Cross-strait relations have become less tense during President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) seven-and-a-half years in office and the easing has caused diplomatic competition between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to relax. Ma is proud of his political accomplishments, but why is the public’s approval rating of his cross-strait policy below 30 percent and its disapproval rating of the president about 60 percent?
This is a result of six imbalances in his cross-strait policy.
First, a long-term TVBS poll showed that in early 2012, about 60 percent of respondents agreed with Ma’s policy of rapprochement with China. His overemphasis on a “cross-strait consensus” over a “Taiwan consensus” has since caused the public to doubt him.
Second, the Ma administration overemphasizes the positive effects of cross-strait economic integration while ignoring the public’s concerns over economic insecurity. The public does not agree that cross-strait economic exchanges have been beneficial to Taiwan. According to the results of four TVBS polls, the percentage of respondents opposing the cross-strait service trade agreement was about 10 percentage points higher than those supporting it.
In addition, 48 percent of respondents said that the agreement would do Taiwan more harm than good, while only 27 percent said the opposite. A poll conducted by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR, 台灣指標民調) showed that 50 percent of respondents thought that the agreement would do Taiwan more harm than good, while slightly more than 20 percent thought it would bring benefits.
Third, the Ma administration overemphasizes corporate benefits and neglects the interests of the public. Three polls conducted by Trend Survey and Search Co found that more than 40 percent of respondents said the government’s cross-strait economic policy was harmful to their finances, while about 20 percent said it was beneficial to them.
A TISR poll showed that about 60 percent of respondents said Taiwanese businesspeople’s Chinese investments did not help Taiwan’s economy, while a poll conducted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) showed that more than 70 percent of respondents said cross-strait economic exchanges were most advantageous to corporations and about 60 percent said exchanges were most disadvantageous to blue-collar workers, farmers and fishermen.
Fourth, Ma said that cross-strait reconciliation has led to a diplomatic truce, but a TVBS poll showed that 56 percent of Taiwanese are dissatisfied with the Ma administration’s diplomatic policy, while 26 percent were satisfied. For example, Taiwan and China signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010, but the government has only been able to sign free-trade agreements with Singapore and New Zealand so far. These two economies account for only 3.8 percent of Taiwan’s trade volume and contribute little to economic growth. This makes the public worry that the economy might become even more dependent on China.
Fifth, appropriate democratic monitoring of cross-strait negotiations and dialogue is still lacking. In addition to interaction between top officials, certain business tycoons follow the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to meet with key Chinese leaders at every KMT-Chinese Communist Party forum.
This might cause Taiwanese to suspect that the meetings and forums were held to benefit conglomerates at the expense of sovereignty and national interests.