Taiwan: Chen vows to rename state-owned enterprises
The promise is a last-minute effort to rally support in the December 11 legislative election campaign, which has boiled down to a fight between Taiwanese nationalism and allegiance to the Republic of China.
Polls show Mr Chen's Democratic Progressive party and its smaller and more radically pro-independence ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, running neck and neck with the opposition.
Tens of thousands of TSU supporters marched in central Taipei yesterday demanding that the island discard the RoC moniker for "Republic of Taiwan" and replace the RoC constitution with a new one. Participants waved many different "Republic of Taiwan" flags - the results of a flag-designing contest held by the TSU, which also demanded the replacement of the national flag.
The opposition Kuomintang mobilised supporters for a counter-demonstration to "unify and protect the country". The participants - shouting "Against a Taiwan independence constitution!" - marched towards the legislature waving national flags. Rallies in favour of changing Taiwan's name have become regular events since the TSU and other civic organisations first held such a march last year.
China, which claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, would be likely to interpret a change in the country's official name as a declaration of independence -amove Beijing has threatened to respond to with military force.
While most Taiwanese want to maintain the island's ambiguous political status quo, the part of the population supporting a radical move towards formal independence is much larger than the group in favour of unification with China.
Mr Chen has stopped short of promising independence since he took office in 2000, but regularly turns to more radical language in election campaigns.
His promise to rename Taiwan's overseas representative offices will be hard to implement in countries other than the island's 27 diplomatic allies.
Most of Taiwan's state-owned enterprises, such as China Steel and China Airlines, were founded during the Kuomintang's era as a ruling party, some of them even on the mainland.
Only those companies which were set up under Japanese colonial
rule before 1945 carry "Taiwan" in their name, such as Taiwan Sugar
or Taiwan Salt.