Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Name Game

China continues to screw with Taiwan's Olympic team. Readers may recall that the Torch, with its totally politicized route, was still permitted by the Chen Administration to enter Taiwan, until at the last minute China demanded that protests along the route be banned.

Now, in another last minute deliberate undercutting of its "partner" China has been changing the way it refers to Taiwan -- thereby violating signed agreements -- and Taiwan's KMT Sec-Gen says the island may boycott the Olympics as a result:

KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih said Wu Poh-hsiung will travel to Beijing to attend the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games Aug. 8 and the Taiwanese baseball team's first match against the Netherlands Aug. 13 if the Chinese authorities respect Olympic protocol and refer to the Taiwanese team as "Zhonghua Taipei" or "Chinese Taipei, " rather than "Zhongguo Taipei."

"We will opt for boycotting the Olympics if Beijing maneuvers to belittle Taiwan by playing a word game," Wu Den-yih said.

He made the remarks after Chinese Central Television and Xinhua news agency referred to Taiwan's Olympic delegation July 16 as "Zhongguo Taipei" when reporting that Taiwan had selected its Olympic team.

Due to pressure from China, Taiwan has been forced to participate in international sports events under the English title "Chinese Taipei" since 1981, based on a protocol signed with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

According to an agreement signed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in Hong Kong in 1989, all sports teams or organizations representing Taiwan will follow IOC regulations when participating in sports events in China.
The 1989 agreement says:

On April 6, 1989, Lee Ching-Hua, the then Secretary General of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, and He Zhenliang, the then Chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee (of the Mainland), signed an agreement as follows:

“The participation in sports events, meetings, or activities by sports teams and sports organizations from the Taiwan area shall abide by the pertinent provisions of the International Olympic Committee. In all documents, manuals, letters sent, name tugs made, as well as broadcasts produced by the host (namely, the organizing entity), in so far as a sports team and sports organization from the Taiwan area is referred to in the Chinese language, it shall be “zhong hua tai bei (Chinese Taipei).”

Ed Wong had a nifty piece on the Zhonghua vs Zhongguo debate last week in the NYTimes. Hopefully it will dawn on the KMT at some point that all their service to Beijing is symbolized by this debate right here: China is not going to cooperate, and in the end they will be betrayed.


Richard said...

As much as I'd like to see someone on the KMT finally "stick it to the man," taking a step back people should realize that this is actually something that China would probably manipulate into their propaganda.

"Chinese Taipei" missing from the games would more so legitimize their claim that Taiwan is part of China. No other provinces of China have their own team to the Olympics, (HK doesn't, Shanghai doesn't, etc). Taiwan being in the Olympics is part of the argument that Taiwan is not a part of China.

Making that statement is a lose-lose situation for everyone, all this without even considering the athletes.

skiingkow said...


I know what you are saying, but this would only be true if there were Taiwanese athletes mixed with the Chinese athletes. This is not the case. However, something tells me that this whole event will turn out to be a big embarrassment for China when all of the controls they have in place fall apart due to the "human" factor. Taiwan will probably be ignored. That, or mistruths will be supplied by the western corporate media, as ususual.

Robert said...

But remember, Michael, China has said time and again, the Olympics is a time for the world to forget momentarily our petty politics and come together in a spirit of friendly competition.

Gosh. You just don't get it. We'll get back to dealing with the question of zhongguotaibei or zhonghuataipei after the Olympics. Now is just not the time.

Richard said...

stop ma,

Good point and it would probably be most obvious to most people that *if* Taiwan wasn't in the Olympics and China made that claim, Taiwanese are not playing under the China flag. But, China probably would attempt to say that the athletes from Taiwan were not qualified or better than those on the mainland, and thus no one from the "Taiwan province" will be on the team. I think the real problem here was Wu Poh-Hsiung making that pledge. I guess we'll just have to see how this plays out; if Taiwan pulling out of the Olympics makes big news, then it probably is a good thing, but if it ends up being a side story, then it will definitely backfire on Taiwan as Taiwan will again be brushed aside on the international stage.

channing said...

Eh...HK has its own Olympic team. Whether it's "Hong Kong" or "Hong Kong, China", I forget. HKSAR team's first and only Gold so far was in Windsurfing, Atlanta 2000, by Lee Lai-shan of Cheung Chau Island.

But regardless, I don't think the Beijing Olympics will stray from the usual "Chinese Taipei." I predict that the official Chinese name at the events will be Zhonghua Taibei, although press and other commentaries might use Zhongguo.

Tommy said...

Channing, I think you are right about the official name. But the official name is not the problem. The problem is that China's news organisations are not required to use the official name, if Yang Yi of China's Taiwan Affairs Office is to be believed. The official name will probably be correct in the Olympic Village and during the games. But Xinhua and the People's Daily will continue to use Zhongguo Taipei.

Yang Yi basically told the world that, despite the official name, China's media orgs would be given free rein to say what they want. He even said that this was uncontrollable, which is a laugh in a country that controls the media as much as China does.

Richard said...

channing, you're right, HK does have their own team... interesting, didn't know that until now.