China has begun issuing passports decorated with maps and images of scenic spots as an imaginative way of declaring sovereignty over various territories. The idea is that when other countries place their immigration stamps on these passport pages it will be a “stamp of approval” for China’s territorial claims. Perhaps only a country with China’s long history could come up with such an idea. It is also a very Chinese approach: Convince yourself that something is true, and it becomes so.
India and Vietnam also boast cultures extending back into the ancient past, and both have territorial disputes with China, so they immediately spotted the ruse and were quick to respond. Vietnam protested and has started issuing new visas to Chinese visitors, while putting a “canceled” stamp on the original. India also vehemently protested and is stamping Chinese visas with a map showing its own version of its border with China.
Will Taiwan respond in a similar fashion, or in some other way?
So far, the Mainland Affairs Council has protested, only for China to reiterate its position that “there is only one China.”
Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has scuttled for cover with nothing to say on the issue.
Actually there was no need for the council to protest, and neither does Taiwan have to follow Vietnam’s example. Rather, it should copy India and stamp China’s new passports with its own map. This would be the Republic of China (ROC) option.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) both trace their ancestry back to the Yellow Emperor (黃帝), so the ROC option would be to stake its territorial claim in the same way that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has done.
The council’s objections run counter to Ma’s political standpoints. Ma supports “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” (一中各表), so what is wrong with China expressing its interpretation of “one China” in its passports? Ma could do likewise and express the KMT’s interpretation of “one China” in two steps: First, do as India has done by stamping an ROC map on Chinese passports, and second, include scenic spots that fall within the ROC’s claimed territory in Taiwan’s own ROC passports.
Ma thinks that China is part of ROC territory, because the Constitution says so. That means that China, and even Mongolia, are the “mainland area of the ROC,” even if the ROC has no control over them.
Ma also thinks he is the president of the whole ROC. Therefore, the map should show the ROC’s “begonia-shaped” China, which is bigger than the PRC’s “rooster-shaped” China.
ROC passports could also include scenes of this greater China, like Beijing’s imperial Forbidden City — in anticipation of Ma’s future enthronement — and Kulun (庫倫) — the old name for Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator.
If the US can accept China’s new passports depicting the PRC’s interpretation of “one China,” it should also be able to accept the ROC’s version.
This would not just get China’s “stamp of approval” for the ROC’s interpretation of “one China,” but other countries’ approval as well. That would be much more useful for the ROC than the PRC, as it would put the ROC back on the world stage. Should Beijing protest, the issue could be handled by the UN or the International Court of Justice. Otherwise, China would be able to claim any territory it wanted just by including it in its passports — hardly a recipe for world peace.
If Ma does not have the guts to do this, then so much for his damned “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.”
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper