Despite the seemingly peaceful atmosphere across the Taiwan Strait, what appears to the public as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) further tilting toward China during his second term has aggravated people’s anxieties about China and created a sense of urgency for them to speak against cross-strait unification, local political observers said.
Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), a professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Development Studies, said that while China has shown goodwill toward Taiwan since Ma began his second term in May, such as by signing the cross-strait service trade agreement, it has yet to abandon its “fundamental hostility” toward the nation.
“For instance, China has not given up its attempts to suppress Taiwan’s international presence or intimidate the nation with its military superiority, nor has it changed [its ways of] handling cross-strait sovereignty disputes. Several public surveys also show that there is a widespread public perception that China is antagonistic toward Taiwan,” Tung said.
At a time when the majority of Taiwanese are still wary about China, its gestures of goodwill only breed doubts about its motives, Tung said.
“To make matters worse, Ma’s China-leaning stance has become ever more apparent during his second term,” Tung said, citing Ma’s reply to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) congratulatory letter on his re-election as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman in July and his controversial Double Ten National Day speech last month.
Ma said in the reply that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait reached a consensus in 1992 to express each other’s insistence on the ‘one China’ principle,” abandoning the “different interpretations” (各表) phrase that the Taiwanese government usually used when explaining the consensus.
In his National Day address, Ma defined cross-strait relations as “not international relations,” a statement critics said has weakened the nation’s sovereignty and made cross-strait issues an internal matter.
“These incidents have unnerved many in Taiwan, prompting them to speak up and express their opposition to unification [in opinion polls],” Tung said.
According to the latest survey conducted by cable news channel TVBS on the public’s position on cross-strait relations, as many as 71 percent of respondents preferred independence over unification.
Nearly 68 percent of respondents in a separate opinion poll by the Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR) said they opposed making unification with China a national goal should a cross-strait peace treaty be signed.
TISR general manager Tai Li-an (戴立安) said since the service trade treaty was inked in June, the number of respondents to opinion polls who oppose the pact has consistently outnumbered those who support it.