Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: The importance of vessel names in the ROC Navy

By Lo Tien-ping and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taiwan’s navy should move toward using distinctly Taiwanese names to avoid confusion, after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) gave one of its frigates the same name as a Republic of China (ROC) Navy vessel.

The PLAN has called a frigate the Xining, the same name in Chinese as the ROC Navy’s Si Ning — the only difference being that Taiwan’s navy uses traditional Chinese characters, while the Chinese vessel uses the Hanyu pinyin spelling and simplified Chinese characters.

This will not sit well with Taiwanese naval officers, particularly if the two vessels are ever to encounter each other on the high seas.

Both China and Taiwan’s navies have a tradition of naming military vessels after places in China and historical Chinese military figures.

Members of the ROC military held on tightly to their memories of China and named vessels after Chinese places and historical figures, with the People’s Liberation Army using the same convention.

For example, China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was named after the Chinese province of the same name, while the PLAN’s destroyers are named after provincial capitals, other large cities of significance or historical figures.

For example, the PLAN destroyer the Zhenghe was named after a famous Ming Dynasty naval explorer.

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) once spoke out against naming ROC Navy vessels after Chinese places and historical figures, saying that it does not help the nation establish a uniquely Taiwanese identity, and furthermore causes complications in encounters with the PLAN.

Chen brought the issue to the Legislative Yuan and it was resolved that ROC Navy vessels would be named after cities and harbors within the ROC’s current territory.

Four subsequently commissioned Kidd-class destroyers were named after Taiwanese cities.

A vessel’s name is very important, because the fate of the officers is tied to that of the vessel.

The vessel is also a community where everyone aboard lives together, and it lives and thrives together with the nation.

That is why ROC Navy vessels must reflect an awareness of Taiwan’s uniqueness.

Only in that way can the nation have a navy that is uniquely Taiwanese and distinct from that of China’s.

Taiwan’s navy should follow in the footsteps of its air force, which decorates its aircraft with images from the cultures of Taiwan’s Aborigines.

The navy should look to this example in breaking from its vessel-naming conventions.

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