A recent survey jointly conducted by the Chinese-language China Times and the Global Times claims that a majority of Taiwanese and Chinese support cooperation between Taiwan and China to resolve the dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — which Tokyo calls the Senkaku Islands.
Before Taiwan sets sail for the contested islets and claims its rightful property, let’s take a closer look at the numbers and what they really say. And prior to that, it would be useful to pause for a second and restate a few caveats: The China Times is owned by the Want Want China Times Group, whose chairman — Taiwan’s wealthiest person — Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), made his fortune in China and is a known supporter of Beijing.
For its part, the Global Times is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party and has a long tradition of publishing highly nationalistic, and oftentimes militaristic, propaganda. It cannot be trusted to honestly handle an opinion poll.
So here it goes: According to the poll, 85.3 percent of the 1,502 people interviewed in China are in favor of cooperation with Taiwan on the Diaoyutais, while 8.8 percent are against it. In Taiwan, 51.1 percent of the 1,500 people polled said they approved of cooperating with China, while 27.5 percent opposed it.
Of course, it would have been helpful if a definition of “cooperation” had been provided, which it was not. This is not unimportant, as Chinese claims to the Diaoyutais stem from strong nationalistic sentiment and historical grievances vis-a-vis the Japanese, emotions that for the most part do not apply to Taiwanese, who continue to regard Japanese as friends and a source of cultural and artistic emulation. Moreover, with the exception of a small clique of ardent and self-appointed Diaoyutai nationalists, the great majority of Taiwanese could not care less about the fate of the islets in the East China Sea.
Hence, resolving the conflict could very well mean different things for Taiwanese and Chinese respondents. For the Chinese, resolution probably means taking over the Diaoyutais and their surrounding waters; for Taiwanese, it likely means some form of accommodation between all the parties involved.
The same survey then tells us that up to 90.8 percent of Chinese respondents support military action against Japan over the Diaoyutais, if necessary, to resolve the conflict, and that 41.2 percent of Taiwanese also support use of force. While it is very likely that more than nine in 10 Chinese would support military action to defend their country’s claims to the islands, it is difficult to see how more than four in 10 Taiwanese would favor force of arms to resolve the matter.
As with the previous question, it boils down to differences in one’s definition of “force,” or it is sheer misrepresentation on the pollsters’ part, perhaps stemming from a skewed selection of respondents. Taiwanese simply do not care enough about the sovereignty of the Diaoyutais to risk going to war — a war they know they would certainly lose — against their longstanding ally Japan.
The timing of the release of the poll is itself suspicious, coming as it does amid calls by Beijing for Taiwan to cooperate with it in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. More than once in recent weeks, official Chinese media have alleged that “Taiwanese compatriots” were working with China on territorial claims, using isolated incidents involving a handful of Taiwanese to justify such claims.
The Taiwanese government has repeatedly said it would not cooperate with China on the disputes. Could it be that pro-China media are using public opinion polls to pressure Taipei into changing its position?
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that