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June 23, 2017

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Will there be war over the Tiaoyutais?

Is there going to be a war over the Tiaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkakus? According to a joint poll conducted by Taiwan's Want Want China Times Public Opinion Survey Center and China's "Global Times (環球時報)," a little over half of the people on the Chinese mainland believe Beijing would resort to force of arms to protect its sovereignty over what is known as the Diaoyutai group of eight small uninhabited islets, only 120 miles northeast of Keelung, Taiwan's major international seaport in the north. Taiwan, China, and Japan have a sovereignty dispute over the small archipelago.

The results of the survey, published in Taipei by the China Times on last Thursday, show 52.1 percent of the Chinese respondents believe the sovereign dispute may lead to war between China and Japan. Another 38.3 percent say there will be no war, while the remaining 9 percent have no opinion on the matter. In Taiwan, a 40-percent plurality believe there won't be war, slightly over the 42.7 percent who are convinced there will be, with the remaining 17.3 percent answering that they don't know.

Asked whether there is an understanding or a tacit agreement or coordination between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to cope with Japan, a 64.3-percent majority in mainland China are convinced it exists, while a 36.8-percent plurality in Taiwan believe there isn't, followed at 27.5 percent by those who think there is, while "don't know" answers represent 35.7 percent. On the other side of the Strait, the same replies account for a mere 15.1 percent, whereas those who say there isn't make up 20.6 percent.

Should the two sides work together to solve the problem of the small island group? Supporters for cross-strait cooperation account for 85.3 percent in the mainland and 51.5 percent in Taiwan, against the non-supporters representing 8.8 percent and 27.5 percent, respectively.

On the question of "whatever means, including acts of warfare, have to be taken to defend the sovereignty over the Diaoyu or Tiaoyu Islands," nine out of every 10 people in China, or 90.8 percent say "yes" whereas a 41.2 percent plurality of their counterparts in Taiwan agree with them. Those in Taiwan who say "no" are a 31.6-percent minority, with the remaining 27.2 percent expressing no opinion. The naysayers in China make up a mere 5.2-percent minority, while 4 percent have no opinion.

Which side of the Strait has a stronger stance on the small islets vis-a-vis Japan? A little more than half of the respondents in Taiwan, or 50.5 percent, believe Beijing has, while 18.3 percent are convinced that Taipei takes a stronger stance against Japan, 2.6 percent say both Taipei and Beijing have an equally strong stance, and 1.5 percent think neither has a strong stance. In the Chinese mainland, the figures are 16.4 percent, 38.7 percent, 23.6 percent, and 7.6 percent, respectively.

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