Survey on Cross-strait Relations
Three out of Four Taiwanese Have Sinophobia
How does Taiwan's public really feel about the thaw in cross-strait relations? A CommonWealth Magazine survey uncovers widespread anxiety the current government can ill afford to ignore.
Three out of Four Taiwanese Have SinophobiaBy Jerry Lai
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 430 )
President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has made improving cross-strait relations and intensified economic exchange pillars of its cross-strait policy. This policy thinking could, however, underestimate a popular backlash.
"We can't pretend that everything is all warm and fuzzy between both sides," says Chen Chih-jou, associate research fellow at the Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology. Cross-strait exchange, Chen contends, takes place at three levels: political, economic and social, among which the social aspect has consistently been overlooked.
In an effort to understand the public's reactions, CommonWealth Magazine and Yam.com conducted a joint a survey of Taiwanese people island-wide in July and August. A total of 2,056 questionnaires were tallied. Respondents were asked to provide only one answer to each question. (see tables)
The survey results show that Taiwanese people feel a mixture of love and fear toward China. Many hope that tourists from China will stimulate Taiwan's economy, yet 70 percent of those surveyed felt hesitant to visit major tourism destinations in Taiwan, due to the disorder, garbage and noise mainland Chinese tour groups are perceived to engender. Moreover, the older the respondents, the greater their disgust at mainland Chinese tour groups seems to be.
Especially worth noting is that when asked about concerns over damage to Taiwan's sovereignty due to cross-strait exchanges, the majority of respondents were "very concerned." Combined with those responding "concerned," a total of 70 percent indicated fearfulness over the impact of cross-strait exchange on Taiwan's sovereignty. According to former legislator Lin Chuo-shui, the results indicate the government has failed in its efforts to communicate.
As for the short-term impact of relations with China, the number of respondents who viewed cross-strait interactions over the past year to be largely detrimental outnumbered those who found them largely beneficial. A further 43 percent believe that the current exchanges between Taiwan and China are detrimental to Taiwan over the long term. Cross analysis indicates that this aggregate is not concentrated in any particular region of Taiwan, showing that not just "a small clique in southern Taiwan" is concerned about cross-strait exchange.
Skepticism Grows with Experience
Lin Chuo-shui observes that the more experience people have in society and the more they know about China, the greater their skepticism or fear of China.
While it was previously believed that females take a more conservative position on cross-strait relations, the survey indicates that females are actually more open. Lin Chuo-shui hypothesizes that, since more men than women travel back and forth between Taiwan and China, men are more guarded about cross-strait relations.
There is also a dividing line at the 25-year-old mark. Lin Chuo-shui surmises that younger people, having less experience in society and no family responsibilities, are more open about the future. In contrast, those older than 25 are more likely to fear that their bosses will run off to China and take their job with them. Moreover, the higher their job position and the older their age, the greater respondents' fear that increased contacts with China could result in "business determining policy" and "the private sector forcing the government's hand."
Especially noteworthy, asked about their greatest fear over continued cross-strait contacts, over 60 percent of respondents in northern, central and southern Taiwan were most afraid that "Taiwan's economy will become completely reliant on China."
From the looks of it, Sinophobia, especially the fear that China will strangle Taiwan's economy, has gripped all of Taiwan.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman