Steven Crook ("Tourism equals political benefits,"August 21, 2000) ponders why tourists do not visit Taiwan as much as other countries. I agree that one does not see many tourism advertisements for Taiwan in newspapers here in America. This may be one reason.
The root of the problem is far deeper, however. The KMT promoted the fallacy that Taiwan is "Free China" so well in the last 50 years that the international traveler now thinks of Taiwan as China.
When he hears the words "Republic of China" he thinks of the "People's Republic of China." So travelers wishing to see the sites of China go to China. Why would they come to Taiwan to see the "false China?"
The subtleties of the erudite semantic exercises that we see today from major politicians about being "Chinese" from the Republic of China versus being "Chinese" from the People's Republic of China are lost on Westerners.
Frankly, in the Westerners' eyes, Chinese are Chinese, whether from the Republic of China or the People's Republic of China.
That is why it is crucial that Taiwan recognize itself as Taiwan, and that the Taiwanese recognize themselves as Taiwanese and not pretend to be something that they are not.
This is why China's cries to the world that other nations should stay out of its internal affairs have been so powerful when the issue of Taiwan is raised, because Taiwan still thinks of itself as China, albeit the Republic thereof. Quite confusing don't you think?
In the US, China is not highly regarded because of its human rights abuses, its alleged use of prison labor, its population control program and its anti-American views, as well its alleged contributions to the US presidential election in 1996.
For Taiwanese politicians to refer to Taiwan as "The Republic of China" during major speeches and interviews, therefore casts Taiwan in a negative light because, firstly, people don't realize that "Republic of China" refers to Taiwan and, secondly, the word "China" is perceived unfavorably here in America.
Taiwan has achieved a remarkable transformation from a society that suppressed human rights under martial law to an economically successful democracy. Why tarnish that image by associating it with "Republic of China" or with "China," terms which bring to mind, past and current atrocities?
Taiwan needs to promote Taiwan in the world as Taiwan, without the prefix "Republic of China." The term is an antiquated yoke of oppression, politically, culturally and socially.
Once the people of the world realize that Taiwan is Taiwan and not China, the world will better understand Taiwan and its separate history and culture. This is how Taiwan will benefit, politically and socially.
Promote Taiwan for what it is: Taiwan, the beautiful island.
Gene Deune, MD
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland
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