EDITORIAL: Defending an outdated name

Fri, Jul 12, 2019 - Page 8

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers might think that they had a field day bashing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for calling herself “President of Taiwan (ROC)” in a letter to congratulate Yilan and Rockville, Maryland, on becoming sister cities, but the opposite of almost everything they said is true.

The most noticeable error was perhaps KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao’s (賴士葆) accusation that Tsai deliberately referred to herself in that way to gain votes from grassroots DPP supporters for next year’s presidential election.

He then called Tsai’s action a “second offense,” as she had also used that title when she visited Paraguay in 2016.

Lai’s accusation was contradictory. Tsai’s decision to use the title three years after her first visit to Paraguay could offer people a glimpse into her mind; they might speculate that she has always aspired to be the president of Taiwan.

On the other hand, the KMT, which tried to hurt Tsai’s re-election prospects by again capitalizing on social division, is trying too hard to impress “deep-blue” supporters. It might soon find that it has little to gain using such vitriol.

For starters, the KMT might want to conduct a survey to find out how many of its supporters strictly refer to the nation as the Republic of China. Taiwan is the name most people chant when cheering for the national sports team at international sporting events, and the better-known name internationally.

It is understandable that the KMT feels obligated to defend the Republic of China (ROC) title. After all, the ROC was founded by Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), who later unified several political groups to form the KMT.

However, the ROC carries with it a heavy historical burden that is sorely out of touch with today’s society: The period commonly known among Taiwanese as the “fight to reclaim the Mainland” era, ended with the conclusion of the “Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion” in 1991.

The days when the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were fighting over the title of “China” are long gone. Today, the KMT behaves as if it were little more than the CCP’s minion.

Let us not forget that the name Taiwan predates the ROC by centuries. Historians believe that the name arose in the 17th century at about the same time that Ming Dynasty pirate Yan Siqi (顏思齊) made landfall.

Even Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), a KMT presidential hopeful, said that he “loves Taiwan 100 percent,” when asked by reporters to respond to the American Institute in Taiwan’s concerns that if he were to become president, China’s control over the nation would increase.

So why vilify a president who seizes every chance to promote the nation’s name? At a time when the majority of the public is indignant about China forcing international airlines to change Taiwan’s designation, the KMT seems to be gloating over China’s bullying.

It might think that it can score political points with its supporters, but its actions have only revealed its complacency and bigotry. By denying the nation its name and refusing to embrace Taiwanese values, the party will only alienate more people.