As Taiwan becomes more populated and increases its level of international engagement, one might expect the leading moral and ethical issues governing trust to decrease, but that apparently is not the case. Since 2001, the Ethical Promotion Association has conducted a bi-annual survey of social confidence in an effort to gauge the level of trust among Taiwanese people, with the results indicating an upsurge in trust.
In the 2001 survey, 34 percent of respondents said they trusted the “majority of people in society.” While this year’s survey indicates that this has increased to 64.5 percent.
In ethnic Chinese societies, more importance is generally paid to relationship dynamics of the so-called five ethics: father to son, brothers, husband to wife, friends and between a king and his subjects. Of lesser importance is the relationships between individuals and unknown strangers, which is considered the sixth ethic or public morality.
Teng Pei-yu, secretary general of the Ethical Promotion Association, believes that Taiwanese people have made much progress in society. Foreign observers have the impression that Taiwanese people are willing to help, are kind and warm. This has been reinforced by following recent natural disasters in China and Japan, when Taiwan’s people were very generous with their donations and in showing their concerns for the welfare of these neighboring countries.
With regards to the degree of trust conferred on certain people in Taiwanese society, the survey showed that family members ranked consistently at the top for the last six surveys, while doctors and teachers come in second and third.
Government officials and legislators are the least trustworthy, followed by real estate agents and financial advisors respectively. The last two have only recently been added in this survey.
In a cross analysis of people’s political tendencies, plus a comparison of previous surveys, regardless of political affiliation, trust in government officials has dropped three to four percent on average.
Despite ranking officials having come in lower on the trust index, the confidence placed in ordinary civil servants has risen year to year, now coming in as the fifth most trusted people. This was likely influenced by improved customer service training at the local level, generating a positive impression from survey respondents.
According to Global Views, the internet was also included in this year’s survey, with those surveyed expressing a high level of mistrust in the internet. Specifically, 87.8 percent of citizens are suspicious of dating or social networking sites, 75.8 percent do not trust the messages circulating on the internet, 59.5 percent do not have confidence in credit payments and monetary transactions via websites, and 49.6 percent do not trust internet purchases.
As for the media, the public expressed more confidence in print media, and more doubts about the trustworthiness of television. In fact, 45.1 percent do not trust news coverage on TV, compared with the survey results from 2001, showing that the confidence rate has dropped by 18.3 percent.
Sun Chen, former chairman of the Ethical Promotion Association, said in an analysis that the level of trust in a society is a “social asset.” With long observation of Taiwanese ethical changes, Sun concluded the “relationship between parents and children is now (in Taiwan) not so close as before, but the relationship between individuals and social groups has improved somewhat,” reported Global Views.