eve of the election, HTC chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅) also said she supported the “1992 consensus.” The result of the election was that Ma defeated Tsai by a 6 percentage point margin, more than either side had expected.
Did the outcome of the election really turn on the “1992 consensus”? This view is echoed even inside the DPP by some who believe it has become necessary to amend the Taiwan independence clause in the party charter and the “1999 Resolution on Taiwan’s Future”, and that the party should take a straight look at the “1992 consensus.”
Beginning in late August last year, the Taiwanese Association for Pacific Ocean Development, led by its chairman, You Ying-lung (游盈隆), began conducting a monthly opinion poll to gauge the political climate. In the final week before the election, it did one last poll. These continuous polls are worth taking a good look at when trying to evaluate the effects of debate over the “1992 consensus” on the outcome of the election. Tsai trailed Ma in all six polls: by 0.7 percentage points in the first one, then 9 percentage points, 7.3 percent percentage points, 4.5 percent percentage points and 9 percent percentage points in subsequent polls, in chronological order, and then 7.4 percent percentage points in the final poll.
The difference was smallest in August, but increased to 9 percentage points in September following a controversy over DPP vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan’s (蘇嘉全) farmhouse. This was before big business threw their support behind the “1992 consensus.” When big business began to weigh in early last month, the difference between Ma and Tsai shrank to 7.4 percentage points. After they intensified their efforts during the last week of campaigning, that difference shrank further, to 6 percentage points on election day, which was quite low compared with the difference in October and November last year.
These polls also showed that only 37 percent disagreed with Tsai’s rejection of the “1992 consensus” in September last year, almost the same as the number of respondents that approved of the rejection, 34.7 percent. They also show that only 28.9 percent approved of Chang’s statement in the last week before the election that “without the ‘1992 consensus,’ Taiwan is done for,” while 48.9 percent disapproved. That is quite a difference.