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'Social resistance' emerges in Taiwan against China: expert

2018/03/07 23:34:10

Wu Jieh-min (吳介民, right)

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) In the face of a rising China, a "social resistance" has emerged in Taiwan against Chinese President Xi Jinping's (習近平) Chinese dream of bringing about national rejuvenation during his term, a Taiwanese expert on China affairs said Wednesday.

Wu Jieh-min (吳介民), an associate research fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, said that the social resistance is a "collective" phenomena in the Taiwan society and the embodiment of its people's desire and pursuit of a Taiwan-centered identity.

The Chinese dream Xi has aimed to achieve -- "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" in his words -- is termed in the academic community as "Chinese empire," Wu said at a forum hosted by the Taiwan Research Fund to mark the 30th anniversary of its establishment.

Taiwanese people have put up "social resistance" because Xi has forcefully engaged Taiwan in his plan to build a Chinese empire regardless of what Taiwanese think, Wu said.

Wu, who leads a research team at the Institute of Sociology to study the influences exerted by China over Taiwan on various fronts, or so-called "China factors," said his team has conducted surveys on how people predicted Taiwan's future in addition to their preferences regarding the issue.

According to last year's survey, 40 percent of the respondents opted for "independence," 17 percent favored "unification with China," while 43 percent chose a middle-ground position, when they were asked about their choices, Wu said.

When asked about their forecast for Taiwan's future, 48 percent were of the view that Taiwan would be unified by China, 37 percent believed that Taiwan can become an independent nation, while only 16 percent said that Taiwan would manage to maintain status quo, Wu said.

The gap between public expectations and perceived futures showed anxiety in a majority of people in Taiwan over "Taiwan being forced into unification with China," he said.

Wu said that anxiety is "not necessarily a bad thing" for Taiwan because it could generate momentum for democratization and heighten people's vigilance of China's attempts to bring Taiwan into its fold on its terms, but it could also wield influences on the electorate.

The research team's study also found there has been a significant increase in the percentage of young people aged 20-34 who supported independence in the past years, peaking at 55 percent in 2015, up from 44 percent in 2011, Wu said.

But the percentage went down to 52 percent in 2016 and then to 43 percent last year, he added.

Wu said that his team is still working on identifying possible reasons that might have contributed to the weakening of support for independence among the younger generation.

It needs further study to analyze whether there is any link between the decrease of support for independence and the incentives China has rolled out to lure Taiwanese young people or Beijing ratcheting up pressure on Taiwan by showcasing its military forces, Wu said.

The way Beijing employs its influences on Taiwan has been evolving and that would require Taiwan to come up with better strategies to cope with the challenges, Wu said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)