Ma Feeling the Heat
Image Credit: OCAC Taiwan

Ma Feeling the Heat


A crack team of Taiwanese paratroopers hurtled to Earth from 5,000 feet this month. Their mission was simple: land in a targeted area in front of nationalist Kuomintang President Ma Ying-jou as he received military units marking the Republic of China’s 100th anniversary.

But like most things relating to Taiwanese politics, that’s easier said than done, and by the time Ma’s look of pride had given way to bemusement, six of the team had landed safely and the remaining six were unaccounted for – scattered to the wind. A few ended up on rooftops, some landed in an elementary school a few kilometres away, and one landed on a group of onlookers outside the Presidential Office.

It was a fitting, if somewhat embarrassing metaphor for Taiwan’s fractious political landscape and the deep divisions that will likely decide the winner of January’s upcoming presidential elections.

Aside from the paratroopers, Ma must also be bemused by the polls, which have him facing the real possibility of losing in January's presidential election.

A survey conducted by Taiwan's Global Views Survey Research Center found that Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, a 55-year-old former vice premier who is the first female candidate for top office in any modern Chinese state, has a slight lead on Ma, by 36 percent to 35.8 percent.

It’s a far cry from the last elections three and a half years ago, when Ma swept to power by 17 percentage points – an unheard of margin since free elections began in 1996. But that was at the death knell of the contentious Chen Shui-bien administration, which was wracked by corruption scandals and which drove US-Taiwan relations to all-time lows over Chen’s often combative stance towards China.

Since then, Ma has worked hard to thaw relations and focus on greater economic ties with its antagonist 180 kilometres across the Taiwan Strait, which it split from following Mao Zedong’s routing of Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC forces in 1949. Taipei and Beijing signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in June 2010, and have since ratified 15 economic, transport and tourism agreements.

But many analysts believe Ma’s cosier relationship with the mainland may hurt the incumbent with younger voters who perceive his willingness to deal with China as a sign he is bartering the island away and weakening its negotiating stance, particularly as the mainland occupies significantly greater economic and diplomatic space in the region.

This time up, Ma is also facing an opponent who has galvanized the youth vote and painted the island’s impressive economic indicators as Trojan Horses which don’t reflect the reality of the average voter. Tsai has also been effective at working Taiwan’s almost invisible dividing line running through the middle of the island by building stronger support in the traditional DPP stronghold in the south, while making inroads into the centre of the country, where most predict the election will be won. The KMT, as usual, should carry northern Taiwan and Taipei handily.  

‘Ma’s polls started to drop over competence issues and his handling of Typhoon Morakot in 2009. Since then, income disparities, job uncertainties and socio-economic issues such as increased outward investment to China when jobs for young people are scarce have also hurt,’ says DPP spokesperson Hsiao Bi-khim. ‘The KMT likes to point to its GDP growth rate, but that’s a figure driven by the rich and enjoyed by them also. The wealth disparity in Taiwan is out of hand.’

Still, on paper, many of Taiwan’s recent economic achievements are certainly impressive. GDP growth for 2010 came in at 10.88 percent, the world’s fifth highest and a solid number given the island’s reliance on high-tech exports to a slowing United States and Europe. This year, Taiwan also racked up record export figures. It enjoys a healthy trade surplus, had the world’s fifth largest foreign reserves as of the end of August, was ranked sixth in overall competitiveness by Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development, and was named the second-best investment destination in Asia by US-based research unit Business Environment Risk Intelligence.

‘We know the most serious problem is the inequality between the poor and the rich. But this problem is everywhere. We have moved to introduce a luxury tax and property taxes to slow property prices, which have been effective over the past quarter’ says Francis Yi-hua Kan, KMT spokesperson. ‘EFCA will prove to be even more valuable down the road because it will open up new free trade agreements that were blocked before we had a China deal, such as the Singapore agreement and more agreements with other ASEAN members.’

Frankie Fook-lun Leung
November 5, 2011 at 03:59

George Bernard Shaw said: Traveling only reinforces one’s prejudice. The more the Taiwanese interact with the Mainlanders, the more they realize they are not the same. Hence, not many Taiwanese, if the truth be known, really want Taiwan to be part of Mainland China. Even Deng Xiaoping’s One Country Two Systems is dropped from the lips of the Mainland propaganda machine. China has learned a hard lesson. If she takes up a position in favor of the KMT, it will have a boomerang effect: it helps the DPP. China and Taiwan and each of them have learned to play the game with more skill and delicacy. Just a carrot and a stick is not sufficient or effective for China. The dilemma Taiwan faces is this: if the Taiwanese economy has become so dependent on China’s, how can you convince your troops and other government agencies to maintain vigilance against a power which may one day conquer you. Ma has to walk on a fine line.

October 22, 2011 at 04:44

The DDP’s brief and un-disciplined behaviors have past their effects and fervors since the end of former DDP President. Chen(who is now jailed for corruptions). The DDP’s existence was nurtured and managed by the US’s Taiwan strategy even before the end of Chen Kai Shek’s son regime when the pretender of KMT successor Mr. Lee Deng Hui was installed as a new path for the DDP mess that followed. The strategy had failed and US planners have already re-focusing their objectives on other feasible ventures as we speak.
Merely observing that character Lee DengHui’s transformations/mutations(dis-respectfully put) from the quiet,smiling(not natural or sincerely),and outbursts(like a child) about the annoucement of Taiwan independance was enough to predict the doom of the DDP. ” A fish needs clean water and the right temperature to survive ” and the DDP resembles a fish that was mired in the quickly drying mud hole.
Whats lacking at this point are the long over-due understandings and acceptance of the Chinese decendents(most of whom have no immidiate relatives on the mainland)toward what the mainland is NOW(Not 100 or 50 years ago as preached to them by non other than separatists). The road ahead will be long and bumpy as expected. Efforts and hardworks contributed by members of the working groups on both sides of the strait will produce possitive results in due time.
The “One country,two sytems “out-lined by comrade. Deng XiaoPing remains in effect for peaceful,timely,and smooth advance toward the historic occasion of unification.
Finally, trades and other economic co-operations will enhence the economic healths on both sides of the strait long into the future as is the case between China and ASEAN nations. “Its a win-win situation” as echoed by some Chinese officials.

John Chan
October 22, 2011 at 02:30

China wants to control Taiwan is no different from the Yankee wants to control the Confederacy. Both ROC and PRC are the governments of China, they just need to agree on the final format of the regime of China. The process of finalization is near the end.

The ill wishes of foreign imperialists and Japanese wannabes to sabotage the unification of Taiwan and China will fail. Meanwhile the American Spring will break USA into 6 pieces as the Russian predicted.

So Billy turn on CCTV and Al Jazeera to watch the reality of your nation, not the propaganda from the news outlet of the Black Information Network from the Westpac.

Oro Invictus
October 21, 2011 at 05:48


It isn’t a question as to who ran the numbers, the question is who did the survey; of course a pro-DPP paper would publish these results if they were favourable, that doesn’t change the results themselves. It’s like I was saying before with Yang Zi and the VOA news, he picked the news which related polling data suggesting Ma 10 points ahead of Tsai, but chances are he wouldn’t immediately link to other VOA articles on the PRC because they make the PRC look unfavourable.

It doesn’t matter who decides to relay the results, it is the results themselves, and the fact they are sourced and confirmed as being from the NCCU Survey means it was conducted by the same group of people who end up counting election results (who, unless you want to get into polling fraud which is a bad can of worms to open when this discussion also involves the PRC, are therefore the most accurate source of pre-election opinions).

@Yang Zi

The numbers still add up just fine, as these results are from two different sets of polling questions; the first provided numerous alternatives to simply declaring independence or not, while the latter only presented a choice between independence or no independence, unification or no unification. The reason this is important to note is that, combining the results from the two polls, it suggests the general opinion is still heavily in favour of independence for Taiwan, de facto or otherwise. The first set of questions provides the specific ideas for Taiwan’s future as desired by the Taiwanese, the second set provides the overall direction (which is why binary or quasi-binary questions like these are often used as follow-ups in public opinion polls).

However, even if we just consider the first poll, it clearly shows the Taiwanese don’t want unification with the PRC; 51% either want outright independence or perpetual status quo (items 1-3), only 9.4% want unification (be it immediate or otherwise, items 5 & 6), and 39.6% are undecided (items 4 & 7). Thus, even if all the undecided ended up deciding they want unification (which is extremely improbable, as I will expound on below), the majority would still not want unification.

If we now consider the second set of questions, we can also gain an idea of where the undecided votes would go, with the majority being the status quo (given that, for questions 3 & 4 the vast majority do not want unification no matter what) and the second highest being independence (given the aggregate results of questions 1 & 2 favour independence).

Questions 1 & 2 are especially noteworthy, since they basically indicate that the Taiwanese don’t demand formal independence almost solely because the PRC is threatening them with military action. Even then, more than 30% still think Taiwan should outright declare independence even under the threat of military action; basically, this means that unless the PRC plans to invade Taiwan, there is going to be no peaceful unification because that’s not what the Taiwanese want (albeit, it would be a short-lived invasion given it would face immediate censure from the majority of nations across the world as well as almost certainly be stopped quite early into things by American and NATO-allied forces).

You can try and put the poll results anyway you want, but it’s pretty clear what the Taiwanese want, and it’s definitely not unification.

yang zi
October 21, 2011 at 01:55

–@Oro Invictus—

Hope you can see my reply. This is the reason I say the numbers does add up.

In the first section of poll it has following

1. to seek independence from China quickly (4.4%)
2. to maintain the status quo now and seek independence later (18.5%)
3. to maintain the status quo indefinitely (28.1%)
4. to maintain the status quo now while deciding what to do later (37.3%)
5. to maintain the status quo now and seek unification later (8.0%)
6. to seek unification with China quickly (1.4%)
7. no answer (2.3%)

From this poll, you know seeking independence no matter what population is 4.4% + 18.5% = 22.9%, the status quo + deciding later + unification is 74.8%. (add 3,4,5,6).

so 74% of people don’t want to say independence (some want the option, but not willing to decide it now).

Ok, let’s look at the second set of number

Q1. If the act of declaring independence will cause Mainland China to attack
Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan independence?
Not Favor: 60.8% Favor: 30.5% NA: 8.7%
Q2. If the act of declaring independence will not cause Mainland China to attack
Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan independence?
Not Favor: 18.4% Favor: 74.1% NA: 7.5%
Q3. If great political, economic, and social disparity exists between Mainland
China and Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan unifying with China?
Not Favor: 76.5% Favor: 16.4% NA: 7.1%
Q4. If only small political, economic, and social disparity exists between
Mainland China and Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan unification with
Not Favor: 56.4% Favor: 36.4% NA: 7.2

Mind you, when they were asked first set of numbers, they know Mainland will attack if Taiwan declare independence, so the Q1 answer should be 74% not favor (from the first set of questions), not 60.8%. this why I say the numbers does’t add up, and I think this is also why the blogger said this is a work in progress.

October 20, 2011 at 23:11

@Yang Zi & Oro Invictus. The Global Views survey provided by the author was an article that was picked for publishing by the Taipei Times on October 13, 2011.

I have for the last 10 years or more been following online Taiwan’s news from 2 newspapers; that is, The Taipei Times which is obviously slanted for DPP and the other is The China Post which is equally slanted towards KMT.

Both newspapers are directly opposing to each other and are fond of publishing articles that serve their own agenda. That’s how I see it.

October 20, 2011 at 22:57

@Michal. I live in Taiwan, how about you?

Would be interesting to know whom do you predict will win in the coming elections ? KMY Ma Or DPP Tsai ?

October 20, 2011 at 22:44

@Oro Invictus. You said to Yang Zi : You might want to reread the article, as it says 56.4% would NOT want to be unified with the PRC

I am a bit disorientated on the discussion between you and Yang Zi. Where is this figure 56.4% mentioned in the article ? Or is it in another link ?

I re-read the article by author Cain Nunns 3 times.

Oro Invictus
October 20, 2011 at 10:58

@Yang Zi

Pray tell then, if the Taiwanese government’s surveys aren’t a good source of polling data for the opinions of the people of Taiwan, what is? I have to know, so I can inform the Taiwanese that these people are apparently unqualified despite being the same people in charge of tallying the actual votes come election day (as they have been since free elections began in Taiwan).

Honestly, you do know I read through the paper as well? So, you see, saying insubstantial and nebulous things like “these numbers don’t add up” won’t cut it with me. What numbers? Why don’t they add up? These are the sorts of details I’m going to need if you want me to take you seriously; right now, you are really just grasping at the thinnest of straws.

Also, in regards to your bit about the PRC “getting closer to” Taiwan, there’s already terms in existence for when one country subsumes another when the populace of the subsumed country wishes against it: Invasion, aggressive annexation, non-consensual assimilation, etc. Basically, the same thing Hussein did with Kuwait, Stalin did with Finland, Aemilianus with Carthage, and so on and so forth. The fact you and others who support the CPC are so ready to disregard the feelings of the Taiwanese people just for your own pugnacious fantasies of control puts you directly among the ranks of the aforementioned.

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