Taiwan Insight: Taiwanese perceptions of diplomatic recognition

To address Taiwanese perceptions of diplomatic recognition and the dual roles of relations with China and concerns about countries demanding aid, we conducted an experimental web survey through PollcracyLab at National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) Election Study Center in December. Five hundred and two respondents were randomly assigned to receive one of four versions of a statement and asked to evaluate the statement on a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The versions were:

Version 1: Currently fifteen countries recognise Taiwan. It is important for Taiwan to maintain these formal diplomatic relations.

Version 2: Currently fifteen countries recognise Taiwan. It is important for Taiwan to maintain these formal diplomatic relations, even if this hurts relations with China.

Version 3: Currently fifteen countries recognise Taiwan. It is important for Taiwan to maintain these formal diplomatic relations, even if this encourages these countries to ask for more international aid from Taiwan.

Version 4: Currently fifteen countries recognise Taiwan. It is important for Taiwan to maintain these formal diplomatic relations, even if this hurts relations with China and encourages these countries to ask for more international aid from Taiwan.

Our survey results find that overall support for maintaining relations increases when the possibility of hurting relations with China is referenced. However, support decreases when maintaining relations is framed within the context of countries asking for more aid, suggesting the public sensitivity to so-called “dollar diplomacy”. Interestingly, support for the maintenance of diplomatic relations in version 4 that mentions both the China and “dollar diplomacy” frames produces levels of support identical to that of the baseline. Separated by party, we find that DPP supporters to be swayed more by the framing about hurting relations with China, whereas KMT support in Version 2 marginally differs from the baseline version. Meanwhile, framing recognition in terms of potential costs appeared to have a much larger effect on KMT supporters, with limited influence on DPP supporters.

Next, we asked “In your opinion, who or what is to blame for Taiwan losing diplomatic partners since 2016?” A word cloud is presented below. Here, the most common phrases were references to China (e.g. 中國, 中共, 中國打壓, 大陸) or President Tsai and the DPP (e.g. 蔡英文, 民進黨, 總統), with answers largely falling on partisan lines. In fact, no DPP identifier mentioned Tsai or the DPP as a cause, instead emphasising China’s role, while KMT supporters infrequently mentioned China’s role.

Specifically, we asked respondents to evaluate the following statement on a five-point scale of strongly disagree to strongly agree: Taiwan should ask the US for assistance in maintaining diplomatic partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean. Here we find tepid results for US assistance as 40% of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement, while similar numbers (38.7%) agreed with the statement. However, again we see a clear partisan distinction: among DPP supporters, 57.8 agreed that Taiwan should ask for American assistance, compared to only 28.1% of KMT supporters.

Full report by Timothy S. Rich:

https://taiwaninsight.org/2020/02/03/taiwanese-perceptions-of-diplomatic-recognition/