The 66th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decisionmaking body of the WHO, ended on May 28 after a busy eight-day agenda.
It was the fifth time that Taiwan participated, though the Taiwanese delegation attracted little attention from the media because there were no new issues.
Nevertheless, a discussion of how the Taiwanese delegates should use the term “Chinese Taipei” with more caution would be useful.
Due to diplomatic realities, the use of the title “Taiwan” at such international events always results in demands that it be changed to something like “Chinese Taipei.”
In addition, any word with a meaning that implies “country” or “nation” in written documents must also be changed.
For example, the term “National Health Insurance” had to be changed to “Universal Health Insurance” because the use of the word “National” was not acceptable.
Furthermore, there is a requirement for the speech manuscripts of the Taiwanese delegates be submitted for advance review to the WHA Secretariat. Any breaches are to be picked up by the Secretariat’s legal consultants.
As a matter of fact, since “Chinese Taipei” is a term that clearly denigrates the country, its use should be avoided as far as possible.
By using it, the international community will continue to believe that Taiwanese are comfortable with the term.
This would make it even harder to get rid of the term in the future.
There are two common approaches in response to an unfavorable situation: to act by “commission” or by “omission.”
Although it is impossible for Taiwan to act by commission and use the name “Republic of China” at international events, it should at least act by omission.
That is, since Taiwan is not allowed to use the name “Republic of China,” it should do all it can to avoid the use of the term “Chinese Taipei.”
When necessary, Taiwan could even intentionally leave sentences incomplete to highlight the fact that it is protesting by act of omission.
Therefore, I suggest that Taiwanese delegates only use the term “Chinese Taipei” at the beginning of an address to let people know where he or she is from, but then avoid any further use of the term throughout the remainder of the address.
Taiwanese are polite by nature, so delegates always start their address by saying that “Chinese Taipei appreciates that the Secretariat gives us the opportunity to speak.”
Coming from a member state, such a remark is appropriate and courteous at international events.
However, for Taiwan, which is participating as an observer on humiliating terms, the same phrase is undignified and a loss of face.
Hence, Taiwanese delegates need only say “Chinese Taipei speaks,” without any expression of appreciation.
When they talk about how the nation will co-operate with the WHA in their speeches, they should of course use the word “we” in place of “Chinese Taipei.”
Former British prime minister Winston Churchill once encouraged the British people, saying that, “In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.”
At an international event such as the WHA, what Taiwanese need is defiance, not politeness.
Michael Chen is chairman of the Taiwanese Association for Social Welfare, and a member of the Taiwanese delegation to the 66th session of the World Health Assembly.
Translated by Eddy Chang