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Taiwanese voters worry about 'forced unification' with China: Report

Study says election cannot be oversimplified to 'anti-China' and 'pro-China' parties



A report by a German think tank has asserted that a major issue in the minds of Taiwanese voters is "forced unification" with China, but the election should not be oversimplified to a choice between pro-China and anti-China camps.

As Taiwan prepares to hold its presidential election next week, the German think tank Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has released a report titled "The Issue is Not Unification, but Forced Unification." This report was co-authored by Sieh Da-wen (謝達文), a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at National Taiwan University, and Lai Yu-fen (賴郁棻), the Program Officer of Digital Transformation at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Global Innovation Hub.

Regarding Taiwan's political parties, the authors said: "One of the biggest misconceptions is that the KMT is pro-China and therefore pro-unification, whereas the DPP is anti-China and therefore pro-independence. That is at best an oversimplification and at worst a complete distortion."

The report pointed out that since the start of Taiwan's democratization, there has been very little in the way of support for "annexation," or what Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders call "re-unification" with only 1.6% of the population currently backing immediate "unification."

In addition, the report said this aversion to annexation explains why Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is "arguably the most pro-China president ever, had reiterated his opposition to unification during his tenure." Ma's policy consisted of “No unification, no independence, no war," the report said.

In an interview with Voice of America, Sieh said that the discussion on China in this presidential election is not about unification or independence, but how to avoid being annexed by China or undergoing "forced unification" and this is the focus of this report. He said: "What the vast majority of voters, more than 90% of them, are thinking about is not that I want unification, so who should I vote for, that's impossible. What they are thinking about is closer to: Will my vote today increase the risk of (Taiwan) being unified (with China) or annexed?"

Sieh said that for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters, the main concern is that Taiwan has finally been able to gradually decouple from China economically and reduce its dependence on China, and reverting to previous policies might increase the risk of economic coercion from Beijing. In addition, they are worried that internationally recognizing the "One China" principle and accepting the so-called "1992 Consensus" as a negotiation prerequisite might be detrimental to international support for Taiwan.

He also said that Kuomintang (KMT) supporters are worried the DPP, due to its ideological stance, is unwilling to engage in dialogue with China, which may potentially increase the risk of war. Therefore, senior KMT figures, including Vice Chair Andrew Hsia (夏立言), and Vice Presidential candidate Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) have come forward to "disinfect" the situation and emphasize that the party has no intention of discussing the issue of unification with China.

According to Sieh, the main purpose he and Lai wrote the report was to convey two key messages to the international audience. First, "there is no market for unification in Taiwan," and second, the election "cannot be generalized as pro-China or anti-China, it's not that simple."

Regardless of the outcome of the election on Jan. 13, Sieh said he wanted to remind foreign observers, foreign media, and analysts not to interpret the election outcome as a sign that the people of Taiwan want to get closer to China or pursue a path toward unification. Instead, he emphasized that the importance of autonomy and independence should not be underestimated.

He said that in every election in Taiwan, the way China is discussed varies. For example, it could be about how Taiwan should counteract China's military threat, economic and trade opportunities, or whether Taiwan should "go west" to do business. It could also touch upon issues related to Taiwan's autonomy and sovereignty or strategies to avoid war.

Sieh emphasized, "The way China issues are framed is very different each time."

TaiwanNews


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