China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 18, 2016
Executive Summary: If the Mainland truly seeks a meeting of the minds, the ball is clearly not in Taiwan's court. Taiwan society has undergone economic modernization and political democratization. It has gradually evolved into a mature civilized society. If the Mainland truly seeks peaceful reunification, it must minimize conflict with Taiwan. It must also follow Xi Jinping's advice: "To be a blacksmith, one must harden oneself”. It must continue to promote reform. Its own progress will promote cross-Strait integration and reunification.
Full Text Below:
People's views on national identity and reunification vs. independence, are key indicators of Taiwan's political evolution. They are also an important indicator of the effectiveness of the Mainland's Taiwan policy. Recent indicators however, may leave the Mainland very disappointed.
This is especially true for the last eight years. Greatly improved cross-Strait relations have not brought about a shift in sentiment regarding reunification vs. independence. Instead they have widened the gap even further. Substantively speaking, fewer and fewer people advocate reunification. They consider themselves Taiwanese only, and hope to eventually move toward independence. At least more and more people hope to maintain the status quo indefinitely.
The most recent polls show that shift at a record high. People who consider themselves Taiwanese only, has increased from 44% over the past 20 years to 73%. People who consider themselves Chinese, on the other hand, have fallen to 11%. Regarding reunification vs. independence, 46% would maintain the status quo indefinitely. Those who advocate immediate independence on the other hand, have increased 8% since 2015.
In the past, observers assumed this was the result of the People's Republic of China government monopolizing the right to represent one China. Many on Taiwan did not identify with the PRC. Therefore they refused to identify with China. But according to recent findings by another publication, even if the two sides were represented by the ROC, those who favor reunification would still be under 30%, while those who oppose reunification, would be as high as 60%. If the two sides were represented by the People's Republic of China, then those who favor reunification would be limited to a mere 9.2%. Obviously, even having the Republic of China represent the whole of China, is no longer a vision on Taiwan. Never mind being unified by the Mainland.
That said, the Mainland need not be utterly discouraged by public opinion on Taiwan. A survey conducted by the Academia Sinica in late 2015 offers another perspective. That poll shows 46.4% of the public favoring independence. But when asked "What do you see in the future? Reunification, or independence?”, most people, 49.7%, expected to be reunified by the Mainland. Only 35.9% expect Taiwan to become independent. Not only that, even 37% of those who favor Taiwan independence, expect to be reunified by the Mainland. Among those who expressed no preference, 51.3% expect to be reunified. In other words, many people may not be willing to be reunified, but rational considerations convince them that reunification is inevitable.
Why did these two polls yield different, even contradictory results? First of course, is the contradiction between ideals and reality. Changes in reunification vs. independence sentiment show that most people do not share the Mainland's longing for reunification. In the minds of the public, the image of the Mainland is remains largely negative. This may not be solely the consequence of long-term anti-Mainland propaganda. The Mainland's political system is coercive and unstable. This makes people on Taiwan, accustomed to freedom and a democratic way of life, uncomfortable.
Young people in particular, are the most emotionally distant from the Mainland. Part of this is the result of de-Sinicization indoctrination. But part of it is that they are accustomed to living in a democracy. The Mainland has a different political system and lifestyle. It is easy to feel a much greater sense of alienation than the previous generation. They cannot understand or sympathize with the Mainland's way of dealing with social and political problems. Still less can they feel a sense of closeness.
But reason will lead them to make the proper adjustments. When most people on Taiwan expect reunification, they are likely to undergo two stages of psychological conversion. Stage one will of course be resistance –- resistance even greater than revealed in current polls. But if resistance proves ineffective, realistic considerations will lead many to adjust to the Mainland.
In other words, at this stage the percentage of people opposed to reunification may have reached new highs. But if after a period of emotional see-sawing, the Mainland remains attractive, practical considerations will override emotional considerations. People will accept their inevitable fate, and do their best to adapt to them.
In any event, these polls are a warning for the Mainland. On the one hand, they remind it that even if reunification is possible, many problems will still need to be resolved. The impact of concessions at this stage is limited. On the other hand, they should also encourage the Mainland. Do not allow a temporary setback to discourage you. Stick to your guns until the tide of public opinion turns.
If the Mainland truly seeks a meeting of the minds, the ball is clearly not in Taiwan's court. Taiwan society has undergone economic modernization and political democratization. It has gradually evolved into a mature civilized society. If the Mainland truly seeks peaceful reunification, it must minimize conflict with Taiwan. It must also follow Xi Jinping's advice: "To be a blacksmith, one must harden oneself”. It must continue to promote reform. Its own progress will promote cross-Strait integration and reunification.
兩岸關係大幅提升卻沒有帶來統獨觀念的此消彼長， 反而進一步拉大了統獨的民意差距。具體來說， 認為自己是中國人並主張統一的人越來越少，認為自己只是台灣人， 並且希望走向獨立、或者至少永遠維持現狀的人則越來越多。
民眾自認是台灣人的比率已經從20年前的4成4大幅成長為目前的 7成3，覺得自己是中國人的比率，則大降到1成1。 統獨立場方面，4成6的民眾主張台灣應永遠維持現狀， 同時主張急獨與緩獨的人已較2015年增加8個百分點。
因為大陸的中華人民共和國已經壟斷了「一中」的代表權， 所以許多台灣人因為不願認同PRC而不認同中國。 但根據另一份最新公布的調查結果， 若兩岸同屬一中指的是中華民國，支持者也還是不到3成， 不支持的卻高達6成，至於一中是指中華人民共和國的話， 那支持率更是只有9.2%。顯然，即便中華民國一統全中國， 也已經不再是台灣人願景，遑論被大陸統一。
院所做的調查提供了另一種檢視的角度，在那份民調中雖有高達46 .4%的民眾選擇「獨立」，但在「預期未來統獨走向」的問題上， 認為「被統一」卻最多，高達49.7%，認為將來會「獨立」 的人則僅剩35.9%。不僅如此，即便是主張獨立的人，其中也有 37%認為未來會「被統一」，而選擇中間立場的人，認為會「 被統一」的更高達51.3%。換句話說， 雖然相當多人不願意統一， 但理性評估還是認為未來統一趨勢不可避免。
首先這當然是理想與現實的矛盾。現在統獨看法的增減變化， 顯示大家確實不想跟大陸統一的心理願望。 大陸在台灣民眾心中的形象還是以負面為主， 這可能不光是台灣長期以來對大陸的負面宣傳所致， 大陸體制展現出來的強制性和不穩定性， 也讓已經完全習慣自由民主生活方式的台灣人感到不舒服與不適應。
一方面當然跟去中國化教育有關，另一方面， 他們從小就生活在民主體制下， 面對大陸不同的政治制度和生活方式， 很容易表現出遠大於上一代的疏離感， 面對大陸的種種社會問題和政治處理手段， 完全不會產生同情的理解，更不可能有任何的親近感。
當台灣人大部分預期要被統一時，大概要經歷2個階段的心理轉換， 第一階段當然是抗拒，甚至更大程度上的抗拒， 呈現在現有民調上就是更多人的台灣認同。 不過如果這種抗拒後續證明沒有效果之後， 現實考量很多人就會轉換成想辦法趨近中國大陸。
但經一段時間的情感拉鋸後，若大陸的吸引力仍在， 現實的考量還是會壓倒情感上的抗拒， 選擇接受註定不能避免的命運， 並採取積極措施讓自己更好的適應這一結果。
一方面提醒他們就算是有可能實現統一， 後續還是會有很多難題需要處理， 現階段的種種讓利動作產生的作用相當有限。 另一方面這也是在鼓勵大陸，不能因為暫時沒有效果就放棄努力， 堅持下去就可能等到民意翻轉的一天。
台灣社會歷經經濟現代化和政治民主化， 已經逐漸進化成一個成熟的文明社會。 大陸如果真心想實現和平統一， 除了在跟台灣互動時要盡量減少衝突外，還要具體實踐習近平所說「 打鐵還需自身硬」，持續推動改革， 通過自身的進步實現兩岸的融合與統一。