Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 8 News List


The mythical mainland

I appreciate how you routinely refer to China as China and Taiwan as Taiwan, two separate and distinct countries, and that you do not erroneously refer to China as "mainland China" or "the mainland" -- as if Taiwan was in some way connected to it.

Hawaii has a mainland, it is true: the continental US. But Taiwan does not have a mainland, and your newspaper makes this perfectly clear, unlike the other English newspapers, magazines and wire services in Taipei.

I recently asked a friend of mine in Taipei, a well-educated Taiwanese publishing professional in his 50s, why he still refers to China as "mainland China" or "the mainland" in his daily speech in English -- he does -- and this is what he told me: "I use the term `the mainland' partly because that's what we Taiwanese say in our language -- dalu (大陸). When residents of Taiwan go across the Taiwan Strait, they say to each other in Chinese that they are going to dalu, or the 'mainland.' They don't say they are going to China. To the vast majority of the people on this island -- other than a small handful of pro-independence politicians -- the large territory west of Taiwan is the mainland, not a foreign country."

At this point my avuncular, white-haired friend almost lost me, but I held on, waiting for more words of wisdom.

He continued: "Try asking someone here, `Have you ever been to China?' and chances are that the person will stare at you in bewilderment. We never call it China in Mandarin. We always call it the mainland.

"In addition, the many young women from the mainland who married Taiwanese men in recent years are popularly referred to as `dalu xinniang,' (大陸新娘) or mainland brides. They are not really regarded as foreigners here."

I was beginning to understand his thinking. Then came his final lesson: "Taiwan is historically a part of China. This island is linguistically, culturally and ethnically related to the Chinese mainland. Our Constitution even states that the territory of the Republic of China includes the mainland, Hainan Island, Taiwan Island, and other small offshore islands. And that is why I will always continue to use the terms `the mainland' and `mainland China' in English when I speak to foreigners here. Do you think this is so wrong?"

I do think this is wrong. China is in no way any kind of mainland for Taiwan. China is the mainland for Hainan Island, yes, but not for Taiwan.

David Johnson


Political correctness

Whatever nationality you might be, and whatever religious and/or political beliefs you might have, facts are facts.

China's claims to Taiwan are an absolute farce. And, even worse, a contradiction: as a Taiwanese you must have a passport when traveling to China. How grotesque is that?

Do I need identification when going from California to Hawaii or anywhere else within US territory?

I am a native German, but also an American since 1969, while my wife is a native Taiwanese from Changhua County, where we have lived now for five months.

Since our great country, America, wants to be always so politically correct, it's about time that they applied this to Taiwan.

Georg Woodman


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