Cabinet members recently appeared to shy away from saying the nation’s name, leading some to wonder if President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is disarming itself diplomatically, with high-ranking officials growing numb to the injustice of addressing the nation by a demeaning name.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was evasive earlier this month when lawmakers asked whether he would mention the word “Taiwan” if invited to speak at the WHO’s World Health Assembly in May.
Chen said that such issues are the responsibility of the president.
On Friday, newly sworn in Sports Administration Director-General Lin Te-fu (林德福) pledged sweeping reforms to sports, but when asked about the likelihood of changing the international practice of calling Taiwan “Chinese Taipei” in sporting events, he said that change is hard and “it is something Taiwan has to accept, although many find it unsatisfactory.”
It might be necessary to refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei” in international sporting events, in line with a protocol signed with the International Olympic Committee. However, the “there-is-nothing-we-can-do-about-it” attitude officials have shown has many people shaking their heads in disbelief.
National officials seem to readily and silently accept the injustice without considering how to correct the blatant error.
What can Taiwanese expect of the Tsai administration if it will not even stand up for the nation’s dignity?
All too often, China’s oppression and obstruction of Taiwanese sovereignty internationally are given as the reason Taiwan has to endure disrespect and be referred to by the demeaning title “Chinese Taipei” on the international stage. While the China factor certainly plays a key role, the government is not without blame.
Reactions from Chen, Lin and other lawmakers suggest that, as some have long feared, the seemingly harmless practice of calling Taiwan “Chinese Taipei” has crept in and transformed the nation’s identity, with even government officials shying away from correctly stating and defending their nationality at international events.
It appears — as some critics have pointed out — that Taiwanese might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome: adopting the beliefs of one’s captor. Taiwanese have come to accept terms defined by China and “rules” dictated by Beijing without putting up a fight or protest.
This passive mentality is exactly the silence China is counting on to continue belittling Taiwan, all the while forging the misconception among the international community that Taiwan is part of China.
Self-respect gains respect.
Taiwan certainly should be respected for its status as a sovereign nation, but it must earn it.
If regular Taiwanese, not even government officials, do not dare to proudly demand the correction of their nationality on the international stage, how can they expect the international community to be aware of their mistake?
While the private sector can launch campaigns for name rectification, civil groups can only do so much, as the government must get involved and make the nation’s collective stance known.
Nobody ever said change is easy, but Tsai’s administration is risking its credibility by remaining inactive in the fight to gain due respect internationally.