On September 5th the Stimson Center invited Dr. Eric Yu, an assistant research fellow of the Election Study Center and assistant professor of political science at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, to discuss how current cross-strait relations, between Taiwan and mainland China, impact Taiwan’s electoral politics and shape public opinion towards the mainland. China is now by far Taiwan’s largest trading partner, generating roughly $120 billion in trades per year, and Taiwan’s largest destination for foreign investment, accounting for 67.8% of investments between January and June of this year. Could China’s growing economic significance result in the ROC developing political and agenda setting power in Taiwan?
Dr. Yu characterized the Chinese government as driven by political goals; it is primarily concerned with defining the nation and establishing its sovereignty. Taiwan on the other hand is firstly focussed on economics; it is not primarily concerned with establishing an independent country but rather, as a democracy, it is focused on fulfilling public demand. According to survey results, the most important issues surrounding the 2012 elections in Taiwan were, “the economy” (27.13%), cross-strait relations (13.37%), upholding the 92 Consensus (5.58%), and unemployment (5.1%). These concerns are all related to Taiwan’s economic success and require the Taiwanese government to further maintain and develop strong relations with mainland China. As the priorities of the Taiwanese electorate become increasingly tied to Chinese trade and investment there has been an increase in positive attitude amongst Taiwanese citizens, with the percentage of people feeling hostility from Beijing dropping to 40%.
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