By Lars Stroman (published in Taipei Times on 24 May 2023)
Not even a dictatorship can completely ignore public opinion. An attempt has now been made to measure the level of support for a military attack on Taiwan, with 55 percent responding that they could consider it.
The results of the poll were published by the Journal of Contemporary China, an academic journal that describes China from various perspectives. The measurement has also been noted by media in Taiwan.
The measurement of attitudes towards Taiwan should of course be interpreted with great caution. However, the indication is that there is widespread skepticism towards an invasion of Taiwan among those surveyed. 1824 people responded, which is of course a small sample size in a country with 1.4 billion inhabitants.
In the Communist Party’s official rhetoric, support for a “reunification” between China and Taiwan is unanimous. According to the poll, almost half of those surveyed are skeptical of the military option.
It should be remembered that China is one of the world’s toughest dictatorships. There, you have to choose your friends carefully and be careful about expressing your true opinions about the country’s leaders. This naturally also affects a survey. So the figure of 55 percent is rather too high than too low. One commentator on the survey says that the real support for a military invasion of Taiwan may be around 25 percent.
It is worth noting that 22 percent responded that they support the idea of an independent Taiwan. In China, expressing that opinion is associated with great danger.
China is the country where government officials and citizens are expected to study “Xi Jinping’s thinking”, which is a direct copy of the rhetoric during Mao Zedong’s time, when the cult of personality was extreme.