Taiwan Asserting Itself, in Name Only

February 20, 2007 at 8:51 pm | Posted in China, Chinese Civil War, News, Politics, Taiwan, 台灣, 台湾, 政治, 新聞, 新闻, 中国, 中國 | 1 Comment

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Evan Osnos in Taipei, Feb. 20 2007 Chicago Tribune

Odd as it seems, China Airlines doesn’t fly to the Chinese capital or, for that matter, anywhere in the vast heartland of the People’s Republic. That’s because the airline belongs to the other China, the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan.

For more than half a century, through decades of gaffes and misdirected phone calls from the outside world, archrival governments in Beijing and Taipei have each retained the name China on state-run businesses and agencies, a cold war over words between the mainland and the self-ruled island it calls a renegade province.

“I, myself, get confused,” said Joseph Wu, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

But the joint custody of the name China is beginning to crumble, a telling sign of how China’s rise in the world and Taiwan’s deepening isolation are further fueling their dangerous feud.

This month, Taiwan’s government abruptly pulled the name China from some key state-run institutions: China Shipbuilding became Taiwan International Shipbuilding; the postal service went from Chunghwa Post, which uses a Mandarin word for China, to Taiwan Post.

In the high-stakes standoff across the Taiwan Straits, China has roughly 1,000 missiles pointed at the island, by Taiwan’s count–these name changes are no small matters…

As a sovereign nation, whether it be Taiwan, the Republic of China (on Taiwan), or simply the Republic of China depending on one’s perspective, it is both imperative and reasonable that Taiwan differentiates itself from the People’s Republic of China and its government, namely the CCP. However, it seems rather pretentious for DPP, the ruling party for the past seven years to take such drastic measures with only a little over a year before the 2008 presidential elections.

Originally, the KMT adopted names such as Chunghwa Telecom, China Airlines, and many others to maintain that “its government,” the Republic of China remained the sole legitimate government of China despite having lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Today, with their political purpose rendered obsolete, these names merely serve as a quiet reminder of the cultural and ethnic ties most Taiwanese share with the ethnic Chinese population in China. To “explicitly” sever this link between Taiwan and China may indeed bolster and raise further awareness of the Taiwanese identity and bring the country closer together. But to what end? At the end of the day, there would still be roughly 1,000 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan from China’s eastern Fujian Province, Taiwan would still be internationally isolated, and Taiwan’s economy would still be at the mercy of investors and their perception of the level of danger faced by Taiwan.

Taiwan should stand up to China’s aggressive tactics, maintain its abilities to fend off potential attacks from China, and never give up its right to self-determination. However, all this must be done “as inconspicuously as possible” to minimize direct confrontations with China. Because like it or not, given China’s sheer size and its growing military and economic prowess, it simply doesn’t make sense for Taiwan to challenge China head on.

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  1. . However, it seems rather pretentious for DPP, the ruling party for the past seven years to take such drastic measures with only a little over a year before the 2008 presidential elections.

    Actually, for most of us green supporters, the DPP is doing this years too late….

    Originally, the KMT adopted names such as Chunghwa Telecom, China Airlines, Chunghwa Post and many others to maintain that “its government,” the Republic of China remained the sole legitimate government of China despite having lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

    True. However, Chunghwa Telecom was the Taiwan Telecommunications Administraton until 1996. Similarly, Chunghwa Post was the Taiwan Post into the ROC era. In fact, the first modern post office was established in China by its Manchu rulers in 1896. That was after Taiwan had already had two different governments issuing stamps there. The DPP is correcting injustices of the ROC government — if you visit the Postal Museum you’ll find Taiwan history blotted out — the Post Office there is dated back to the Ching Dynasty. Not to the real Taiwan post offices.

    Rectification of name is normal in post-colonial environments, and the DPP is following in the same steps as India (where are the Raj statues? Smashed and mutilated, or collected in certain sites, like the Bombay Zoo). Taiwan is unique in that the colonial elite is still around and still seeking to get back into power, and doing its best to hold up the normal post-colonial transition.

    Today, with their political purpose rendered obsolete, these names merely serve as a quiet reminder of the cultural and ethnic ties most Taiwanese share with the ethnic Chinese population in China.

    No, they are an abuse of history, and a reminder to every Taiwanese about how the ROC stamped out Taiwan’s past. “Chunghwa” as used in Taiwan is a marker of colonial power, not a reminder of a cultural past.

    Two things will happen. Either Taiwan will become independent, and those names will be changed, or Taiwan will be annexed to China, and those names will be changed. Either way, they have no future.

    Michael


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