Saturday, February 05, 2011

TVBS on Identity and Independence

TVBS released its latest poll on identity, the KMT's pro-China policies, and Taiwan independence. Take a close look at Questions 9-14 (translation by ESWN):

Q9. When these economic agreements are signed, are you confident that the government will protect the interests of Taiwan?
9%: Very confident
30%: Somewhat confident
28%: Somewhat not confident
25%: Very not confident
8%: No opinion

Q10. Some people say that the policies of the Ma Ying-jeou government are tilted towards mainland China. Do you agree or disagree?
53%: Agree
39%: Disagree
9%: No opinion

Q11. What is your attitude towards unification versus independence?
61%: Maintain the status quo
21%: Lean towards independence
9%: Lean towards unification

Q12. If the choice exists, would you want Taiwan to become an independent nation or to be unified with China?
68%: Taiwan independence
18%: Unification with mainland China
14%: No opinion

Q13. In our society, some people think that they are Chinese while others think that they are Taiwanese. What do you think you are?
72%: Taiwanese
17%: Chinese
11%: Don't know/refused to answer

Q14. What would you say that you are? Taiwanese? Chinese? Both?
50%: Taiwanese
43%: Both Taiwanese and Chinese
3%: Chinese
5%: Don't know

According to the island's most rabidly pro-KMT station, the public strongly supports independence, totally rejects the idea that it is solely Chinese, and thinks the KMT government is too close to China. Basically, everything many of us have been saying is all laid out there. Consider how slanted pro-KMT TVBS polls tend to be -- likely a methodology issue, not an inherent bias -- this poll is even more amazing. For Chinese the questions use the term 中國人.

I know of other polls that are showing similar trends -- one is due to be released later this year; can't wait to report on it.

Someone asked me whether the reunification lobby will shrink and the independence lobby grow as time goes by. I think this widespread identification with Taiwan will paradoxically lead to greater polite meaningless noise about annexation. Certainly Beijing will continue to put pressure on Taiwan firms in China to toe the Beijing line, and they are likely to respond by doing so, in order to function in that market. The powerful, growing, and stable identification with Taiwan means that they can do so secure in the knowledge that it doesn't matter. That rising Taiwan identification also means that local voters feel secure voting for local KMT candidates also in part because the KMT is part of that Taiwan identity. Hence I do not see that a growing identification with Taiwan will necessarily translate into less pro-China rhetoric in society at large or KMT losses at the polls.
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19 comments:

FOARP said...

I rather suspect that, had they used the term 華人 the answers might have been somewhat different.

At any rate, the same old question comes up - why do so many people still vote KMT? Could it be that they do not actually believe that this issue is of paramount importance since movement in one direction or the other is deeply unlikely any time in the foreseeable future? Can we therefore have some recognition of the fact that simply bashing the pro-independence drum is not enough to win votes?

Michael Turton said...

Nobody ever simply beats the pro-independence drum. But if you watch the way Ma's rhetoric shifts, you'll soon see that beating the pro-Taiwan drum is the minimum requirement for getting votes in Taiwan. Pro-independence won't win elections, but you have to make the pro-independence noises to ensure the possibility of

Dixteel said...

I know there is no poll to support it but I actually sense that Taiwanese identity is going down hill or plateaued at this point. At least I sense it to be very weak and shallow recently. And I think the identity has became more and more "regional" instead of "national" under Ma. If ex-president Chen can significantly increase Taiwanese identity awareness, Ma can reverse it.

Anonymous said...

I don't follow Taiwanese media, so I did not know of TVBS' political affiliation (Pro Blue or Pro Green.) If TVBS is indeed Pro Blue, then, wow, this is quite an eyebrow-raiser.


There may be hope after all.

Michael Turton said...

Dixteel, it's always been a very provincial identity. The Taiwanese just don't think like a people who are part of a nation....

Anonymous said...

@FOARP: OR it could be that most people neither think of the KMT as the big bad wolf nor as their savior, but were just fed up of 8 years of Chen Shuibian. You know, like in normal democracies ;)

Don said...

Very enlightening piece, Michael. As an outsider, I am encouraged by the survey results, assuming that they accurately reflect the views of the good people of Taiwan. Thanks.

blobOfNeurons said...

@Michael
Except when a big sports event comes along. Then there is no ambiguity and Taiwan is a Nation with a big capital N, and China is just another enemy.

Dixteel said...

Hmm...i think there are people in Taiwan who do identify themselves as a nation, but that number goes up and down, and that is what the problem is. The general question regarding Taiwanese identity is not precise.

Hong Kong had a strong identity as well (they might be gradually losing it IMO). Do you think though that this identity thing will encourage or discourage China's annexation plan? B

Anonymous said...

Taiwan has had a strong separate identity since the Qing era and Taiwanese always regarded themselves as being "particular" and in need of a particular system for Taiwan. I don't think the idea of nationalism entered the conversation until the Japanese era at the earliest and the Formosa movement at the latest. Taiwanese act and behave as if Taiwan is a nation and their point of view reflects this... but they often don't realize it and thus do not express it. It only starts to become evident when threatened.

Anonymous said...

"I don't follow Taiwanese media, so I did not know of TVBS' political affiliation (Pro Blue or Pro Green.) If TVBS is indeed Pro Blue, then, wow, this is quite an eyebrow-raiser."

TVBS is part of the Shaw media empire stretcing srom Malaysia and Singapore to Hong Kong. It's partiarch Sir Run Run Shaw is so prominent he was knighed by Queen Elizabeth II. The Shaw's are an old wealthy family with roots in Southern China, which is almost by definition, pro-KMT.

ping said...

TBVS is very deep blue and a chinese company...sorry!! your blog is not good for reading and the view is not from Taiwanese.

Michael Turton said...

Then don't read it, idiot!

Anonymous said...

Uh, Michael, was that last poster actually angry at you bc he thought by mentioning a TVBS poll which he vehemently claims is "very deep blue and Chinese," you are pro-China?

I thought the results of Q13 and Q14 were interesting, specifically the disparity between those who think they are Taiwanese (72%) and those who say they are Taiwanese (50%).
Unless there's some viable explanation, I'd say this disparity reflects the ambiguity towards Chinese identity. Sure, everyone in Taiwan hates China, if you're talking about the government or even the people. But when it comes to culture, history and identity, I think there're quite a lot of [non-aboriginal] locals who feel hesitant over cutting off all ties or feelings of kinship with China.

CP

Anonymous said...

"But when it comes to culture, history and identity, I think there're quite a lot of [non-aboriginal] locals who feel hesitant over cutting off all ties or feelings of kinship with China."

No, I don't think that at all. I think that a lot of Taiwanese don't have completely "awakened" if you will consciences with regard to the essentialist CHINESE identity pushed on them ever since they started school. There was a very long period of purposeful, fiendish propangadizing, socialization, and internalizing of CHINESE identity.

That's why it's so shocking for Taiwanese when they actually meet people from China or they live or work there. When they realize how different they are, a strong Taiwanese identity is awakened in them.

The long term trend is clear--Taiwanese feel less and less Chinese and more and more Taiwanese. In another ten or twenty years, there will barely be anyone around that was born in China and the ones that were won't remember a damned thing from there. Meanwhile, the collective memories of Taiwanese (the whole Yang Shujun incident for example, even if Michael still won't admit he was wrong about her cheating) will only strengthen and set Taiwanese further apart from China.

Anonymous said...

Those are good points about having a developing Taiwanese identity but I can't agree that it will replace the Chinese identity which is based on shared cultural, religious, culinary and linguistic ties. There's much more than just those I've listed.

I think the flaw is your thinking that because Taiwan people go to China and realize how different people there, they become SHOCKED and change their mindset.
Many people here have never been to China or have never met much mainland people, yet they already still harbor a dislike and awareness of differences and even superiority complex.

I may even venture that nobody really in Taiwan has a rosey view of Chinese culture and then lose it when they go to the mainland.

Most people I know in Taiwan dislike China or mainland people, yet they also strongly appreciate Chinese culture, languages and history.

CP

Anonymous said...

"Most people I know in Taiwan dislike China or mainland people, yet they also strongly appreciate Chinese culture, languages and history."

I just completely disagree with that. Taiwanese culture today draws on the Chinese cultural palette in the same way they draw on a "Western" or Japanese palette. It's just another tool that they have in their toolbox and it absolutely does not have a privileged place in Taiwanese culture vis-a-vis Japan or the US.

Think about all those China-facing Taiwanese pop music stars. They are very much playing the role of Chinese rather than simply being Chinese. It's seen in Taiwan as a purposeful, acknowledged, conscious drawing on CHINESE-ness rather than just being themselves. You wouldn't even have to try if CHINESE-ness was core to the Taiwanese identity. This is the direction that Taiwan has been heading in for the last 20 years and the direction it will continue to head.

Anonymous said...

I can't quite understand the last poster's points. The gist of his/her point is that Chinese culture is only part of the Taiwan identity and is virtually equivalent to cultural influences from Japan and America?
I completely disagree with this, needless to say.

I mean are you saying that Christmas and Halloween are just as important and meaningful to locals as say, the Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year?
Is Japanese as important as Mandarin and Chinese characters?
And I suppose that there are more churches and Shinto temples than Chinese temples dotted across Taiwan, outside of Taipei?

Most Taiwan people, even if they don't like China and are diehard Greens/ separatists, still refer to themselves as Zhong-guo-ren and Mandarin as Zhong-wen.

Finally, if what you said about "singers playing the role of Chinese is true," then tons of Taiwanese artists, businessmen, scientists, investors, and regular students are "playing the role of Chinese."

The irony is that a growing Taiwan sense of identity is not so much "we're completely different from China", but that we have a more genuine Chinese culture than China. But then, you'd say they are just "playing" right?

CP

FOARP said...

"Most Taiwan people, even if they don't like China and are diehard Greens/ separatists, still refer to themselves as Zhong-guo-ren and Mandarin as Zhong-wen. "

I was with you until about here. Nowadays no forth-rightly pro-independence people call themselves 中國人. Many will call themselves 華人, which is a reference to Chinese culture that many on the mainland like to elide into Chinese nationality, but no staunchly pro-independence person that I've met in the past few years has called themselves "中國人".

The nearest I can get is a bar owner who expressed it this way: "中國是我的祖國 but Taiwan is my country". I find the fact that he had to say the last part in English shows something, but I'm not sure exactly what.

But you are quite right to point out that the Chinese cultural inheritance is as central to culture on Taiwan as the British cultural inheritance is to the average Gibraltan, Falklander, or Bermudan (without the implication of reliance that these territories have on the UK). To say that the mainland cultural influence is on a par with that of Japan or the US is pure nonsense.