Is it any wonder that young Taiwanese are by-and-large unwilling to lay down their lives for national sovereignty? After all, why fight to the death against overwhelming odds for some independence ideal that the rest of the world does not recognize and that the government of the Republic of China (ROC) itself apparently does not support?
The results of a recent groundbreaking survey by the 21st Century Foundation show that almost 60 percent of people born after 1984 said they had the right to refuse conscription in the event of a war with China over independence, while 55.8 percent said taxes should not be increased to buy weapons to enhance national defense. An analysis of the figures suggested that at least 31 percent of those questioned felt Taiwan should surrender rather than mobilize in case of a war.
Media on both sides of the political spectrum are playing up these statistics, but in the end, is it really that much of a surprise?
Why fight for sovereignty when your president does not protect it? President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is happy to have Chinese officials refer to him as Mr Ma, as if he is the general manager of a subsidiary company. He has instructed his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) subordinates to deliver the message to China that the ROC government is willing to accept a “one country, two areas” (一國二區) formula. He is going full speed ahead on cross-strait economic integration, with very little protection of sovereignty.
Why throw your life away on a lost cause when the Constitution itself does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty? Sure it recognizes Chinese sovereignty as represented by the ROC, but who still believes that fiction? It is doubtful even Ma believes in this despite his protestations to the contrary. Taiwan rules itself, but so does Palestine, so does Somaliland and so does Hong Kong (to an extent).
Why die for a country whose ruling political party has entered into closed-door negotiations with the enemy to split the proceeds of eventual unification? KMT-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) summits began in 2005, shortly after the re-election of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on a cross-strait standoff ticket. After failing to win the vote, the KMT went its own way, negotiating with China for help to return to power. The KMT, especially now with Ma at the helm, cannot even rule the country without China’s help. How’s that for independence?
Why fight your employer? Taiwan is autonomous, even sovereign, but it is not independent. It is dependent on China for money, cheap labor, economic growth and as a major market for its exports. Those very exports used to only be high-value-added products such as memory chips and LCDs, but increasingly they are raw goods: fruit, fish and other low-value items. Taiwanese used to mainly earn profits by exporting high-tech goods to China or save money by producing goods there for less, but now China is pouring money into Taiwan with tourists and investments. Real-estate is booming, tourism is soaring and banking is set to become an arm of the Chinese financial empire soon.
Why fight for independence when your elders and leaders have already conceded it? Ma and the KMT are doing their best to erode the nation’s ability to defend itself so that nobody ever makes the dumb move of deciding to fight China. Young people see this and respond in kind.