What’s in a Name?
With the Olympics 24 days away, Chinese officials proposed changing the name that the island of Taiwan has used for previous Olympics. The English, “Chinese Taipei” would remain unchanged, but the Chinese would change from 中華台北(zhonghua taibei) to 中國台北 (zhongguo taibei). This new Chinese construct can be translated directly as “China, Taipei” implying that Taiwan is now a part of China. Taiwanese officials are in agreement that this is unacceptable.
Chinese Taipei is the term that Taiwan uses in the WTO, and the name that has been used since October 1979.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has distinguished himself from his predecessor by seeking to improve relations with the mainland, re-opening talks and instituting new programs to boost ties, such as direct flights and increased quotas for mainland tourists to visit the island.
Unfortunately, mainland bureaucrats appear to be taking advantage of Taiwan’s conciliatory policies when they should be using the Olympics to make global diplomatic gains. Just at the time Chinese and IOC officials are trying to “de-politicize” the games, gestures such as this risk stoking controversy which might result in embarrassing moments during the ceremonies and events. Taiwanese athletes might be tempted to respond if they are faced with bullying tactics. International activists have recently encouraged athletes to make a “T” sign with their hands to show solidarity with Tibetans.
Chinese authorities will undoubtedly be incensed if any athletes make such a gesture, regardless of the “T” it represents.