As if the status of Taiwan were not confusing enough to the outside world, inconsistency from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration as to how the country should be referred to on the international stage often compounds the problem.
In most instances, the Ma government has been content with Taiwan participating in international events under the designation “Chinese Taipei.” In fact, the administration has depicted such a designation at the WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA) as a great accomplishment and a direct result of its “flexible” diplomacy.
Officials in the Ma government like to tell us that how the nation is referred to at international events is not as important as its ability to participate in the first place.
However, there have been other occasions in which the government took offense at the use of “Chinese Taipei.” The latest such instance involves the country of origin given to the Taiwanese production Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊), which premiered last week in Venice, Italy.
Following complaints by Taiwanese officials over the initial designation of the movie as a “China, Taiwan” production, festival organizers decided to go with the Olympic formula and, likely expecting this would close the matter, changed the name to “Chinese Taipei.”
No sooner had the change been made on the event Web site than Taiwanese authorities said the concession was still unacceptable and that the country of origin should be “Republic of China” or “Taiwan.”
One could hardly blame festival organizers for wondering why a government that in previous instances had portrayed the use of “Chinese Taipei” as a diplomatic coup would now be irate when the exact same designation was adopted.
At least two considerations could explain this behavior. One is that at forums such as the WHA, Taiwan was in a position of weakness and the price of admission was the dilution of its name in a way that was regarded as permissible by Beijing, which acts as a gatekeeper when it comes to Taiwan’s participation. Had Taipei insisted on Taiwan participating under the name “ROC” or “Taiwan,” it is unlikely Taiwanese officials could even have entered the building in Geneva, Switzerland.
Given that Taiwan already had participated at previous film festivals, it did not need to make similar compromises to be allowed in. Another factor is that the name controversy over the highly anticipated movie occurs as the campaign for the January presidential and legislative elections is about to begin. No doubt the elections are forcing the Ma camp to show determination on Taiwanese identity and it calculated that the cost of doing so in terms of its relations with Beijing would be relatively benign.
For those who know little about the complexities and contradictions that surround Taiwan’s sovereignty, such inconsistency must be puzzling to no end and could easily make Taiwanese officials come across as perennial malcontents.
Whether Ma’s flexible diplomacy and willingness to compromise on how Taiwan is referred to will succeed in the long term at ensuring this nation maintains its international space remains to be seen. Regardless, there is no doubt that such flip-flopping on the name issue is sowing confusion abroad, much as a strobe light makes it difficult for the onlooker to clearly size up an object in motion.
While some could argue that the rigidity Ma’s predecessor insisted on when it came to references to Taiwan prevented the nation from engaging the international community at some forums, at least that insistence made it clear to the entire world that Taiwan was Taiwan, nothing more and nothing less.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent removal of items related to Japanese Shinto culture from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine and Cultural Park has caused an uproar. The complex was built as a Shinto shrine by the Japanese during the colonial period, but was transformed into a martyrs’ shrine commemorating veterans of the Chinese Civil War after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Figurines of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu Okami were allowed into the shrine for a cultural event last year, attracting throngs of visitors to see the Shinto decorations and practices. However, some people accused the Taoyuan City Government of
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The