It started in the beginning of the year as various countries were called out by China for listing Taiwan as a country. The first few companies were in the travel industry, such as airlines and hotels, which made sense as targets. How else would they list Taiwan? For people traveling to Taiwan, they are not going to the People’s Republic of China. Listing Taiwan as part of China would be confusing and incorrect. A visa to the People’s Republic of China will not determine if a visitor allowed into Taiwan.
The crackdown by China also expanded to retailers, such as Zara. NARS, the cosmetics company, even listed Taiwan as 中國台灣 (China Taiwan) on its Taiwanese website.
The insistence by China that companies refer to Taiwan as a part of China is an attempt to normalize that thought, even though it is completely untrue. The more it shows up on the internet, the more consumers become used to seeing ‘Taiwan (China)’, people will start to think that it is true. China is able to spread its propaganda by threatening businesses and using its economy as leverage.
Earlier this month, Taiwan was denied attendance to the World Health Assembly (WHA). The World Health Organization (WHO) even denied Taiwanese journalists reporting accreditation. Taiwan has universal healthcare and has much to contribute to the worldwide discussion of human health. This brings to mind the disastrous SARS epidemic of 2003, when WHO officials were only able to enter Taiwan when China gave its permission. Taiwan and China have different health systems, run by separate governments!
Although it was quite disappointing to be denied attendance to the WHA, there were a lot of allies that came out in support of Taiwan. Before the WHA, 172 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to the Director General of the WHO, advocating for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. During the WHA, 23 countries voices support for Taiwan to be included in the WHO.
Within the past month, two diplomatic allies have broken ties with Taiwan. The Dominican Republic cut diplomatic ties in the beginning of the month. Just this week, Burkina Faso cut ties. Given all that had happened leading up to this, it seemed like quite a depressing piece of news. How many more blows can we take?
Notice that President Tsai only used the terms 臺灣 (Taiwan) and 中國 (China) in her speech.
Usually an official speech would include the terms 中國大陸 (China mainland) or 大陸 (mainland) to refer to China. These terms infer some type of geographic relationship between Taiwan and China. They even infer that China is the main part of something.
Another name typically heard would be 中華民國 (Republic of China) to refer to Taiwan. 中華民國 is the link to China. 中華民國 was the government that lost the civil war in China, which the People’s Republic of China insists is part of its own. However, the current Taiwanese government is nothing like the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912. That government was one of a military dictatorship. Taiwan is now a thriving democracy.
The lack of old terms and the actual use of Taiwan and China is the normalization Taiwan is pursuing. We want the ability to use our own name in the international community. That the true reflection of ourselves, and encompasses our whole history.
I’ve been quite disturbed by these attacks against Taiwan. We are battling the attempt of an external force to influence public opinion. President Tsai’s speech shows that we have a leader who is standing up to these external factors, and that makes me proud. Now is the time for all Taiwanese to take action no matter how large or small. We need to make our voices heard on a global scale. Let Taiwan be Taiwan.