According to a study by National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center (ESC, 國立政治大學選舉研究中心), a survey in December last year showed that 53 percent of respondents considered themselves to be Taiwanese, 39 percent viewed themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese, while only 3.6 percent believed they were Chinese.
The results show that divisions in terms of identification with a particular ethnic group exist in Taiwan, but little attention has been paid to how this affects people’s views on everyday issues.
Tensions between South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic tournament added to the excitement for many. A survey conducted by the ESC’s PollcracyLab from March 6 to March 8 among young adults throughout Taiwan found that whenever Taiwan played, no matter who they were playing against, respondents universally supported Taiwan.
When the US played China, almost 82 percent of respondents identifying themselves as Taiwanese did not want China to win, while almost 60 percent of respondents who self-identified as Taiwanese and Chinese or Chinese rooted for China.
When China and Japan met, almost 90 percent of respondents identifying themselves as Taiwanese wanted Japan to win, while 60 percent of respondents from the other two groups wanted China to beat Japan.
In games in which South Korea — generally believed to be Taiwan’s archrivals in baseball — played China, there was another dynamic: Although overall people in Taiwan generally wanted South Korea to be beaten by China, almost 40 percent of respondents identifying themselves as Taiwanese still did not want to see China win, unlike those who regarded themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese, or just Chinese, who wanted a victory for China.
These results show that people in Taiwan who view themselves as Taiwanese have very little emotional connection with China and are more likely to side with the US or Japan when they play China, with four in every 10 even preferring to see South Korea defeat them. Also, those identifying themselves exclusively as Chinese supported China, no matter who their opponents were.
This tells us that people in Taiwan who identify with different ethnic groups have varying hopes for the outcomes when they watch international tournaments. This divergence in ethnic identification, and its impact, extends into other aspects of everyday life such as values, opinions and prejudices, and are not solely restricted to politics.
Yang Pai-yuel is a former research assistant at National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center.
Translated by Paul Cooper