Tuesday, May 19, 2009

1979 State Department Memo on Terminology

Here is the text of the State Department memo, written by Charles Freeman, who was then heading up the China Desk, on what to do about the ROC after we recognized China in 1979. Note how point (2) simply follows the Beijing line that there are no Taiwanese and makes the aborigines disappear entirely. Pay attention to point (6) as well. Freeman would move on to doing business with China, eventually securing an appointment on the board of a Chinese state-owned oil firm, before becoming the victim of a mindless right-wing AIPAC assault following Obama's appointment of him for the NIC position, as readers may recall.

Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520


SUBJECT: Guidelines on Proper Terminology for Referring to China, People's Republic of China, China Mainland, and Taiwan in Official Statements and Publications

With the recognition of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China and with the severance of diplomatic relations with the authorities on Taiwan, guidelines are necessary to insure [sic] that all U.S. Government official statements and publications concerning Taiwan conform to our policy.

Accordingly, on and after January 1, 1979, U.S. Government departments and agencies should follow the guidelines listed below in referring to China, People's Republic of China, China mainland [sic] and Taiwan in official statements and publications:

1) the term "Republic of China" is not to be used in referring to Taiwan.

2) The adjectival form is "Taiwan," not "Taiwanese." People should be referred to as "from Taiwan," "on Taiwan," "of Taiwan," etc., rather than as Taiwanese. The adjective "Chinese" should not be applied to the government or institutions on Taiwan. (The ethnic groups on Taiwan are, however, Chinese; the language spoken there is Chinese, and one of its dialects is Taiwanese. These terms should continue to be used in appropriate instances.)

3) The People's Republic of China has adopted its own method for Romanizing Chinese names ("pinyin"), which is preferable for persons from the PRC and PRC placenames [sic].

4) The Wade-Giles system, long in general use for transliterating Chinese into English, should be used for personal and place names relating to Taiwan and for other Chinese names, except where local or personal variations have been customary in places like Singapore and Hong Kong/

5) Tables of economic statistics, indexes, and similar materials, should put "China" (not "People's Republic of China") in its appropriate alphabetical position, followed by "mainland," and then "Taiwan," each indented and printed in italics or other distinctive type-face. Where statistics or other tabulated material appear in such lists, separate totals should be provided for "mainland" and "Taiwan." No grand total for "China" should be given. Where information on China is provided on a province-by-province basis, Taiwan should not be listed alphabetically among the provinces, but set off separately after the alphabetical list of provincial names. Again, statistics should be totaled separately, for "mainland" and for "Taiwan."

6) Where non-statistical information is given on both the China mainland and Taiwan (e.g., in country directories and similar publications), information on the Chinese mainland should be placed under "China" (not "People's Republic of China"), and information on Taiwan should be placed under a "Taiwan" heading. "China" should be asterisked and the reader referred to "Taiwan," which should be listed separately at the close of the list of countries. Under no circumstances should be "Taiwan" be placed of footnoted under "China" or the "People's Republic of China."

7) There are cases, of course, where "People's Republic of China" may be appropriate usage. Special guidance has been and will continue to be provided for such cases (e.g. FBIS "Green Book"). If any agencies have publications with they believe should use the term "People's Republic of China," they should make a recommendation to the Department of State, as below.

8) Any questions should be addressed to the China Working Group, Room 1210-A, Department of State

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MJ Klein said...

looks like even back then, they tried to lose the "people's republic of" moniker. i have 3 PRC visas. the first one says "Visa of the People's Republic of China." the other 2 say "China Visa."

i prefer to call things just what they are.

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything new here, do you? Just bureaurcratese reflecting the so-called status quo.

Readin said...

Sure makes you feel bad about being an American.

Of course, those were the Carter years...

And they were followed by the Reagan years...

Excuse me, I need to go read some Gipper speeches to feel better about my country.

Anonymous said...

Calling Taiwanese merely a dialect when many waisheng who speak perfectly good Mandarin, have lived in Taiwan their entire lives constantly hearing Taiwanese, but still can't understand or speak a damn word is hilarious. Let's not even get into how Fuzhou Hua, supposedly also a Min-nan language or close, isn't even mutually intelligible with Taiwanese.

Let's consider that situation against that of Spanish/Portuguese which are considered different languages but so close it can be mutually intelligible often times!

So unfortunate for even the US State Department taking this cultural similarity=>political unification stance! The US gained independence while largely being "British" culturally!

Carlos said...

I don't know if it's just myth, but my understanding is that the KMT was given the chance to simply become "Taiwan" when the US established relations with China (and when the Olympics Committee recognized China), but Chiang Ching-Kuo refused.

If that's true, there's not much else the US could've done.

Feiren said...

I've always wondered about the origins of the taboo on the adjective Taiwanese, insistence that Taiwanese is a dialect, and that the Taiwanese people are the people of Taiwan. Now we know that this source is an Orwellian directive from the State Department designed to appease the delicate sensibilities of the regime across the strait. Not a real surprise, but good to know.

Michael Turton said...

An apt summary, Feiren.

Michael Turton said...

Carlos, there was a proposal from one high ranking KMTer to turn the ROC into the Chinese Republic of Taiwan but it went nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Actually Chiang Kai sheck refused, saying, " The sky is not big enough for two suns."