The name changes now coming into effect in Taiwan reflect an increasing approval of "Taiwan identity" rather than "Taiwan independence," despite the suggestions made in the disapproving rhetoric of the US, political analysts have said.
Last week, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) pledged to change the names of state-owned enterprises, the nation's embassies and overseas representative offices and other laws and regulations.
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After the pan-blue camp voiced its opposition to the name changes, on Saturday US Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack said: "We do not support administrative steps by the Taiwan authorities that would appear to change Taiwan's status unilaterally or move toward independence. The United States does not, for instance, support changes in terminology for entities administered by the Taiwan authorities."
The US comments on changing the names reflected remarks made by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
But political analysts said Ma overreacted and over-interpreted the name change issue.
"The US' reaction might be a little bit disturbing to the name-change bid but it did not oppose it directly because it does not violate President Chen's guarantees in his 2000 inaugural address," said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), the chairman of Soochow University's political science department.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chen's administration have prepared for the name changes for a long period of time and did not suddenly bring the issue up, Lo said.
"You will find the name-change campaign is actually linked with other issues of transitional justice and it does not necessarily relate to the concept of `Taiwan independence,'" Lo said.
"Taiwan identity" and "Taiwan independence" are two different matters, Lo said.
"For the people of Taiwan, pursing the recognition of `Taiwan identity' has been brought about by Taiwan's democratic development and the name change issue is emerging in this circumstance," he said.
Polls conducted by the government and by outside pollsters over the past decade show that a steadily increasing number of people recognize themselves as "Taiwanese" instead of "Chinese."
"I do not think the US can deny the increase of `Taiwan identity' because it is upheld by public opinion," Lo said. "The concept of independence is political, but the concept of having a clear identity is a natural process of democracy."
With the rise of "Taiwan identity," changing the names is an irresistible trend and will not go backwards, he said.
Bilateral negotiations and communication will be required to change the names of the nation's overseas embassies and representative offices, and the government will not seek to make immediate, unilateral changes.
The signs in Taiwan's embassies now display the word "Taiwan" in parenthesis under "Republic of China," Taiwan's official national title.
Hsu Yung-ming (
"I think Ma's comment was only aimed at causing panic and confrontation while ignoring the trend of Taiwan's public opinion," Hsu said.
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