This article argues that from the outset, China’s foreign policy in sport vis-a-vis Taiwan has placed national security and territorial integrity in front of all other objectives. My intention is to show how China singles out this priority and formulates policy around it.
At the international level sort, Wei points out, can be used to declare recognition or non-recognition, express various forms of foreign policy stances, or even enhance the national welfare. In China's drive to annex Taiwan, it takes on a security policy role.
The China-Taiwan first popped up on the international stage in 1952 at the Helsinki Olympics. The PRC was allowed to attend, so naturally Chiang Kai-shek withdrew Taiwan. The favor was returned in 1956, when China notified "Taiwan province" it could be part of the Chinese Olympic delegation. But Taiwan was permitted to compete, and so China withdrew from the Melbourne Olympics in '56.
It was ping-pong diplomacy that got Taiwan kicked out of the Olympics and subordinated to the Chinese:
The diplomatic debacle of UN expulsion produced a domino effect within the world of sports. Firstly, a group led by Iran and Japan orchestrated the admission of the PRC into the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in 1973, and simultaneously expelled Taiwan from the organization. The following year, Taiwan was variously excluded from the governing bodies of fencing, wrestling, volleyball and weightlifting, and had its basketball membership suspended. At the outset, China vowed to drive Taiwan from the IOC by using the countryside-surrounding-city tactic, through which countries that supported China began to expel Taiwan from individual sports federations. According to the IOC charter, if a country could not preserve membership in at least five international associations affiliated to the General Association of International Sports Federations, its membership with the IOC would be automatically revoked.
The recognition of the PRC by the US in 1979 further isolated Taiwan but ironically, since the PRC permitted Taiwan to continue to compete in sporting events, gave it the opportunity to compete as an equal even if the names ROC and Taiwan were not permitted. There was diplomatic huha, but the spineless IOC abjectly surrendered to China and the name Chinese Taipei was used. These arrangements were formalized in 1981 and known as the Olympic Formula.
Yu moves on to discuss the Zhonghua vs Zhongguo Taipei. Remember how there was an agreement? And the Chinese government, ever the trustworthy partner and brimming over with Olympic goodness and decency, said that its media had always had the habit of using Zhongguo Taipei and they really didn't mean it? Wei observes that it isn't some informal tradition -- it's orders from the top:
According to China’s official document ‘‘Opinions on how to correctly use propaganda phrases involving Taiwan,’’ promulgated in 2002: ‘‘In international sporting competitions held by us [China], the Taiwanese delegation can use the Chinese words Zhonghua Taibei, but our media reports should still call them Zhongguo Taibei.’’
Intent on creating the idea that Taiwan is a province of China, the Chinese press the IOC on any appearance of the ROC emblems. In 1988 the IOC nearly revoked Taiwan's membership when the bobsled team was found to have the ROC logo on their helmets. The IOC, which rolled over and barked for China when He Kaixin had to be
Things became even more complicated when Taiwan under the Lee and Chen Administrations had an actual foreign policy (remember those days?). And China remains China:
....in principle [China] does not send groups or athletes to international sporting events held in Taiwan; and it tries to prevent Taiwan from using attendance at international sporting events to sabotage the ‘‘Olympic formula." China only selectively follows its guideline for attendance at international competitions held in Taiwan. It will indeed send athletes to tournaments in Taiwan if they have a reasonable chance of winning a medal, and forego those in which their chances are slimmer.
Because IOC practices tend to filter down to other organizations, Yu points out, China uses this leverage to try and compel Taiwan to appear in the "Cs" when sports organizations are introduced, thus reinforcing the fantasy that Taiwan is part of China. All of the moves we saw China make this summer to suppress Taiwan's space are part and parcel of its long-term sports policy to isolate and eventually annex Taiwan. Nor is this policy limited to sports participation: in 1994 when President Lee Teng-hui was invited to attend the Asian Games in Hiroshima, China threatened to withdraw from the games if Lee was permitted to attend, creating a "massive political firestorm" in the IOC. As always, the IOC kow-towed and Lee was forced to say no to the invitation. If games are held in China, China will not issue Taiwan officials games ID, but instead forces them to come on mere Taiwan compatriot visas. This is not limited to major sporting events either...
In 2004, Taiwan’s first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) led Taiwan’s paralympic delegation to Athens and this invited protest from China, which demanded that the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) ask Wu to suspend all public activities and cancel her National Paralympics Committee Card, a top-class VIP card given to delegation leaders. But this time, Taiwan gained the upper hand. Huang Chih-fang (黃志芳), a technical staff member for the Taiwan delegation, threatened to hold a conference and divulge all the official documents exchanged with the IPC, showing the committees its biased treatment towards the island. The tactic worked, and the first lady maintained her accreditation and was able to attend the opening ceremony.
Naturally China blocks Taiwan's hosting of sports events whenever possible, including its attempts to host the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games, the 2001 and 2007 World University Games, and the 2009 East Asian Games.
Good thing China doesn't politicize sports!
The paper ends with a short discussion of the 2008 Olympics and a review of the possibilities if Taiwan were to declare independence during the games. This section will be familiar to anyone who has followed recent events, so I have omitted it (and also because it is the weakest and most poorly-written part of the paper, referring to Lu Hsiu-lien as a "hardliner" and using the Chinese code term "de-sinicization.") The history presented in the paper, however, forms an important background to understanding how China's Olympic behavior was neither new nor petty, but in fact represented policies and behaviors that have been part of China's annexation drive for most of the last forty years.