Ever since Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was nominated as the party’s presidential candidate, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has been challenging her on cross-strait issues. However, the KMT should realize that cross-strait policy might not be that important and focusing on it might not take the party anywhere.
Since Tsai declared that her cross-strait policy would be to maintain the “status quo” and push for cross-strait exchanges on the condition of an equal footing, KMT politicians — including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) — have been pressing her to elaborate on what she means by “maintaining the status quo,” while calling on her to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Although KMT lawmakers believe that the issue of cross-strait relations will play a key role in January’s presidential and legislative elections, it is really not that important for Taiwanese voters.
According to the results of an opinion poll conducted by the Taiwan Brain Trust and released on Wednesday, only 5.9 percent of respondents said that cross-strait relations are something the next president should prioritize.
So what do voters want the next government to focus on? As many as 62.9 percent of respondents said they wanted an emphasis on economic development, 12.4 percent said government efficiency should be improved, and 8.8 percent said social fairness and justice should be a priority. The issue of cross-strait relations was identified as the fourth-most important issue.
Most Taiwanese know that the cross-strait “status quo” might not change any time soon and there are more pressing issues — such as low salaries, rising living costs, high property prices, food safety and inefficient government — that they would rather see resolved as soon as possible.
The majority of Taiwanese want the nation to become independent, yet they are concerned that a formal declaration of independence might provoke a Chinese invasion. Therefore, at the moment, they would rather Taiwan remain a de facto nation.
A similar pattern can be seen in various opinion polls. No matter which organization conducts the poll, the option of “maintaining the status quo” always receives the most support. However, when the “maintaining the status quo” option is taken out and respondents are asked to choose between “Taiwanese independence” and “unification with China,” the majority of respondents go for “Taiwanese independence” instead.
The Taiwan Brain Trust poll also garnered similar results: While 61.4 percent of respondents said that Taiwan should become an independent nation, only 12.3 percent supported unification with China. Also, 87 percent of respondents identified themselves as “Taiwanese,” while only 6.1 percent considered themselves “Chinese.”
This is perhaps why Tsai declared that she would strive to maintain the cross-strait “status quo,” and her declaration has won the support of more than 50 percent of respondents in every opinion poll conducted since.
As the DPP advocates Taiwan’s de jure independence, some people might fear that voting for the DPP could provoke a Chinese invasion. However, now that Tsai has promised to maintain the “status quo,” people should have nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, the KMT might exacerbate people’s fears if it keeps promoting closer ties with Beijing.
If the KMT is smart, it would stop talking about cross-strait relations and focus on domestic issues.
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