Taiwanese believe the incoming U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, sees their country as a bargaining chip and not a friend, according to a new poll.

Trump’s inauguration later today has drawn hundreds of thousands to Washington, including an expected 200,000 protesters as part of the Women's March tomorrow. However, the election of the 45th president of the United States has already thrust Taiwan and its strained relations with China into the international spotlight after Trump’s Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and a series of statements where Trump challenged Washington’s status-quo policy on U.S.-China-Taiwan relations.

Over the past two weeks, The News Lens Taiwan edition surveyed more than 100 Taiwanese for their opinions on Trump and found that while a majority were excited by the historic phone call, very few, if any, believe Trump is a friend of Taiwan.

More than 90 percent of the respondents to the online poll, which was conducted in Chinese and included six multi-choice questions, were under the age of 45.

Asked whether Taiwan is a “bargaining chip” for Trump, more than 80 percent agreed, choosing the answer, "Yes, Trump thinks of Taiwan as a ‘bargaining chip’ with China and this is a political fact of Taiwan’s position in the world, the country needs to learn to survive under these conditions.”

Not one respondent in the TNL survey thought Trump was treating Taiwan as a friend. While 6 percent said they were angered by Trump using Taiwan as a bargaining chip, 8 percent said the 10-minute Trump-Tsai call was just a phone call and nothing else.

Moreover, 90 percent thought that the opinions or interests of Taiwanese were not taken into consideration by either the U.S. or China during the recent flurry of Sino-U.S. discussions.

The view is in line with Trump’s own statements. Following the phone call with Tsai, he told Fox News Sunday, "I fully understand the 'one China' policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a 'one China' policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

Asked for their take on why Taiwan had become the subject of the president-elect’s early diplomatic focus, 37 percent saw it as part of a delicate diplomatic strategy by the incoming administration, 33 percent believed it was an attempt by Trump to anger China, and 26 percent saw it as insignificant and thought nothing more should be read into it. Still, 60 percent said they were excited when they first heard about the call, 30 percent had no reaction and 3 percent said they were angry.

Two weeks after the Trump-Tsai phone call, President Barrack Obama addressed relations between Taiwan, China and the United States, saying that “Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they're able to continue to function with some degree of autonomy, they won't charge forward and declare independence.” He added that the status quo, “although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved,” had kept the peace and allowed Taiwan to have a successful economy and gave Taiwanese a high degree of self-determination.

Asked whether they agreed with Obama’s statement that Taiwan agrees to maintain the current status quo under a certain level of autonomy and not declare independence, almost 70 percent of those polled by TNL chose the option, "disagree, we have other choices." Twenty-six percent agreed that the status quo works as it is.

Putting themselves in Trump’s shoes, 37 percent thought they would see Taiwan as a potential partner to boost the geopolitical position of the United States in Asia, 4 percent would see Taiwan simply as a potential market for U.S. weapons sales, and more than half thought both the above responses were applicable.


Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

In this Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 photo released by Taiwan Presidential Office Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump through a speaker phone in Taipei, Taiwan. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Editor: Olivia Yang