Arts & Culture 
 Business 
 Environment 
 Government 
 Health 
 Human Rights 
 Military 
 Philosophy 
 Science 
 U.S. Asian Policy 


Home > East Asia > 

Rectify 'China' to rectify 'Taiwan'
Paul Lin
11/11/2004

Because of China's incessant oppression of Taiwan, a variety of names for the country have emerged -- including Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC), Formosa, Taiwan-Penghu-Kinmen-Matsu and Chinese Taipei. The diversity of the country's names has caused confusion among its own people, not to mention foreigners. Some countries which are not familiar with the complexities of the names are likely to make mistakes and cause embarrassment during a diplomatic trip of Taiwan's -- and China's -- top officials. This chaotic situation has severely damaged the people's national identity.

There is similar confusion about China's name. It has been called "Red China" and "Communist China." But now there is consensus in international society to simply use the name "China." Nevertheless, Taiwan still addresses China in various ways. In the past, the most commonly used name was "Chung Kung," which, strictly speaking, refers to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rather than a national administration. Maybe "Chung Kung" can be better understood as a backward construction of "Communist China," or as a conflation of party and state entity. Also, some people call China the "Chinese mainland," the "mainland," or even the "inland."

Since China insists on its "one China" policy, the name "China" has become its unique designation. As a result, more and more Taiwanese people use the name "China" for the sake of showing respect to the Chinese government. But some Taiwanese people are not only unwilling to make such a concession, but want to fight over the title and legitimacy of "China" -- so they still use "Chung Kung" or "the mainland" although these are not very precise terms.

Apart from connoting the unity of party and state, "Chung Kung" can negatively imply a single "party-state" entity. The character "Kung" has a negative association and its use is avoided in China. Almost no one will accept being labeled as "Chin Kung [affiliating to the CCP]." Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan scolded a Taiwan reporter for using the "obsolete" term "communist China," during the 2001 APEC forum in Shanghai. Given that China doesn't want to be labeled as "Chung Kung," some reporters often use "the mainland" instead when asking questions. The problem is that "the mainland" is simply a geographic term. How can we use it as a nation's title?

One Chinese media outlet actually called the CCP Central Committee the "mainland central" committee, and it also -- ridiculously -- referred to 1930s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-ruled as "mainland central." These types of names ignore the differences between a political party and a region. Another example is the recent newspaper headline that used the phrase "mainland Fujian Province." If that usage is justified, should there also be a "Taiwan Fujian Province" or "Chinese Taipei Fujian Province?"

Rectifying the name of Taiwan is a process that has constantly been suppressed by China. Of course there are disagreements within Taiwan on this issue, and the US is not particularly understanding of the country's predicament. In these circumstances, Premier Yu Shyi-kun recently suggested the consistent use of "China" to avoid confusion. Shouldn't China accept this friendly gesture? If Chinese people don't recognize their national entity as "China," then what does their "one China" policy stand for? Would the "mainland government," and the "mainland flag" sound better to represent the great "mainland country?"

But the Chinese government is reluctant to accept Taiwan's goodwill on this issue. This is similar to China's response in 1987, when Taiwan lifted martial law. Despite our friendliness, China wasn't grateful. Instead, it continued to emphasize its view that Taiwan is a part of China, and hoped that Taiwan would launch a war against it. When Taiwan did not do this, China began its campaign of military threats. Only a psychologically abnormal government, which doesn't speak for its people and tramples on human rights, is interested in wars and continuously makes war a topic of debate to distract the public. The Chinese government is such a government.

Since Taiwan cannot yet rectify its own name, it must settle for second best and rectify China's name, to clarify the distinction between the two. This not only strengthens national identity, but also makes the world gradually recognize Taiwan.


Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.


© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR