Before beginning, we would like to offer an observation: by typing “countries with republic in their name” into a Google search, a list of about 130 countries prefaced by “republic” are displayed, of which there is a “People’s Republic of China” (PRC), but no “Republic of China.”
Apparently, “Republic of China” is persona non grata in cyberspace, begging the question of its existence in physical space as far as the world at large is concerned.
The Henley Passport Index ranks countries according to travel freedoms for their citizens in countries they visit. Taiwan’s passport is ranked 32nd out of 195 countries in the world. This year, it has visa-free or visa-on-arrival status in 146 countries and territories. Notwithstanding having formal diplomatic relations with a mere 15 nations, this ranking is amazing and unprecedented, which speaks volumes of Taiwan’s accomplishments in healthcare, technology and democracy.
The favorable treatment, accorded to Taiwanese is a stark testament of admiration for Taiwan and its rule-abiding citizens, despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations.
Paradoxically, Taiwan’s passports bear the official title “Republic of China” on the cover, which is often mistaken as the other country across the Taiwan Strait — the People’s Republic of China. Considering the dichotomy between the “Republic of China” and the “People’s Republic of China” in terms of governance and other factors, what could be more misleading when a lay person needs to determine which side is which, obfuscated by the similarity in name? This confusing situation is akin to “China Airlines” and “Air China.” Ask any American: Which airline belongs to Taiwan? Neither, will likely be the answer delivered with a puzzled look.
The outbreak of the Wuhan pneumonia virus (COVID-19) that has spread worldwide since January and the ensuing possible mix-up over Taiwan’s name is jarring and detrimental to Taiwan’s prestige, considering that its methods to stem the spread of the virus without resorting to extreme lockdown measures has received universal praise. Most people who carry Taiwanese passports prefer not to have the word “China” highlighted on them, due to perception issues.
The world stands to benefit greatly from access to Taiwan’s expertise in containing the virus. The sharp contrast between Taiwan’s methods of disease mitigation, which preserve daily democratic discourse compared with the extreme lockdown approach implemented by the PRC, must be clearly delineated and not be confused by an obfuscating name similarity.
Once this ravaging pandemic is in our rearview mirror, one cannot expect people to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. A residual sense of unease is expected to persist for a long time after experiencing such unspeakable, horrific ordeals.
The word “China” will always be a stain in people’s minds, provoking a visceral antipathy, if not outright hostility toward Chinese at large. In the long run, Taiwanese travelers and workers overseas would be better served without the words “Republic of China” on their passports.
The scene worldwide on what is transpiring serves as a warning. Amid rising anti-Chinese sentiments in many countries stemming from the origin of the pandemic and the delay in revealing the disease, overseas Chinese are experiencing racial discrimination across the globe. Racist invectives are being hurled and bodily attacks against Chinese are common on every continent, especially Europe, which has seen disproportional suffering from the Wuhan coronavirus. Under the current malaise, Taiwanese travelers would do well without the word “China” on their passport. Imagine a Taiwanese in the middle of a racial imbroglio desperately struggling to save himself in a potential violent attack. He could not flash his passport to prove that he is Taiwanese when the word China is on it.
Taiwan is emerging from the pandemic practically unscathed economically, socially and, most importantly, with a death toll of only six. This fact is in sharp contrast with other countries that are still mired in social isolation and lockdowns, economic catastrophes and deaths in the hundreds of thousands. A passport with the word “Taiwan” at the bottom and without “China” at the top would give Taiwanese a sense that they were carrying a badge of honor tempered by a somber feeling of sympathy for those adversely affected.
There are bilateral travel agreements between Taiwan and countries with which Taipei has no formal diplomatic relationships. From a convenience standpoint, another benefit of the passport change would be to allow foreign governments to quickly and efficiently distinguish between holders of Taiwanese and Chinese passports without incurring delays due to nationality mix-ups, as Taiwan’s many travel agreements are with countries with which it has no formal diplomatic relations. Quick differentiation between Taiwanese and Chinese nationality by customs officials at ports of entry would ensure time-saving and hassle-free travel for Taiwanese tourists and workers.
Because of these reasons, we emphatically suggest that the Democratic Progressive Party government quickly initiate a modification of the wordings on the passports to better differentiate between Taiwan and China. We suggest the removal of the English name “Republic of China” from the cover, while preserving the Chinese characters for Republic of China.
Or, at a minimum, replace “Republic of China” with “ROC” in a small font to get rid of the word “China.”
It must be emphasized that this request is motivated by practical considerations rather than an attempt to change the country’s name, which is legally impossible without a constitutional amendment. Thus, we are not advocating the removal of Republic of China in Chinese.
Taiwan is a de facto independent state that has its own central government with full sovereignty over its affairs and territory. It also has its own standing military to protect its sovereignty. Nevertheless, for idiosyncratic historical reasons readily apparent to anyone, but time-consuming to discuss here, Taiwan is unable to formally change the name “Republic of China” to “Taiwan,” although the island is universally refered to as “Taiwan” by the international community and its press. Indeed, a formal country name change might cross a “red line” imposed by authoritarian China, or may upset the “status quo” seemingly preferred by the US, which serves as Taiwan’s protector against Beijing.
We are confident that dropping “Republic of China” or replacing it with “ROC,” but retaining the Chinese characters would not alter the “status quo” and therefore should not elicit an adverse response from the US.
However, China being China would respond as usual with a spike of belligerent rhetoric before the spike subsides in a matter of days, as has happened countless times.
Chin B. Su is a professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M University College Station. Yao-Yuan Yeh is an assistant professor of international studies and assistant coordinator of the Taiwan & East Asia Studies Program at the Center for International Studies at the University of St Thomas in Houston, Texas.
Local media reported earlier this month that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for referring to China as a “neighboring country,” saying that this is no different from a “two-state” model and that it amounts to changing the cross-strait “status quo.” I find it quite impossible to understand why civilized Taiwan continues to tolerate the existence of such a deceitful group that believes its own lies. The relationship between Taiwan and China is the relationship between two countries, and neither has any jurisdiction over the other — this is the undeniable “status quo.” Those who believe in the
With the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, China has remarketed its East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) concerns. Beijing urged the Taliban to make a clean break with the movement and asked the US to blacklist it again. While some are still debating whether the movement exists, it is not the core of the matter because its existence neither justifies China’s Uighur policy nor sheds light on its concerns after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. Is China really worried, and if so, is it because of the movement? This question needs to be answered. When Chinese officials first acknowledged
On Thursday, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a regional economic organization whose 11 member countries have a combined GDP of US$11 trillion. That is less than China’s 2019 GDP of US$14.34 trillion, so why is China so eager to join? China says there are two main reasons: To consolidate its foreign trade and foreign investment base, and to fast-track economic and trade relations between China and member countries of the CPTPP free-trade area. China’s bilateral trade with these countries grew from US$78 billion in 2003 to US$685.1 billion last year, mostly because of China’s 2005
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) talked on the telephone on Thursday last week, the first time the two leaders have done so since Biden assumed the presidency. While each side sought to put their own gloss on the content of the conversation, some common ground did emerge. Biden reportedly said that both sides have a joint responsibility to ensure that competition between the US and China does not spiral into conflict and that there is no reason that the two nations are destined to fall into this trap. The day after the phone call, the Financial Times reported