Pro-independence groups on Friday held a demonstration in Taipei to call for the dismantling of the Republic of China (ROC) in favor of an independent Taiwan.
They chose that day because it marks so-called Taiwan Retrocession Day, the anniversary of when World War II allies passed control of Taiwan to former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the ROC, then governed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Sovereign State for Formosa and the Pescadores Party Chairman Cheng Tzu-tsai (鄭自才) said this temporary handover to the KMT was a travesty for Taiwan, and called on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to abolish the ROC in favor of a Taiwanese nation and sever political links with China.
The organizers of the demonstration have a point. The ROC, as anything other than the official name of the nation, has long been an entity adrift. It is tied not to Taiwan, but to the KMT, which for decades in the postwar period had total control over Taiwan. The party no longer has control of the government or the national narrative, and Taiwan has made huge strides as a de facto independent nation. The national loyalties of Taiwanese have been distorted by the KMT, which has falsely equated Taiwan with the ROC. If any party could end this false equivalence it would have to be the DPP, as the KMT surely would not.
However, to demand that the DPP administration take this step at this point in time is too extreme a proposition. Taiwanese know this, and polls indicate that the majority oppose it.
The Mainland Affairs Council last week released a survey from National Chengchi University of people over the age of 20, asking them about their opinions on, among other things, independence, unification with China and maintaining the “status quo.”
The survey found that more than 27 percent of respondents support independence, but only a small number of them — about 6 percent — favor an immediate move in that direction.
The majority of Taiwanese do not favor unification with China. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) vision for how unification would work is the imposition of the “one country, two systems” policy that is failing in Hong Kong, and the vast majority of respondents in the poll — almost 90 percent — opposed this vision. Indeed, only 1.4 percent of respondents wanted to see immediate unification, and less than 9 percent wanted eventual unification.
More than 25 percent of respondents said that they would be happy with indefinitely maintaining the “status quo.”
For many ordinary Taiwanese, the less ideologically driven and those just going about their everyday lives, the “status quo” is working for them, and is all they know. Others might be more concerned about the prospect of military intervention by China should Taiwan declare independence, or make a drastic shift in the “status quo,” such as formally changing the nation’s title from the ROC to Taiwan.
The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is committed to maintaining the “status quo” not because it wants to, but because its hands are tied. This approach has the support of Taiwanese, if this poll’s results are at all representative. The political reality might prevent the DPP from abolishing the ROC, irrespective of how desirable or rational such a move would be, but as long as it refrains from upsetting the apple cart, the party has a chance of ensuring the continued existence of Taiwan.