Commonwealth: Taiwan vs. Republic of China, the Brewing Generational Conflict

Don’t let his passion for Taiwanese politics and election paraphernalia fool you. Batto is a golden-haired, bright-eyed American citizen. “In Taiwan, identity and sovereignty surpass every other topic.” Batto has studied Taiwanese politics for three decades; he knows his stuff. “The entire political climate in Taiwan still revolves around two simple questions: ‘what is Taiwan?’ And, ‘what’s our relationship with China?’”

Self-identification and relations with China have always been the central theme of Taiwanese politics.

Starting from early 2019, when Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a speech espousing reunification on the 40th anniversary of China issuing the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” (告台灣同胞書); and then in mid-2019, when Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protests began making waves; Taiwanese politics have always been affected by ripples from across the strait. Reverberations from these events will influence our ethnic and national identification.

The Generational Gap Has Grown Wider than the North-South Divide

As political scientist Tzu-chiao Su (蘇子喬) points out, traditionally, the political schism in Taiwan has been between blue party (KMT) supporters in the north and green party (DPP) supporters in the south. This distinction weakened after the 2014 elections. A new breed of social conflict is more likely to happen along the lines of the generational gap rather than regional boundaries.

In terms of Taiwan’s national identity, the disparity between the generations has reached a record high.

CommonWealth Magazine’s 2020 State of the Nation Survey found that over eighty percent of Taiwanese age twenty to twenty-nine self-identifies as “Taiwanese”. (Table 1) The majority supports Taiwanese independence over maintaining the status quo. (Table 2-2) Over half of them thinks we should refer to our country as “Taiwan” when speaking to the outside world. (Table 3)

Among Taiwanese over forty, more than sixty percent identifies with “Republic of China” or “Taiwan, Republic of China”. (Table 3) When it comes to cross-strait relations, more than sixty percent supports maintaining the status quo. (Table 2-2)

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