Achieving a consensus on how Taiwanese view the China threat and US security commitments to Taiwan would be challenging for president-elect William Lai (賴清德), a US academic said in an article published on Wednesday.
In an article in Foreign Policy, Timothy Rich, a professor of political science and director of the International Public Opinion Lab at Western Kentucky University, analyzed how Taiwanese public opinion would affect the incoming administration.
Seoul-based Macromill Embrain Co early last month conducted a survey commissioned by Rich, garnering valid responses from 1,213 Taiwanese voters.
Photo: Ng Han Guan, AP
More than 60 percent of respondents were “moderately,” “very” or “extremely” concerned about an invasion by China, Rich said, citing the survey.
The results were divided along party lines, with 46.85 percent of respondents who said they backed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) being “not at all” or “slightly” concerned, while 43.23 percent of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters were “very” or “extremely” concerned, Rich said, adding that responses from Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) supporters “fell in between.”
The divergence in opinion indicates that “the Lai administration will struggle to build a consensus on the China threat,” he said.
More than 60 percent were “not at all” or “not very” confident that the US would defend Taiwan if China were to launch a war against the nation, he said.
The survey showed a partisan split — with 22.44 percent of DPP supporters “very” confident and 50.39 percent “fairly” confident that Washington would honor security commitments to Taiwan, he said.
Among KMT supporters, 77.6 percent were “not at all” or “not very” confident in US promises, while 69.43 percent of TPP supporters gave the same responses, he said.
The high confidence that the US would provide support among DPP supporters might be because they believe that the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) “has received additional private assurances from Washington,” Rich said.
Surveys in the past two years showed similar trends, he added.
Taiwanese across the political spectrum want peace and hope that the “status quo” is maintained, while a growing proportion identify themselves as Taiwanese, annual polls conducted by National Chengchi University showed.
Rich said the Macromill Embrain survey showed that 78.13 percent of KMT supporters believed cross-strait relations over the past year had worsened — with the party blaming Tsai’s administration — while 46.06 percent of DPP supporters agreed.
“Critically for future relations with China and the world, the Lai administration must adopt a posture of strength while not inviting conflict,” Rich said. “This may be a difficult task given the changing composition and views of Taiwanese citizens.”
With no party winning a legislative majority, cross-strait policies might remain moderate even if Lai takes a tough stance against China, he said.
Lai’s government “may not only struggle to pass military spending and reform bills, but also risk mixed messaging — a situation China will be keen to exploit,” he said.
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