The government yesterday reacted favorably to the “goodwill” shown by China a day earlier over the controversy surrounding the nation’s designation at next month’s Beijing Olympics.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the government had noted the goodwill after one of Beijing’s official news agencies — China News Service — used Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北), rather than Zhongguo Taibei (中國台北) to refer to “Chinese Taipei,” the official title used by Taiwan at the Olympics, in its Chinese-language Web site reports on Thursday.
Wang described the China News Service report as a favorable response after the Presidential Office made a statement a day earlier calling for Beijing to show goodwill to Taiwan when handling Olympic issues.
Controversy surrounding the nation’s designation at the Beijing Games has loomed large over the past week since two Chinese media outlets — China Central Television and Xinhua news agency — referred to the Taiwan team as Zhongguo Taibei, a reference considered by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party as a way to downgrade Taiwan’s status.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also expressed his appreciation for Beijing’s gesture yesterday and stressed his determination to fight for the nation’s best interests whenever necessary.
“China’s willingness to show its goodwill is positive for long-term cross-strait relations,” Ma said while receiving a group of artists at the Presidential Office.
Although China only promised to refer to Taiwan’s Olympic team as Zhonghua Taibei within the Olympic arena, Ma said it would make Taiwanese people “feel very uncomfortable” if Taiwan’s Olympic team was referred to as Zhongguo Taibei in Beijing next month.
“If both sides can put themselves in each other’s positions, I believe we will see positive cross-strait relations,” he said.
Ma said the government had been taking cautious steps on the issue and stressed that his administration would continue to fight for the nation’s interests.
“I will insist on a Taiwan-centric stance,” he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Spokesman Lee Chien-jung (李建榮) echoed the president’s sentiments.
Lee said KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) had expressed the party’s insistence on the nation’s Olympics team’s title being referred to as Zhonghua Taibei to Beijing via the KMT-Chinese Communist Party communication platform and that the party believed that China’s move was a positive response to that request.
“Chairman Wu believed that there was no need to get emotional about the issue. Expressions of goodwill will help improve cross-strait relations,” Lee said.
Wu is scheduled to travel to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony on Aug. 8 and the Taiwanese baseball team’s first match against the Netherlands on Aug. 13.
The KMT had previously vowed to boycott the Games if the Chinese authorities insisted on referring to the Taiwanese team as Zhongguo Taibei.
MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said she was happy to see things go in a better direction, but added that the government would continue to monitor developments.
“It was good that we got a result and we hope that both sides can continue to be kind to each other and reach a consensus on other matters,” Lai said.
Minister of Sports Affairs Council (SAC) Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡), who said on Thursday that the country’s delegation would drop out of the Games if Beijing referred to it as Zhongguo Taibei, said yesterday that she was much happier.
“In light of the current situation, there shouldn’t be any instances of Taiwan being called Zhongguo Taibei in Beijing.” Tai said.
Tai said that the council did not expect any “surprises” during the Games as the Chinese side had complied with the 1989 Hong Kong agreement at Olympic Games and Asian Games in the past.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) had instructed the National Security Council, the MAC, the SAC, the Government Information Office and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee to form a task force to plan for any possible emergency situations regarding the name controversy.
“The task force came up with several response plans. For example, if the organizer refers to the Taiwanese team as Zhongguo Taibei we will lodge a protest immediately and demand the International Olympic Committee handle our complaint,” Tai said.
She said the response plan still includes the possibility of withdrawing from the Games.
KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) said the nation must stand its ground on the issue during the Games.
“This seems trivial, but it could turn out to be a major problem ... we cannot soften our stance [on the issue],” he said.
He suggested that the nation closely watch whether China would attempt to refer to the Taiwanese delegation as Zhongguo Taibei during the opening ceremony, adding that the delegation should withdraw from the Games if necessary.
Additional reporting by Flora Wang
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