After receiving a letter of concern from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECRO) in San Francisco, amid protests lodged by Taiwanese legislators and complaints from expats based in the US about a map reference to Taiwan as a "province of China," Google finally yielded to the pressure over the weekend and removed the offensive description from its maps service.
While it is less than satisfactory to see the portal site choose to remove the reference rather than right the wrong with the correct listing -- the term "Taiwan" -- the move by Google has at least cleared up the misunderstanding that Taiwan is a portion of its authoritarian neighbor across the strait.
If the people of Taiwan hadn't raised their collective voice and made themselves heard, would Google have even been aware of the incorrect listing on its Web site? Most likely not.
In fact, Google had initially chosen to ignore the complaints and refused to make the correction on the grounds that it was consistent with international naming conventions, such as those used by the UN.
It wasn't until news of the protests and complaints was picked up by the international media, namely the Asian Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News and Vice President Annette Lu's (
Taiwan is an independent nation and is not a province of China. It does not claim to represent China, but China wrongly claims to represent Taiwan. Taiwan is a sovereign state with its own government, own elections, own currency, own territory and it negotiates its own treaties and has its own president.
It is even clearly listed in the CIA World Factbook 2005 that Taiwan is independent of any country, and that it has its own national flag and capital.
The only country in the world that avidly thinks that Taiwan is a province of China is China itself.
While it may be out of Taiwan's hands that so many countries in the international community kowtow to China's leadership, it is however a sorry state of affairs to see Taiwan's people subjected to such incorrectness and then staying silent -- and that statement goes for Taiwan's diplomatic stations abroad as well.
It is sad but true that for so long, Taiwan -- having long been oppressed in the international community -- has seemingly grown numb to such blatant incorrectness day in and day out.
A lie told once remains a lie. A lie repeated a 100 times eventually starts to sound true.
While it hasn't yet got to the point of harboring an "if you can't beat them then join them" mentality, given Taiwan's struggle with China's incessant campaign to marginalize it internationally, how long will it be before such a mentality starts to really take hold?
As Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, "If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you."
"Self-respect gains respect" is the lesson to be drawn from this recent Google incident.
Silence is not golden in Taiwan's plight, especially in its diplomatic fight against international injustice.
The Google incident has taught us that justice can be done -- so long as Taiwanese use their voice to get themselves heard.