Tue, Aug 05, 2008 - Page 8

What’s in a name?

The use of the phrase “Chinese Taipei” by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and possibly for Taiwan’s next application to neither “join” nor “return” to the UN is both insulting to Taiwanese and a deliberate Sino/Taipei-centric fudge that excludes pretty much anyone outside Taipei. As the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is keen on using this title, but also insists on the formal constitutional name — Republic of China — Taiwanese athletes can be forgiven if they are confused about exactly which country or region they will be representing at the Olympic Games.

Furthermore, defining an entire geopolitical area by reference to a culture, or the name of one city in that area — e.g., “British London” — is problematic. Are we now to assume that residents in Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Taitung, Hualien, Ilan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, Lanyu and Ludao are all Chinese and all nominally from Taipei? If we were to use the name of a city, then why not use “Chinese Taichung?”

To call all people in Taiwan “Chinese” is also wildly inaccurate. Consequently, we should perhaps reformulate the name so that it will better reflect the diversity of cultures and languages in Taiwan. Thus “Austronesian Taidong,” “Hakka Hsinchu” and “Hoklo Tainan” would be equally valid.

While we’re at it, other labels should be changed as well. “Mainland China” could be changed to “Authoritarian Beijing,” Hong Kong to “Cantonese Kowloon” and the US to “Native Peoples’ Washington.”

Furthermore, given the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) new, Beijing-pleasing anti-Japanese attitude, we should simply refer to Japan as “them.”

More seriously, it is clear that while Ma and the KMT live on Taiwan they think in China, and every ridiculous attempt to avoid using the word Taiwan is just another nail in the coffin of the Taiwanese polity and its people. Despite this, the KMT may soon find out that it is neither them nor Beijing alone who will determine the future of this country, but rather the agent that still holds economic and physical suzerainty over Taiwan: the US.

As it remains in the interest of the US that Taiwan never achieve de jure statehood or unification with China, no amount of political goodwill, name changing, begging or pleading will move this country out of its ambiguous “status quo.”

Ben Goren

Suao, Ilan County