Tue, Aug 05, 2008 - Page 8 News List

How ‘Chinese Taipei’ came about

By Catherine K. Lin

There are numerous examples in the ministry’s archives of arguments concerning why “Taiwan” was not acceptable to the ROC government during the period. One repeated contention recorded in the ministry reports is that both parts of divided China are Chinese territories and the people in one part are no less Chinese than those in the other. Another argument holds that the jurisdiction of the ROC Olympic Committee (ROCOC) includes Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu in addition to Taiwan, and thus the name “Taiwan” does not reflect the “territorial extent” of the ROCOC. Furthermore, although it is true that most products from the ROC are labeled “made in Taiwan,” the trade practices of the ROC are such that the regional area of production is used for labeling. Some wines from Jinmen are labeled “made in Kinmen,” just as some perfume is labeled “made in Paris” and not “made in France.” Finally, it was argued that the people of the ROC were Chinese and not “Taiwanese,” so the word Taiwan was not appropriate.

The ROC government finally formulated the name “Chinese Taipei,” instead of accepting the offer of “Taiwan,” because “Chinese Taipei” signified an uncertain boundary that could exceed the ROC’s actual territory of control of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, whenever the ROC government wished to assert it.

Killanin explained clearly where this “uncertain boundary” conception came from as the Nagoya resolution establishing the name “Chinese Taipei” was being considered by the IOC executive board in October 1979: “The Constitution of the Republic of China Olympic Committee [1973] has also been studied. Article 1 of this Constitution reads — ‘The committee shall be called the Republic of China Olympic Committee, hereafter referred to as ROCOC. Its headquarters shall be situated where the national government has its seat, which is at present located in the city of Taipei.’”

“It appears that whilst the Olympic Committee in Taipei does not claim jurisdiction in any other area other than the surrounding islands, this article infers that it would move its seat with the Taipei government, which, unlike the Olympic Committee there, claims to be the government of China.”

In other words, “Chinese Taipei,” the name of the capital of the ROC, could one day become “Chinese Nanjing.”

“Chinese Taipei” could signify the “begonia leaf,” or boundary of the ROC, whereas “Taiwan” would unambiguously indicate the boundary of “Taiwan,” or “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”

The ROC, the IOC and the PRC eventually agreed on the name “Chinese Taipei,” in English — one of the official languages of the IOC — on March 23, 1981, although on an “agree to disagree” basis. The agreement was actually signed only between the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and the IOC, without the PRC participating. The IOC agreed with the ROC that the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee was on equal footing with all other national Olympic committees in the IOC.

While the PRC had already changed its policy through the 1970s from advocating complete expulsion of the ROC to a willingness to co-exist in international sports organizations — the PRC always regarded the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee as a local body of the PRC Olympic committee. The PRC policy change was in fact a more relentless strategy, because it demonstrated considerable confidence after the US-PRC normalization of relations in 1979, and at the same time confirmed that Beijing already understood that the international organizations could not renounce the membership universality principle.

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