Whenever people talk about cross-strait relationships, it is unavoidable to encounter sensitive topics and paradoxes. On one hand, Taiwan unanimously advocates for an independent state. However, on the other hand, the Communist Party of China stresses this “cross-straits, one family” ideal state. If we go beyond this common sense judgment, further investigate, and dig deeper into this cross-strait relationship, a few contradictions will become apparent. I would like to discuss what role the Taiwanese businessmen working in mainland China (台商, Taishang) will play in Taiwan’s 2016 presidential elections.

The notion that Taishang absolutely support the Guomingdang (KMT) is actually a fallacy. Instead, Taishang constitute a diverse, multicultural group. To a certain extent, Taishang have influenced Taiwan’s past development; thus, they will also become one of the keys to Taiwan’s future development.

If you want to further understand this phenomenon, the best method to is to investigate Taishang voters’ past actions and future tendencies. Over 100 million Taishang work in Mainland China and during election times a substantial proportion return back to Taiwan to vote. Without a doubt, in terms of cross-strait relations, Taishang have the ability to improve cross-strait economic liberalization and are the driving force of integration; From the perspective of Mainland China, cross-strait relations include a bigger plan—the united front strategy.

According to multiple Taiwan research and surveys, Taiwan strongly supports closer economic relations with Mainland China as it relates to economic growth in Taiwan. Thus, statements such as Taishang absolutely support KMT cannot be actually true. From a long-term perspective, they are concerned more about political stability rather than issues of political integration. Political stability ultimately leads to increased economic opportunities for business in China and fosters a better environment for growth in Taiwan. Maintaining the status quo is the most effective choice in terms of building this type of growth. Even during the Chen Shui-bian era, Taishang strongly felt that political instability deteriorated possible economic opportunities in cross-strait relations.


the KMT presidential nominees


According to survey data from National Chengchi University’s Election Research Center, up to 72% of Taiwan citizens either wish to maintain the status quo or eventual unification, 23% of citizens support short or long terms realization of an independent status, and the remaining people polled do not have an opinion.

Furthermore, 59% of citizens that support independent identify with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In other words, the majority of Taiwan people support independence, those that support independence identify as DPP, and the KMT officials all support cross-strait relations, these statements are all grossly exaggerated and do not represent the truth in cross-strait relations. The results of the opinion pool further explains the general consensus felt amongst Taiwan citizens—the belief that maintaining the status quo is the most effective option.

In discussing the 2016 presidential elections, Taishang and the common Taiwan citizen face similar voting dilemmas: what type of candidate will produce the most favorable future for Taiwan. According to opinion polls, Taishang and the common citizen both advocate for further economic cooperation in the form of maintaining this status quo. In my opinion, Taishang will indeed play an important and complex role in the 2016 election as a demographic group that views political stability as absolutely important. As long as Taiwan continues economic cooperation with Mainland China, Taishang will continue to be a stabilizing force in cross-strait relations.

Matt Gandolfo

Matt Gandolfo

Matt majored in Chinese Language and International Relations at University of Virginia. He enjoys monitoring the Chinese social media.

  • http://bilingualasiawatch.com Byunghun Yoo

    the poll’s somewhat surprising, considering what I saw from Occupy Central and the ensuing anti-Chinese protests in Taiwan last November.

  • CM Tai

    The entire population of Taiwan is 23 million. Where do you get 100 million Taishang working in mainland China? Am I missing something?

    • http://bilingualasiawatch.com Byunghun Yoo

      it seems the author has gotten the number wrongㅡ thank you for pointing it out!