Taipei, Taiwan – Independent theater producer Lin Chihyu, 29, originally planned to travel to Vietnam with her maternal grandfather to attend a friend's wedding ceremony before Taiwan held a general election in January.
But five days before the survey, he changed his mind and decided not to book his flight.
"If there is no Taiwan, I think it will be very difficult to have another place in Asia that has this degree of freedom," said Lin, who voted for incumbent Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the capital, Taipei. .
"Only Taiwan that allows you to be so free to say (what you mean)."
A democratic political system with a high degree of freedom has fostered a generation of young people increasingly proud of their Taiwanese roots, creating generational change that is likely to become a growing problem in future island politics.
"It is fascinating how Taiwanese who were born even 10 years apart can have such different life experiences"said Margaret Lewis, a Taiwanese political expert and professor of law at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
"People my age remember martial law and were old enough to vote in the first direct presidential elections (in 1996). People 10 years younger might have vague memories of authoritarian times, but they came of age in a Free and Democratic Taiwan "44. -year Lewis added.
in a In a survey of changes in Taiwanese and Chinese identity among people on the island, the Center for Electoral Studies at Chengchi National University found that as of June 2019 about 57 percent of people identified as Taiwanese, while the 37 percent said they were Taiwanese and Chinese. Only 4 percent said they were Chinese, while the rest decided not to respond.
Meanwhile, a survey by the Taiwan Democracy Foundation found that 82 percent of respondents ages 20-29 were willing to defend Taiwan if "China uses force against Taiwan for unification."
The Republic of China (ROC) was originally established in 1912 in mainland China. However, after being defeated by the Communists in the civil war in 1949, their nationalist leaders moved to Taiwan, where they established themselves in power.
The victorious communist, meanwhile, established the People's Republic of China (PRC) and regards Taiwan as part of its territory. He has not ruled out the use of force to incorporate it into the continent.
Another young woman who endorsed Tsai was Cathy Chan, a 23-year-old master's student from National Taiwan University, who went home to Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, to vote.
"When they studied in Japan, many people thought that Taiwan was China," Chan told Al Jazeera, explaining some of the frustration he feels at the lack of knowledge of others about his homeland.
"I want to confidently tell everyone that I am from Taiwan. And Taiwan is a beautiful democratic and free country."
Timothy S Rich, an associate professor of political science at Western Kentucky University (WKU), who studied Taiwanese electoral politics and public opinion, said younger Taiwanese were "much less likely,quot; to see themselves as Chinese, except in a wide recognition of cultural similarities.
"They see Taiwan as a sovereign state separate from China," he added.
Austin Wang, assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Nevada, He told Al Jazeera that a growing sense of unique identity has become one of the most important trends in Taiwan in the past 30 years.
He said while older generations still see themselves as part of China, and unification is an opportunity to solve China's so-called "century of humiliation," the term used in China to describe the mid-19th century period when it was dominated by Japan, Russia and the European powers: young people have different ideas.
"For the young generation that only identifies itself as Taiwanese, they mostly see the case of Hong Kong (protests) as the example (of the Chinese government)," said Wang, who studied Taiwanese politics and political psychology, adding that young people are mainly against the unification of China.
"Although the old authoritarian KMT regime tried to persuade Taiwanese to be Chinese, the de facto separation had made Taiwanese and Chinese different in many ways," he added, referring to to the ruling Kuomintang party that imposed martial law on the island from 1949 to 1987.
That authoritarian system had a significant effect on Taiwan's older generation, many of whom are reluctant to speak freely.
Chen Yi Chun, 29, who works at a bookstore, said his mother told him every day not to write "sloppy,quot; political posts on his Facebook.
"Once this generation was born, we had this freedom immediately, so there is no way for us to understand what they were afraid of," Chen said. Taiwan's "unification,quot; with China would be "a very scary thing," he added.
The wealthy at the WKU noted that young people were also less likely to have "emotional ties to China,quot; and would have an easier time asserting their Taiwanese identity.
The change has left the KMT, with older leaders and a platform seen as a prop for unification, in the background.
"While in the not too distant past, the party could position itself as the party of political and economic stability, INow he often seems to be out of touch with Taiwanese society,Rich said to Al Jazeera.
This month, the party appointed a new leader.
Johnny Chiang, 48, is the youngest person to hold the post, but even as the party faces the reality of Taiwan's generational shift, its traditionalists remain reluctant to change.
Chiang will also have to walk carefully with China.
"If China perceives Chiang as seeking to adjust the fundamental principles by which the KMT conducts cross-strait relations, by getting rid of the 1992 Consensus, it may try to sabotage it." Taiwanese policy expert Brian Hioe and founding editor of New Bloom, a Taiwan-focused cultural and political magazine, told Al Jazeera, referring to the so-called agreement with Beijing that there is only "one China,quot; but that each party has its own interpretation of what "China,quot; is.
While concerns about high property prices (an apartment in Taipei is typically 14.5 times higher than the average annual household income) and the economy could be fertile ground for the KMT, many young people remain behind the reformist Tsai.
"Issues that may have been difficult to address before, from refugee laws to free trade agreements, are probably on the table," said Rich of WKU.
"I also hope that, more generally, Tsai and the DPP will be firmer in responding to China," he added.
For people, like Chen, it would be a welcome development.
"I think Taiwan will become a better country," said Chen. "As a citizen, I will use the strength of my life to make Taiwan an existence that is sufficient to demonstrate that democracy and freedom are the least lethal, but most effective, weapons against hegemony."