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What’s in a name: Why China insists on Chinese Taipei rather than Taiwan

How China has had its way with institutions all over the world, Air-India the latest

Although the two participate separately in international events, China has repeatedly insisted that Taiwan should be called “Chinese Taipei”, reflecting a deep anxiety to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country. (Representational Image)

When government-owned Air-India recognised Taiwan by the name Chinese Taipei, it was following pressure from the Civil Aviation Authority of China, which had also pushed other international airlines such as Delta Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Air Canada, to do the same.

According to the “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province of China, although Taiwan calls itself a democratic, self-ruled country. Although the two participate separately in international events, China has repeatedly insisted that Taiwan should be called “Chinese Taipei”, reflecting a deep anxiety to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country.

Also Read | Prodded by Beijing, Air India joins others: Taiwan is now Chinese Taipei 

Turf war

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After the surrender of Japan during World War II, the island of Taiwan was put under Chinese control. Towards the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and before the post-war treaties were to be signed, members of the Kuomintang party (KMT) were driven out of the mainland by the Communists, who would later establish the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The KMT retreated to Taiwan, becoming a government in exile. For some time, it was internationally recognised as the government of the Republic of China (RoC).

The turf war over the name began in the 1970s, with increased official recognition for the PRC in international event. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had informally been using a number of names in its events to differentiate the RoC from the PRC.

In 1979, China agreed to participate in IOC activities if the RoC was referred to as “Chinese Taipei”. In Nagoya, Japan, the IOC and later all other international sports federations adopted a resolution under which the National Olympic Committee of the RoC would be recognised as the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, and its athletes would compete under the name Chinese Taipei.

Not allowed to use its flag and national anthem in the subsequent Summer and Winter Games, the RoC Olympic Committee boycotted the subsequent Summer and Winter Games in protest. In 1981, however, the government of the RoC formally accepted the name Chinese Taipei.

Naming & renaming


With Chinese Taipei as the name for Taiwan designated in the Nagoya Resolution, the RoC and the PRC recognise each other at various events — the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, FIFA events, World Health Organization (as an invited member) programmes, as well as beauty pageants. In 1998, China pressured the Miss World Organization to rename Miss Republic of China 1998 to Miss Chinese Taipei; since then, the latter has been competing under that name.

In recent decades, under Chinese pressure, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been using the name Chinese Taipei. “Taiwan” does not appear on the member countries list of either organisation.

Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week while fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report for listing certain areas as countries. China’s Civil Aviation Administration demanded an apology from Delta Airlines for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The airline responded by saying it had made a “grave mistake”.

India & China


Since 1949, India has accepted the “One China” policy that accepts Taiwan and Tibet as part of China. However, since 2010, when Beijing was issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, India has not been explicitly mentioning “One China policy” in bilateral joint statements.

Delhi has often used the issue to make a diplomatic point. For example, before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in 2014, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had recalled her conversation with Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi where she had said that if India believes in “One China” policy, China should also believe in a “One India” policy.

Now, the government has maintained that Air India’s decision is consistent with international norms and India’s position since 1949. Taiwan has lodged a protest, while Beijing has welcomed the Air-India decision. The renaming is possibly yet another reflection of India’s effort to reset ties with China.

First published on: 06-07-2018 at 01:10:40 am
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