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How Important Has The Desire For An Independent Taiwan Been In Shaping The Decisions For Taiwan Voters

How Important Has The Desire For An Independent Taiwan Been In Shaping The Decisions For Taiwan Voters

Taiwan has overcome great odds to be a sustainable and sovereign nation. Notably, development of national identity, culture, and nationalism have been instrumental in these efforts. These factors in conjunction with reunification sentiments direct and determine the election results and consequently the running of the nation.

Taiwan lies 150 km from the coast of Fujian and its efforts to establish and maintain self rule have been undermined by a number of factors. Notably, its independence, which was once imposed is now desired. Moreover, it was promoted by geographical factors before political factors came into play. With time various stakeholders became involved in these efforts but arguably the driving factor in the country’s politics is the people’s desire for independence from China.

The country has had little opportunity to govern itself. In the past, the country was colonized the Dutch (1624 — 1661), the Spanish (1626 — 1642) and the Chinese (Cabestan, 2005). Moreover, its strategic position in the sea trade saw increased interest in it in the mid 19th century expressed by Britain, France, and Japan. Although this increased interest fostered its modernization by the Manchu Court, it undermined its opportunity of self rule. This is because shortly after this modernization, the Manchu Court ceded rule of Taiwan to the Japanese upon signing of the treaty of Shimonoseki.

Regardless of limited autonomy, the Taiwanese identity developed. This development was in part driven by its insularity (Cabestan, 2005). This insularity and immigrants from mainland China fostered the development of a unique sociocultural identity. Taiwanese nationalism, on the other hand, was a result of multiple political factors. Notably, opposition between mainlanders and native Taiwanese contributed more to it than the desire for separation from China.

The first active efforts geared towards establishing the sovereignty of the country were prompted by the Japanese Occupation. Arguably the goals of this resistance differed. This difference was demonstrated by the motives for resistance for while part of the resistance sought to be part of mainland China, the rest of the resistance fought for complete autonomy (Cabestan, 2005). In spite of their motivation, notably this resistance formed the basis for future efforts. Furthermore, frustrations of these efforts by the forceful assimilation treaty implemented by Tokyo fostered resentment of the Japanese occupation and the perception that the Chiang Kai- Shek’s troopswere liberators.

In retrospect, increased nationalism was a part of lasting separation from China rather than frustration with Japanese occupation. However, its establishment was hindered by a number of factors both internal and external. In regards to external factors, the international community, especially the US propagated the view of China as a single rule entity. This view relegated Taiwan to a province of China from a sovereign country. Arguably, the US’s stand was driven by the need to contain communism in the 1950s. Unfortunately, this view and stand still persists in today’s times probably driven by the China’s rise as an economic superpower. External factors increased pressure on the opposition and promoted Taiwanese nationalism through the creation of the us vs. them mentality.

Arguably, the creation of a Taiwanese party tolerated by the Chiang administration provided an alternative avenue for proponents of independence. It allowed for the utilization of democratic processes and systems in efforts geared at full autonomy. However, democratic efforts were undermined by a number of efforts. Notably, the party, DPP was characterized by a number of divergent views, which led to proponents of complete independence being the minority. With time and at the requests of Chen Shui-bian, the party included the self-determination clause in its statutes (Cabestan, 2005). This required that all decisions be presented to the Taiwanese population before their implementation. However, in light of waning party support, it would later moderate the implementation of this clause.

As indicated the autonomy of Taiwan is a controversial matter. This controversy extends to its democratization and elections. For example in Lung Yingtai once claimed that active revolution would undermine the country’s democracy (Chen, 2007). Her assertion detracts from the country’s ability to rule itself and credits the belief that Taiwan would be better off as part of China than as a sovereign country. However, this sentiment contrary to its implication has partially fostered Taiwanese nationalism as indicated by the uproar and challenges to this assertion.

In spite of growing Taiwanese identity, with a majority of the population identifying as Taiwanese, election results indicate that there is a divide among the population. The election into office of individuals who support reestablishment of connections with China and those who urge total cessation and autonomy demonstrates that Taiwanese nationalism is not widely embraced and that desire for autonomy is not pervasive. For example, in 2008 unification supporter Ma Ying-jeou was elected as president of Taiwan. His win illustrated that part of the population still sought reunification. Predictably, his efforts in office sought to establish relationship with china. They entailed the replacement of Taiwan with Republic of China in official documents, renewal of Chinese history teaching in high schools, and the change of the Taiwanese postal institution name to Chunghwa (Amae, & Damm, 2011). The implications of these actions fostered the development of of cordial relations with mainland China. Furthermore, they promoted the implementation of joint agreements by the administration and mainland China. These agreements entailed direct postal services, transportation, trade and diplomatic truce (Amae, & Damm, 2011).

The demonstrations held indicated opposition to the government policies and frustrations with reunification measures. It further demonstrates the desire for policies aimed at creating and promoting a better and liberated Taiwan. The government opposition of these efforts, in turn, demonstrated that this desire is not held by everyone in the country and that opponents of reunification have to work towards creating and fostering nationalism to ensure the success of their efforts. Furthermore, it explained growing alienation and commitment to the democratic process.

The consequences of established agreements were varied. They led to an increase in the number of tourists visiting the country and consequently promoted the economy. Additionally, they fostered resentment and demonstrations by proponents of complete autonomy. Interestingly, this increased interaction led to adoption of the Taiwanese culture and the inclusion of “Taiwan” streets in mainland China rather promoting the Taiwanese identity. Arguably, this inclusion also highlighted China’s assertion that Taiwan is a merely a part of the country with CCP’s declaring that Taiwan is merely the country’s province rather than a sovereign nation. In light of their effect, Ma’s efforts were, in part reminiscent of the post Japanese occupation sentiments and perception that everything would be better upon reunification with China.

These election results also indicate that cultural policy is instrumental to the country’s politics. For example, when ma was running for president to garner votes he projected a Taiwanese image (Amae, & Damm, 2011). His emphasis, at the time on the culture, nationalism, and identity of the country did allow for his election into office. In light of his policies, it is clear that this was a tactic geared at gaining votes for the party. Moreover, his campaign tactic reflected an element that was remarked as missing in the 2004 elections (Chang, 2004). In these election the lack of emphasis on Taiwanese culture, did in part undermine the candidates’ credit. However, it did not hinder the perception by the people that it was actually a success. In fact, Chen Shui-bian’s win was seen as indicative of increased national consciousness, and institutional reforms (Muyard, 2004). This is because in some respects it illustrated growing sentiments for Taiwan’s sovereignty and independence from China.

The importance of cultural policy is further emphasized by past repression of the Taiwanese culture. This repression was most evident during the KMT era. Furthermore, it entailed the undermining the value, importance, and status of the Taiwanese measures. Measures geared towards these goals entailed prohibition of the use of local dialects in schools and public places, the omission of Taiwanese history in the curriculum, and propaganda whose aim was to promote the perception that Chinese culture was superior in all aspects and that embracing Taiwanese art was both backwards and uncivilized.

In addition, elections in the country are affected by perceptions and satisfaction with democracy. In fact research by Stockton found that the population was dissatisfied with the democratic government, expressed less commitment, and were partially alienated from the government (2006). Arguably, dissatisfaction was fostered by the country’s poor economic growth and the perception that things were better during reunification times. Furthermore, government policies, which failed to consider the needs and wants of the population resulted in increased alienation of the government. Notably, the research indicated that partisan views rather than ethnicity undermined the country’s newly established democracy.

Interestingly, as noted by Qi (2012) this decline in party support does not necessary indicate decline in support of the Taiwan Independence Movement. Moreover, while support for the party has declined since 2000, support for the Taiwan Independence Movement has actually increased. These findings indicate that the population’s desire for independence is actually high though it does not necessary reflect on the elections. Furthermore, this support for the TMI has led to an increase in Taiwanese nationalism. Moreover, this discrepancy in support indicates that DPP no longer monopolizes the efforts geared to complete autonomy of Taiwan.

Moreover, this desire for autonomy is tempered by the possible ramifications. As demonstrated by Bin (2000), these ramifications would be pervasive in the rights and economic wellbeing of the country and its population. Opponents of complete autonomy have to face the possibility of Mainland China using force to hinder their efforts. Proponents of reunification on the other hand have to come to terms with a bleak future. This is because living under the Chinese rule would likely lead to a decline in economic growth, and undermine the already established democratic system. Consequently, the Taiwanese people have to balance their desire for independence with the possible repercussions. However, given the growing momentum of the liberation movement it is clear that this population is more willing to deal with the efforts that China may employ to derail their measures rather than embrace diminished political say and economic status.

To disrupt cessation measures, the Chinese government has employed a number of measure. Notably, the proposition of One China two systems; however, this proposition did wane during the the 60s. The premise of the proposition was that Taiwan would enjoy some form of autonomy while still remaining as part of China. This would, in turn, allow mainland China to utilize the resources of Taiwan and allow Taiwan in turn to enjoy collaborative trade and its benefits. Moreover, its efforts also entailed convincing the international community of the need for and importance of a united China. These efforts undermined Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition and stand. A challenge it stills grapples with today. Additionally, this lack of international recognition has affected the country’s ability to request international mediation and support and in its efforts.

The quest of Independence for the country is not an easy one. Its success and failure as stated earlier have different ramifications, which may undermine its sustainability and standing in the international community. Moreover, the country is heavily divided. In spite of the fact that the desire for independence is high, the country has to grapple with the repercussions of the aftermath regardless of outcome and efforts geared towards promoting the unity of Taiwanese. Furthermore, it has to deal with Mainland China’s reiteration, which may cripple the democratic process and economic wellbeing.

Arguably, to promote independence sentiments, the country has to work towards identifying and resolving factors that foster reunification. This will allow the country to promote a united front and possibly foster international assistance and recognition. This recognition may, in turn, provide for a more amicable split with China and avoid negative repercussions associated, which may disrupt the region and individual countries’ stability and economic wellbeing.

In conclusion, the Taiwan experience as a sovereign entity is limited. This is because over the last few centuries the country has been under the rule of the Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. Furthermore, in recent times its efforts for self rule were fostered by the Japanese rule. The forced assimilation promoted the development of Taiwan’s identity and nationalism. Predictably, earlier efforts were driven by the desire for reunification. However, with time a new perspective driven by the desire for autonomy emerged.

Arguably, current efforts are still divide by the desire for reunification and independence. However, as evidenced by the number of people who identify as Taiwanese, it is clear that country identity is well established. Furthermore, research indicates that the desire for independence is high in the country. Predictably, the declaration of the country’s independence would result in decline in the two country’s relationship and the region’s stability. However, the desire to live independently is quite high and persists in spite of growing opposition from China and the international community and divergent views.

This desire surpasses the failure of past elected political parties including corruption. This is evident in the continuing decline of the DPP party and increased momentum of the Taiwan Freedom Movement. In light of the importance of cultural factors in politics, these independence efforts are driven by the growing nationalism and country identity. Unfortunately, they have in the past been used as mere antics to foster the image and ensure a win for parties as illustrated by the 2008 election.


Amae, Y., & Damm, J. (2011). “Whither Taiwanization?” State, Society and Cultural Production in the New Era. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 3, 17. Retrieved from https://journals.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/jcca/article/view/402/400

Cabestan, J. P. (2005). Specificities and limits of Taiwanese nationalism.China Perspectives, 62. retrieved from http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/2863

Chang, B. Y. (2004). From Taiwanisation to De-sinification. Culture Construction in Taiwan since the 1990s. China Perspectives, (56). Retrieved from https://chinaperspectives.revues.org/438

CHEN, I. C. (2007). The question Lung Yingtai could not answer 1.Inter‐Asia Cultural Studies, 8(1), 169-170. http://download.xuebalib.com/xuebalib.com.23084.pdf

Marsh, M. (2000). Taiwan’s future national identity: attitudes and geopolitical constraints”
International Journal of Comparative Sociology 41, 299-314. Retrieved from http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/156851801511774

Muyard, F. (2004). Taiwan. The Birth of A Nation?. The recent presidential election witnessed the rise of Taiwanese national identity and a further failure of the Kuomintang. China Perspectives, (53). Retrieved from https://chinaperspectives.revues.org/2932#tocto1n2

Qi, D. (2012). Divergent Popular Support for the DPP and the Taiwan Independence Movement, 2000–2012. Journal of Contemporary China,21(78), 973-991. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10670564.2012.701035

Stockton, H. (2006). Partisanship, ethnic identification, and citizen attitudes toward regime and government on Taiwan. Journal of Contemporary China,15(49), 705-721. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10670560600836754

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