At the start of a year one academic predicted would be "the year of cross-strait relations" politically, nearly two-thirds of Taiwan's citizens agree with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) call for more "proactive" management of economic exchanges with China.
According to the results of an opinion poll released yesterday by the private Taiwan Thinktank, 65.6 percent of 1,067 Taiwan adults surveyed backed the president's call made in his New Year's Day address, while 21.7 percent disagreed and 12.7 percent had no response.
Chen argued the new emphasis was necessary to reduce the risks of Taiwanese investment in China and prevent harm to Taiwan.
Lai I-chung, the international programs director for the think tank that is politically aligned with the Democratic Progressive Party, indicated that support for stronger regulation transcended partisan lines, with over 40 percent of KMT partisans favoring tighter restrictions on China-bound investment.
At the same time, 75 percent of DPP supporters, 79 percent of pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union backers, and 53 percent of non-partisans also backed the idea.
Academia Sinica (中央研究院) Institute of Social Science assistant researcher Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) saw the results as an indication that the issue of Taiwan's relations with China has a "divisive effect" on the Kuomintang-led "pan-blue" opposition camp. In contrast, pan-green voters are united in support of more proactive or even tighter government regulation as advocated by Chen, Hsu believed.
He questioned whether the views reflected by the poll results would favor KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) strategy of using relations with China to boost his party's support.
"I find it puzzling why Ma has talked up the cross-strait issue as it is not really a good issue for the pan-blue camp," Hsu said.
The survey also found that 73.6 percent of respondents believed the Taiwan economy was "too dependent on mainland China" with 19.9 percent disagreeing.
In addition, 51.3 percent agreed that government regulation of Taiwanese investment in China should be "somewhat tighter," with 33.6 percent saying it should be "somewhat looser" and 5.2 percent preferring to keep the status quo.
Asked whether more intensive government management of cross-strait economic exchanges in the future would be favorable or detrimental to Taiwan's interests, 62.5 percent said it would help Taiwan's interests, 24.1 percent said it would hurt, and 13.4 percent had no response.
A total of 49.5 percent agreed with the statement that the ultimate goal of the People's Republic of China government is to "annex" Taiwan, while 42.9 percent disagreed and 7.6 percent had no response.
However, only 6.6 percent said they favored setting an ultimate goal of unification in relations between Taiwan and mainland China, while 89.3 percent said that the ultimate course of Taiwan-China ties should be decided by Taiwan's people, with 4.1 percent having no response.
The poll, conducted through random telephone calls with quota control between January 3 and January 5, received responses from 1,067 Taiwan adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.
Pan-blue supporters divided
Hsu stated that divisions in the pan-blue ranks were especially noticeable on the one-China issue.
Overall, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (65.2 percent) disagreed that Taiwan's government should accept the PRC's precondition that cross-strait consultations must take place under the "one-China principle," while 21.9 percent agreed and 12.9 percent had no response.
But among those identifying themselves as KMT supporters, over 56 percent did not agree with accepting Beijing's "one-China" precondition, along with 89 percent of DPP backers and and over 65 percent of non-partisans, even though Ma has openly approved of the "one-China principle," Hsu said.
The scholar added that the survey revealed major class differences, with business and the military, police and civil servants more in favor of looser regulation, while farmers, workers, employees of private enterprises, students and housewives backed tighter regulation of Taiwan investment in China.
"Chairman Ma should reconsider whether cross-strait relations is a good issue to integrate support in Taiwan, while President Chen may be able to boost his ratings by advocating a more proactive role for the government and resuming a role as a 'balancer' in Taiwan-China relations," Hsu said.
The president's "proactive management, effective liberalization" policy that drew support in the Taiwan Thinktank poll reversed the government's previous emphasis on an "active opening, effective management" strategy.
Chen Ming-tung (陳明通), a former senior official at the Mainland Affairs Council and now a professor at National Taiwan University, said the "active opening" policy was supposed to induce Taiwan investors in China to reinvest some of their profits made across the Strait in Taiwan. Eighty percent of Taiwan's top 50 corporations that had invested in China, however, failed to remit any money back to Taiwan, prompting Chen to re-engineer his China policy.
The poll results indicated the policy has won public support, the professor said, and warned local businessmen against investing in China just to make minimal profits.
They would lose at both ends, the professor said, unable to upgrade their production capability in China and raising Taiwan's unemployment rate.
In the face of China's strategy to "use Taiwan civilians to pressure Taiwan's government, to encircle the Taiwan government with Taiwan businessmen and to induce unification through more civilian exchanges," how can Taiwan sit idly by? Chen Ming-tung asked.