Some readers might find this article too idealistic, but it is time to infuse some idealism into Taiwanese society.
People might change their names to please others in exchange for benefit and profit, but this is not a decent thing to do. However, this is precisely what our government has been doing in response to pressure from China.
The Republic of China (ROC) was not allowed to join the WTO, so it changed its name to the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu” to become a WTO member.
Nor is the ROC allowed to participate in international sports events, so it changed its name to “Chinese Taipei” to make participation possible.
There are several reasons for the nation doing so: to obtain some benefit, to improve Taiwan’s “visibility” and to avoid being “isolated” in the international community.
However, these arguments can be refuted by anyone who advocates using “Taiwan” as the nation’s name.
First, when it comes to international organizations that do not accept the name “Taiwan,” Taiwanese should boycott them and not participate in them for the sake of the nation’s dignity. Some benefits should be sacrificed.
Second, so-called “visibility” is not worth pursuing at the cost of the nation’s dignity.
Taiwanese should model themselves after Nordic countries — they do not host that many big international sports events, fairs and so on, yet they are highly visible in the world, because they have sound democracies, freedom and human rights, comprehensive welfare systems, narrow wealth gaps and international humanitarian policies.
When France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War, the peace treaty was extremely harsh to France — in addition to having to cede territory to Prussia, it also had to pay a war indemnity of 5 billion francs, an astronomical figure.
It was widely expected that France would be crushed by this huge debt and never be able to regain its feet.
However, to the world’s astonishment, the French took it as such a humiliation and blow to their reputation that they worked hard to increase production and made generous monetary contributions to quickly pay off the indemnity.
This tells us that a nation’s wounded pride can spark miraculous results, which once again highlights the importance of a nation’s dignity. Perhaps this is something that Taiwanese can learn from.
Third, if international organizations do not accept the nation’s participation under the name “Taiwan,” then Taiwanese should boycott them and reject participation. If this results in the nation’s isolation, it would be a matter of “honorable isolation,” and Taiwanese should accept it fearlessly so that their descendants can proudly cherish a legacy of forebears who bravely and heroically accepted international isolation at a heavy cost to maintain their dignity.
Perhaps doing so could become another milestone in the history of the world.
The only choice that Taiwanese have is to walk down one of these two paths: to reject the nation’s name and swallow the humiliation of being manipulated by others — for the sake of maintaining a few benefits — or to bravely accept an “honorable isolation” and to pay the painful price for it — for the sake of maintaining the nation’s dignity.
Those who advocate changing the nation’s name to “Taiwan” should help other Taiwanese understand that the dignity of the citizenry is more important than anything else — once Taiwanese lose their dignity, the nation will decline.
Peng Ming-min was a senior adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian.
Translated by Lin Lee-Kai
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