Deconstructing Taiwan and China Terminology and Nomenclature

  Previous  |  Next  

Friday March 09, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Misuses, misrepresentations and manipulations of language are well documented. Hitler promoted "big lie" usage in "Mein Kampf." E-Prime (English-Prime) theory was developed to try to minimize dogmatic statements by eliminating forms of "to be" from discourse. Politically correct language was introduced to weed out stereotypes and labels but with little success. Feminists saw early on that language often unwittingly carries and conveys messages that the average mind is unaware of. For example, by constantly using patriarchal terms like chairman, policeman, fireman etc. society reinforced the outdated idea that these positions were male prerogatives. The antidote was a conscious insistence on using words like chairperson, police officer etc. It is in this vein then that Taiwanese and those who support this island nation need to regularly examine, deconstruct and stop using expressions that create erroneous ideas on the status of Taiwan and its relationship with China. Observe the following examples.

Greater China: When a person says, "Last month I was traveling in greater China." Just what is meant? If there is a greater China the implication is that there is a lesser China so what is it? Hong Kong? Macau? Surely not Taiwan. To eliminate any misconceptions that imply Taiwan is conceived as lesser China, a ready answer is, "I am not sure what constitutes greater China, but I live in greater Taiwan. Lesser Taiwan? That might be Penghu."

Mainland China: This is a similar misrepresentation as greater China. China is a continental country/nation; Taiwan is an island country/nation. To use the term mainland is redundant. Unfortunately Taiwan still retains its earlier erroneously designated name of Republic of China (ROC) to add to the confusion. To see the redundancy, examine when Singapore was once a part of Malaysia. Did anyone in Singapore ever speak of Mainland Malaysia and island Malaysia?

Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial. If an explanation is needed for this canard, one is deeply in need not only of a history lesson on both Taiwan and China but a study in logic. Taiwan has always been a part of China deserves similar treatment.

Taiwan is a province of China. This statement raises all sorts of historical complexities, half-truths and problems. Japan was the first country to control and rule the whole of Taiwan; it was their colony. The Manchu Qing dynasty that had conquered China in 1645 did come over and later take control and rule the western part of Taiwan from 1683 to 1895. And the Manchus did declare that western part a Manchu province in 1885. However, the Manchus surrendered the claim to their part of Taiwan to Japan (1895) in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Republic of China (ROC), which was founded in 1911 when Taiwan was a colony of Japan, ironically later claimed that Taiwan was a province of the ROC (1945). But since the San Francisco Peace Treaty (1952) did not state to whom Japan should surrender Taiwan after World War II, Taiwan's status still remains "undetermined." Further, the 1911 creation of the ROC ended in a stillbirth and immediately launched an on-going Civil War with numerous participating warlords. When the Communist faction drove the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) faction out of China (1949), the KMT, as diaspora, took refuge on "undetermined" Taiwan bringing the ROC name with them. Meanwhile, the Communists created the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the continent. Ironically again the PRC decided to claim Taiwan though the PRC flag had never flown there.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of China's Civil War. This canard flows from the above. Taiwan had nothing to do with China's Civil War. Taiwan was denuded by the KMT to support its losing effort in China's Civil War. And as diaspora, the KMT later fled and subjugated Taiwan with the imposition of martial law, the White Terror, and a colonial one-party state rule. Taiwan, which to this day remains "undetermined" after the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty was never a part of any so-called split in 1949.

Chinese Taipei. This phrase opens a whole different can of worms. It has historical reality from when the KMT sought to maintain its claim for China, legitimize its one-party state colonial rule and still participate in the Olympics after 1971. The KMT could have accepted the name Taiwan or Formosa for sports events after 1976 but that would have meant surrendering its lost claim to China, trying to justify its colonial martial law occupation of Taiwan and pretend that it has democratic ambitions. With an ever -increasing majority of Taiwanese identifying themselves as Taiwanese the absurdity of this name grows. Today the KMT has dug a deeper hole for Taiwan; it tries to maintain that the bogus and fabricated "1992 consensus" is real, that the ROC with its own interpretation exists as reality though it has been forced to accept the subservient title "Chinese Taipei" and that all must ignore the true reality of the 1996 consensus when Taiwanese elected their own president and gave some direction to this "undecided" nation.

The only way that Taiwanese will eliminate the above canards and misrepresentations is to be aware of them, expose them and counter them when they appear.