TAIPEI: The landslide win of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its leader Tsai-Ing wen in Saturday’s (Jan 16) elections suggests a growing sense of identity and increasing caution towards China in Taiwan, analysts told Channel NewsAsia.
A row over a Taiwanese K-pop star's apology for waving the island's flag, aggravated the sentiment on polling day. Some perceived it to have been forced out of her, to protect business interests in mainland China.
“The resentment towards the 'one China' principle has been on the rise. It’s a major trend, which has made the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) vulnerable,” said Chu Yun-han, Professor of Political Science at the National Taiwan University.
Nearly 60 per cent of Taiwan’s residents consider themselves Taiwanese and not Chinese, according to a survey by Taiwan’s National Chengchi University last year. Another poll, by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research, showed that more than 80 per cent of Taiwanese under the age of 30 opposed reunification with the mainland.
Some observers have warned that the trend could create more uncertainties in future cross-strait relations.
“China also has many young people who want reunification. Under the circumstances, cross-strait relations could be heading in the direction of conflict. Power between Taiwan and China is asymmetric. If the two sides collide, Taiwan cannot withstand the consequence,” said Mr Chu.
But others say the option of reunifying with China is not out of the picture.
“If China could move towards democracy, the chances of Taiwan reunifying with the mainland will (be) greater,” said Tung Chen-yuan, Professor of Political Science at the National Chengchi University.
“If there are options other than either reunification or independence, it would be more acceptable to Taiwan. So there’s always hope for reunification still.”
After more than 60 years of separation from the mainland, a strong sense of Taiwanese identity has emerged, especially among the younger Taiwanese population, observers have said. But asserting this identity without jeopardising cross-strait relations will prove to be the biggest test for Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP party.