‘No rush’ for talks
But although Saturday’s election results may have dispirited Ang and other believers in independence — and delighted Communist Party leaders in Beijing who want unification — there is little sign that Ma has any intention of moving toward, or has any public backing for, a political settlement with China on Taiwan’s status.
“There is no rush to open up political dialogue,” Ma said shortly after declaring victory over Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party. “It’s not a looming issue.”
It is not a popular issue, either. Public support for unification, which Beijing views as the aim of political discussions, has withered to insignificance, according to public opinion surveys by the Election Study Center at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. Independence is not popular either, but it enjoys far more support than a merger with China.
In a 2011 poll, only 1.4 percent of respondents said that they wanted swift unification, and 60 percent favored keeping the status quo indefinitely or until some undecided future date. Only 8.7 percent said they preferred the status quo with eventual unification, compared with 23 percent who want either immediate independence or the status quo with moves toward independence.
Beijing has repeatedly said it would use force to block any move by Taiwan, already a separate state in all but name, to declare independence.
Even Ma’s fervent fans dismiss the idea of joining China anytime soon. “When the Communist Party is gone and they have democracy, we can talk about it,” said Lin Chun-ching, an elderly Kuomintang supporter. He spent Election Day feeding birds outside a giant memorial hall to Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese leader who was defeated by Mao Zedong during China’s civil war and decamped to Taiwan in 1949.
Chiang, who dreamed of reconquering China and was hailed for decades in Taiwan as a hero, is now widely dismissed as delusional, a dictator or simply irrelevant. The grounds of his memorial hall used to be named in his honor but are now called Freedom Square. Most of the visitors are tourists, many from China.
Chiang’s old — and the Communist Party’s current — dream of a single, united China holds little appeal for most people in Taiwan, said Su Chi, the former head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. Both unification and independence are “issues of faith” best left to one side.