Under pressure from China’s years-long infiltration of international organizations and use of its influence, “Chinese Taipei” has become the only name Taiwan can use at international competitions. However, during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese public broadcaster NHK referred to “Chinese Taipei” as the “Taiwanese” team in its reporting. It was an expression not only of the good relationship between Taiwan and Japan, but also helps Taiwan take a giant leap toward lifting the “Chinese Taipei” curse.
When NHK host used the name Taiwan for the Olympic delegation, it was almost certainly not a spur-of-the-moment decision by one individual. A reasonable conclusion would be that it was an official decision, as the Japanese government is taking increasingly concrete and open action in support of Taiwan.
However, many domestic media outlets continue to refer to the Taiwanese team as the “Zhonghua [Chinese]” team (中華隊), although everyone knows that during the party-state era, referring to the English name “Chinese Taipei” as Zhonghua Taibei” (中華台北) in Chinese was a matter of self-deceit to maintain the view that the Republic of China was the true representative of China, when it was simply “Zhongguo [China] Taibei” (中國台北). The additional use of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee’s emblem further reinforces the fact that the party emblem is also the national emblem and that Taiwan remains unable to separate Zhonghua from Zhongguo.
Even more disappointing, as many TV stations, print media outlets and social media continue to refer to the “Zhonghua team,” the Central News Agency (CNA), which is supposed to speak up for Taiwan, also continues to use the outdated name “Zhonghua team” on its Chinese-language Web site.
Leaving aside the question of whether Taiwan would be able to get the International Olympic Committee to agree to changing “Chinese Taipei” to “Taiwan” or “Formosa,” that CNA is unable to follow NHK’s lead even domestically and refer to the team by its correct name — “the Taiwanese team” — means that it is unworthy of its status as the nation’s official news agency.
Given the international political reality, Taiwanese athletes might still be unable to compete internationally under the name “Taiwan,” but domestic media, including the CNA, continuing to refer to the “Zhonghua team” is tantamount to belittling the nation and misleading the international community into thinking that the Taiwanese government is happy with the name “Chinese Taipei.”
At a time when the Chinese threat is causing a strong backlash from countries in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, and when the international situation is becoming increasingly beneficial to Taiwan, the government and official news agency should cast off the title used during the authoritarian era and take the lead by referring to the national team and athletes as Taiwanese.
If state media continue to use symbols and terminology of the authoritarian era and do nothing to take the lead in responding to the international community, then what are they going to say to Taiwan’s international friends who do not fear Chinese pressure and who are willing to stand with Taiwan against Beijing?
Peng Jui-jen is deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and an adjunct assistant professor at Soochow University’s Department of Political Science.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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