"Assessing Public Support for (Non-)Peaceful Unification with Taiwan" - by CWP alum Xiaojun Li

May 15, 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 in the near term. Drawing from a unique public opinion survey in China, we find that armed unification, or ‘wutong’, garners only a slim majority (55%) 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. Only one out of one hundred rejected 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.


  1. Adam Y. Liu & Xiaojun Li (2023) Assessing Public Support for (Non-)Peaceful Unification with Taiwan: Evidence from a Nationwide Survey in China, Journal of Contemporary China, DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2023.2209524


Xiaojun (pronounced “shee·ow ji·win”) received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University and joined the department in 2013. He is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at UBC and non-resident scholar at the 21st Century China Centre at UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy. He has also held visiting positions at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (2014-2015), Fudan Development Institute (2016), the East-West Center (2018), and the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute (2021).

His previous and ongoing research on international and comparative political economy can be broadly divided into three research programs that investigate (1) the impact of domestic politics on the process and content of foreign economic and security policies, (2) the impact of global supply chains on trade and investment, and (3) the political economy of trade liberalization in developing and post-communist countries. In all of these research programs, he uses China as the primary case of inquiry and employs a variety of methods, including interviews, archival research, survey experiment, and large-N analysis.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/users/icheinfach-989720/

Xiaojun Li