Assessing Public Support for (Non-)Peaceful Unification with Taiwan: Evidence from a Nationwide Survey in China
36 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2023
Date Written: March 7, 2023
A military conflict over the Taiwan Strait seems increasingly likely today against the backdrop of intensifying geopolitical competition between China and the United States.
While much has been discussed and debated about the prospects for and consequences of war, we know little about how ordinary Chinese evaluate the full set of policy tools that Beijing could potentially leverage against Taipei. Drawing from a unique public opinion survey in China, we find that armed unification, or ‘wutong’, garners only a slim majority of support, no more than for a range of less aggressive policy options, from using small-scale warfare, to coercing Taipei into negotiating, to simply maintaining the status quo. Mapping out the policy choices of individuals suggests that the majority are either ambivalent or pacifist, with only one out of one hundred rejecting all but the most extreme option of ‘wutong’. Analyses of respondent attributes further reveal that aggressive policy preferences are primarily driven by nationalism and peer pressure, but dampened by concerns about the economic, human, and reputational costs of non-peaceful unification and the likelihood of US intervention.
Keywords: CHINA, TAIWAN, CONFLICT, PUBLIC OPINION
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