Feb 12, 2007

Taiwan: Changing Names to Gain Status

President Chen launches a campaign to remove the word “China” from Taiwanese company names in attempts to reflect Taiwan’s separate identity from China.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by The Raw Story:

As part of its move towards formal statehood distinct from the communist People's Republic of China on the mainland, the Taiwanese leadership has launched a campaign to remove the word "China" from company names. While many Taiwanese find the name changes necessary, some analysts have warned they could raise Taiwan-China tensions or even invite invasion by China. The campaign began in October 2006 when President Chen Shui-bian changed Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, named after the late mainlander president, to Taoyuan International Airport as it is located in Taoyuan County near Taipei.

Last week Chen changed four company names: Chinese Petroleum Corp became Taiwan Chinese Petroleum Corp, China Shipbuilding Corp became Taiwan International Shipbuilding Corp, Chunghwa - a Mandarin word that means China - Post Co Ltd became Taiwan Post and the Central Bank of the Republic of China was changed to the Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The name-change campaign will be long and difficult because the exiled Chinese Nationalist government, which ruled Taiwan from 1949 until 2000, left many marks on the island - from Taiwan's official title of Republic of China to a kind of fish, called the president fish, because it was the late president Chiang's favourite dish.

President Chen has hinted that all enterprise names which contain "China" and "Chinese" must be changed.

"In future, the names of our state enterprises, overseas representative offices and legal codes will be rectified step by step to reflect Taiwan's sovereignty and the Taiwan people's self- confidence," Chen said in his newsletter.

So far Chen has not said that he will change Taiwan's official title, but he has vowed to amend Taiwan's constitution before he steps down in 2008 and has suggested Taiwan apply to rejoin the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan" instead of "Republic of China."

Taiwan used to hold China's seat at the UN as the Republic of China - and the ROC was indeed one of the founding members of the UN - but it left the international body when its members recognized the People's Republic as the sole legitimate government of China in 1971. Taiwan has applied under its official ROC title to rejoin the UN since 1991, but has been rejected because Beijing insists that there is only one China.

It is not clear where the name-change campaign will lead. Names which have yet to be rectified include: the Republic of China, China Airlines, Chinese Bank, Chinese Culture University, China Television Co, Chinese Television System, Broadcasting Corp of China, the Chinese-language China Times and the English-language China Post newspapers.

China, which views self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland, has been watching Taiwan's name-change campaign closely and has warned that it would use force to recover Taiwan if Taipei declared formal independence or took concrete steps to achieve independence, including changing Taiwan's title.

"The campaign is dangerous because Taiwan's international status depends on its relationship with China. It can only raise tension with China and could even trigger military action from China," Yang Tai-shun, a professor of political science at Chinese Culture University, said.

The United States, Taiwan's protector and mediator in Taipei- Beijing ties, is also concerned.

"We do not support administrative steps by Taiwan authorities that would appear to change Taiwan's status unilaterally or move towards independence," State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said in his daily press briefing.

"The United States does not, for instance, support changes in terminology for entities administered by Taiwan authorities," he added.

The US switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but pledged to help defend Taiwan so long as Taiwan maintains the status quo and does not provoke an invasion by China.

Washington's pledge is vital to Taiwan because since it was expelled from the UN in 1971, the number Taipei's diplomatic allies has dwindled to 24 - and they are mostly small and poor nations.

However, Taipei said the US warning will not deter it from pursuing the name-change campaign.

"This is our internal affair. Foreign countries have no right to interfere. We should carry it on," Yu Shyi-kun, secretary general of President Chen's independence-learning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told reporters on Saturday.


Since Chen, a Taiwan native, won the presidential election in 2000, he has advocated Taiwan as a sovereign country and not part of China.