Oct 02, 2007

Taiwan: It’s All in the Name

A resolution has been passed by the ruling party to push for a referendum on Taiwan's official name, a sensitive point as it would upset the status quo, with the current ‘Republic of China’ adhering to the ‘One China’ policy.

A resolution has been passed within Taiwan’s ruling party to push for a referendum on the island’s official name, a highly sensitive point as it would upset the status quo, with the current ‘Republic of China’ appeasing the Mainland, and US, ‘One China’ policy.

Below is an article by Peter Enav for Taiwan News:

Taiwan's ruling party passed a resolution Sunday [30 Septmeber 2007] asserting the island's separate identity and calling for a referendum on its sovereignty, but failed to put any real force behind it, apparently out of fear of provoking rival China.

The resolution-passed after a heated debate at a boisterous party congress-was the latest in a series of steps taken in the waning months of President Chen Shui-bian's final term aimed at strengthening Taiwan's de facto independence, without pushing Beijing so far that it could respond militarily.

Nearly 60 years after splitting amid civil war, China still considers the democratic island part of its territory, and has threatened to attack if it moves toward formal independence.

The United States does not recognize Taiwan as a country, but Washington is obligated by law to supply it with defensive weapons. Fearful of being drawn into a war with China, it has consistently chastised Chen's independence-leaning moves, including his current effort to win Taiwan a long coveted seat at the United Nations.

Sunday's [30 September 2007] DPP resolution calls for holding a referendum on Taiwan's sovereignty, and making the island's formal name "Taiwan." It also calls for the enactment of a new constitution.

"We should rectify our name to Taiwan and enact a new constitution as soon as possible," the resolution said. "A public referendum should be held at an appropriate time to underscore Taiwan as a sovereign state."

But in not demanding the jettisoning of the current official title of the "Republic of China," and offering no timetable for the enactment of the constitution or the holding of the referendum, it appears to lack teeth.

The Republic of China name connotes fealty to the "one China" policy that Beijing demands and the United States accepts. Getting rid of it would almost certainly be viewed by Beijing as a step teetering on the brink of a formal declaration of independence.

Many in the DPP fear that an clear-cut push for independence would hurt the chances of candidate Frank Hsieh in next March's [2008] presidential elections, particularly among the broad swathe of moderate voters.

But for DPP hard-liners, that kind of moderation holds little attraction. Yu Shyi-kun resigned as DPP chairman last Thursday [27 September 2007] after his own proposed resolution language, calling for formalizing independence, was overridden in a preparatory meeting.

At Sunday's [30 September 2007] party congress several delegates held protest signs saying "The Brave Admit No Fear", as Yu's version garnered only 73 votes among the 320 participants.

The adoption of the more moderate DPP resolution follows Chen's unsuccessful campaign this year to try to rejoin the United Nations under the name of Taiwan for the first time. For the past decade it had tried unsuccessfully to rejoin the world body as the Republic of China, the name it used in the U.N. before being expelled in 1971.

Chen has also pushed to hold a referendum to back the government's U.N. bid to coincide with the presidential election, a move denounced both by China and the U.S.