Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has recently urged for a new international alliance against China, and suggested that after cracking down on Hong Kong, China’s next target could be Taiwan. In October, Xi Jinping called on troops to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war.”
Five months after our previous polling in Taiwan, the same proportion (45%) of respondents think that military conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is likely in the next ten years.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States significantly boosted military aid to Taiwan, and the Taiwanese are waiting to see if the incoming Joe Biden administration will follow the departing President’s policy. In the light of continued concerns about a potential war between Taiwan and the PRC, a majority (52%) of the Taiwanese public express support for closer political and military ties between Taiwan and the United States. Only a tiny minority (8%) oppose closer ties, while around a third (35%) neither support nor oppose.
Meanwhile, less than a fifth (19%) support closer political ties between Taiwan and mainland China, a result which mirrors the findings of our polling in July. Nevertheless, only around a third (35%) actively oppose closer ties, while a plurality (43%) neither support nor oppose.
In late November, officials in Taiwan and the United States signed a five-year framework for closer economic ties, which featured a commitment to discussions on cooperation in the healthcare, semiconductors, 5G infrastructure and energy sectors and on enhancing supply-chain security. A strong majority (58%) continue to support closer economic ties between Taiwan and the United States. Just 3% oppose closer economic relations, mirroring our findings from the summer period.
By contrast, only a third (33%) favour closer economic ties between Taiwan and Mainland China, while just a quarter (25%) oppose closer relations in this instance.
The Taiwanese public are split on whether the country should establish closer economic relations with mainland China, but a strong plurality (45%) continues to believe that closer relations with the United States would best serve Taiwan’s long-term strategic interests. Less than a fifth (19%) would prefer closer relations with the People’s Republic of China, and a quarter (25%) do not know.
Moreover, a clear plurality (39%) say that the security of Taiwan depends on the United States, a decline by a substantial 8 points since July. Only 25% disagree that the security of Taiwan depends on the United States, and 33% neither agree nor disagree.
Notably, just 30% agree that the United States can be trusted to defend Taiwan if it becomes necessary––a decline of 6 points since July. Moreover, the proportion who disagree that the United States can be trusted has risen by 4 points to a third (33%). A further third (33%) neither agree nor disagree. These results highlight a slight increase in public concern that the US will fail to protect Taiwan, which may reflect the imminent change in the US Presidential Administration.
Limited support for closer relations with China may, in part, be related to the fact that an increasing proportion feel that Taiwan is culturally distinct from China. At this stage, over two thirds (67%) of respondents consider Taiwan culturally distinct from China, an increase of 5 points since our previous poll. Less than a quarter (23%) do not consider Taiwan culturally distinct, while 10% don’t know.
Indeed, two thirds (66%) of the Taiwanese public would now identify themselves as Taiwanese, while only a quarter believe that they are ‘both Taiwanese and Chinese’ and a tiny minority (4%) considering themselves solely Chinese. The proportion who identify solely as Taiwanese has risen by 3 points since July, while the percentage who identify as both Taiwanese and Chinese has decreased.
Despite most of the public feeling solely Taiwanese, a clear majority (54%) would favour a maintenance of the status quo regarding Taiwan’s system of government, rather than an independent nation. The proportion who would prefer Taiwan being fully recognised as an independent nation has risen to above a third (34%), whereas just 4% would favour unification with the People’s Republic of China.
Meanwhile, the Taiwanese public is strongly split on whether Taiwan should make its independence from the Mainland official and change its name from “Republic of China” to “Republic of Taiwan.” Currently, 32% would support a name change, 31% would oppose a name change, and 31% would neither support nor oppose this shift.
Ultimately, our latest research in Taiwan relating to the country’s status internationally is remarkably aligned to our previous results from July. The Taiwanese public are wary about the potential for military conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, and most favour closer ties with the United States. A more mixed picture emerges regarding closer economic ties with the Chinese Mainland, which is seen as culturally distinct, and a strong plurality believe closer relations with the United States would best serve their overall interests. Nevertheless, the proportion of respondents who agree that the United States can be trusted to defend Taiwan has declined somewhat, as has the proportion that says that Taiwan’s security depends on the United States.