The issue of the nation’s name this week became a subject of contention between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators.
KMT Legislator Chen Yu-jen (陳玉珍) on Wednesday said that “the Republic of China [ROC] is a country, Taiwan is not.” She added that “the Republic of China, Taiwan” has the broadest consensus among members of the public as the title of the nation.
Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said: “Taiwan is a sovereign nation whose constitutional title is the ROC. This is the consensus of the majority of the public and how most people identify the nation.”
Regardless of whether the DPP wants to abolish the name “Republic of China” — a sentiment shared by most Taiwanese, according to several polls — the parties need to reach a consensus on a name, as a constitutional amendment to change the nation’s official title is unlikely to be passed in the short term.
Clarity and consensus are necessary for Taiwan to avoid problems, some of which have been highlighted over the past two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy on Jan. 30 included China Airlines and EVA Air in its ban on flights to and from China, with Vietnam following suit two days later. This was partly due to the countries’ adherence to Beijing’s “one China” principle, but reportedly there was also confusion due to Taiwan’s official title, as well as the name of its flag carrier.
The issue was serious enough to garner the attention of a Taiwanese advocacy group in the US, which launched a petition calling on China Airlines to change its name to “Taiwan Airlines.” While the name Taiwan Airlines would likely face opposition from the KMT — based on its opposition to former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) proposal to rename Chunghwa Post — a cross-party consensus might conceive a name that clearly distinguishes the airline as one operated in Taiwan, and not in China. The same name could then be used for Chunghwa Post, Chunghwa Telecom and any other service or institution that confusingly refers to “China” in its name.
The necessity to distinguish between Taiwanese and Chinese has also been the subject of a discussion over whether to change the wording on the cover of the nation’s passports, and what to change it to.
After COVID-19 began to spread, some Taiwanese travelers said they were subjected to discrimination when using their passports for identification abroad or entering a foreign country, as the disease was first reported in China.
The New Power Party (NPP) on Sunday last week released survey results showing that more than 70 percent of Taiwanese thought the government should remove the English name “Republic of China” from the passport’s cover.
The KMT and some members of the public might be opposed to using just “Taiwan” on the cover, but something that retains the country’s official name — for example, “Taiwan, ROC,” or “Chunghwa Mingkuo, Taiwan” — might win every side’s approval.
Researcher Allen Hertzberger in an op-ed (“Making Taiwan Province disappear,” March 21, page 8) wrote that China took credit for a breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 made by Taiwanese researchers.
He said that even Taiwanese passports list “Taiwan” as a province in the birthplace column, suggesting that the nation’s sovereignty can be easily confused under current conventions.
Eventually Taiwan would need to shed the ROC and redefine itself, but in the interim, the government must seek clarity and cross-party consensus on the nation’s title and definition.
In November last year, a man struck a woman with a steel bar and killed her outside a hospital in China’s Fujian Province. Later, he justified his actions to the police by saying that he attacked her because she was small and alone, and he was venting his anger after a dispute with a colleague. To the casual observer, it could be seen as another case of an angry man gone mad for a moment, but on closer inspection, it reflects the sad side of a society long brutalized by violent political struggles triggered by crude Leninism and Maoism. Starting
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