More than half of Taiwan's citizens disagree with Japan's nationalization of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands and look forward to stronger government reaction to the controversial move, according to the results of a survey released Friday.
Only a small group of people have thrown their support behind former President Lee Teng-hui's claim that the uninhabited island chain in the East China Sea belongs to Japan, the survey shows.
It also found that many respondents were critical of what they said is the government's lack of concrete action to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the Diaoyutais.
Moreover, the poll results showed that the number of people supporting cross-Taiwan Strait cooperation in fighting Japan in the territorial tussle has increased amid the recent flare-up of tension over the issue.
Located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, the Diaoyutai island cluster has been under Japanese administration since 1972, but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The long-simmering row escalated to a new level last week when the Japanese government bought three of the group of islets from their private owner in an attempt to reinforce its sovereignty claim.
The opinion survey was conducted by Want Want China Times Group Sept. 18-19, during which 730 valid samples were collected. It had a confidence level of 95 percent, with a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
The following are excerpts from a special report in the Friday edition of China Times on the survey findings:
Seventy-one percent of the respondents said the Japanese government's Diaoyutai procurement deal was unacceptable, with 50 percent of them saying they were angered by the unilateral move.
Just 4 percent backed former President Lee's stance that the island chain is part of Japanese territory and thus gave a thumbs-up to Japan's nationalization move.
The remaining 25 percent said they had no knowledge of the issue, according to the poll.
A cross-sector analysis of survey findings indicated that 67 percent of supporters for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party-led "pan-green" camp opposed Japan's Diaoyutai claim and that the percentage even reached 83 percent among ruling Kuomintang supporters.
By age, 74 percent of respondents in the 20-29 age group gave a thumbs-down to Japan's unilateral move.
Although President Ma Ying-jeou has on many occasions declared that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the Republic of China's territory, 64 percent of those interviewed said the government has just paid lip service but has failed to take substantive action to back its cause.
Only 15 percent recognized the government's performance, saying it has handled the issue rationally while upholding its stance.
Just 1 percent of the respondents said the government is tough enough in dealing with Japan over the Diaoyutai issue, while 61 percent said the government is too timid vis-a-vis Japan and 19 percent said the government has reacted properly.
Asked how Taiwan should respond to the Diaoyutai row in the future, 52 percent said they hope the government will take strong action to safeguard the country's claim while 27 percent said they prefer to see the government adopt rational and moderate strategies to prevent the dispute from deterioration as ramping up regional tension will likely hurt Taiwan's interest in the long run.
Despite eruption of anti-Japan protests in many Chinese cities in recent days over the Diaoyutais, just 41 percent said a war could break out between those two countries in the near future, while 43 percent said the territorial spat would lead to a military conflict.
When a similar survey was conducted two months ago, 52 percent of the respondents said they support cross-strait cooperation in defending Diaoyutai claim. In the latest poll, the percentage rose modestly to 54 percent and the ratio even hit 64 percent among those in the 20-29 age group.
The poll further found that even though many respondents want the government to get tough toward Japan over the Diaoyutais, most of them were not interested in boycotting Japanese goods over the issue.
Up to 66 percent said they have no intention of boycotting travel to Japan or purchases of Japanese products, while only 27 percent said they would support a boycott campaign. Young women were less likely to boycott Japan, according to the survey. (Sept. 21, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)