Taiwanese appear divided over whether the government should allow more Chinese students to return to their studies at local universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll released yesterday by the Grassroots Influence Foundation showed.
The Ministry of Education on Aug. 5 announced that all foreign students could return to their studies in Taiwan, but later that day said that the policy did not include all Chinese students, sparking criticism.
According to the ministry, Chinese students who are to graduate this semester have been allowed to return since July 22.
Photo: Rachel Lin, Taipei Times
Asked if they support the government allowing Chinese students to return to their studies in Taiwan, 43 percent of respondents expressed support, while another 43 percent expressed disapproval, the poll showed.
Asked whether they think that restricting Chinese and other foreign students from returning would endanger the survival of many local universities, 46 percent disagreed, while 32 percent agreed.
Asked whether the government’s policy on Chinese students hinges on political considerations, 48 percent agreed, while 38 percent disagreed.
The poll found that 76 percent of respondents considered the COVID-19 situation in China more serious than in other parts of the world.
Asked whether Taiwan should maintain a confrontational or friendly posture toward China, 64 percent opted for friendly ties, while only 15 percent chose confrontational relations, the poll showed.
Respondents aged 18 to 29, more than other age groups, showed more support for confrontational relations with China, it found.
Despite 46 percent of respondents saying that restricting Chinese and other foreign students from returning would not affect the survival of local universities, foundation poll section convener Chen Sung-po (陳松柏) said that keeping Chinese students from returning could affect the income and operations of many schools.
“Our democracy can be an inspiration to Chinese students,” he said.
Institutions of higher education in Taiwan could lose NT$880 million (US$29.82 million) per year if the government continues to block Chinese students from returning, Private Education Association chairman Tang Yen-po (唐彥博) said.
Taiwan and China are overly sensitive and are politicizing the issue, former Shih Chien University president Michael Chen (陳振貴) said.
Taiwan from Jan. 26 suspended the entry of Chinese students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while China in April stopped Chinese graduates from pursuing further study or work in Taiwan.
China should acknowledge the existence of Taiwan, as well as the difference between their political systems, so that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can peacefully promote academic exchanges under the principles of parity and mutual benefit, he added.
The poll, conducted by the TVBS poll center, collected 1,076 valid samples, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
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