"Taiwan, China" or "Taiwan, Province of China" is a set of politically controversial and potentially ambiguous terms that characterize Taiwan and its associated territories as a province or territory of "China". However, the term is problematic and potentially ambiguous because since 1949, two sovereign states with the name "China" exist, namely the Republic of China (ROC, founded 1912 and now commonly known as "Taiwan") and the People's Republic of China (PRC, founded 1949 and commonly known as "China" since 1971). However, only one "China" actually rules Taiwan, namely Republic of China, and has an administrative division called "Taiwan Province" but refers to it as "Taiwan Province, Republic of China"; whereas, the other "China", namely the People's Republic of China, which is the one internationally recognized as "China" (not the ROC), claims but does not control Taiwan as part of its territory. Because "Taiwan" and "China" are known internationally to be separately political entities, the juxtaposition of "Taiwan" and "China" in this order into one single term "Taiwan, China" implicitly places the ROC/"Taiwan" under the sovereignty of PRC/"China", in the same sense as "California, USA". The use of this term is usually politically promulgated by the Communist Chinese government as a way to claim and imply that the ROC/"Taiwan" is under its sovereignty, since the PRC claims to be the legitimate government of "all China", which, according to its own definition, includes Taiwan also, despite its lack of control. The ROC government disputes the PRC position and it, along with many ROC citizens, considers this term incorrect and offensive, and its use a purposeful false identification and lie which denies the ROC's sovereignty, and objects to its use. The term is particularly offensive to some Taiwanese who believe in Taiwan Independence and want to disassociate Taiwan with "China" and a Chinese identity, and consider it a lie and an oxymoron. However, some Taiwanese citizens do not necessarily oppose this term, particularly those who view themselves as "Chinese" and support eventual Chinese reunification.
"Taiwan, China" had previously been unambiguous between the years 1945-1949, when only one "China" existed, namely the Republic of China.
Background and ambiguity over "China"
The dispute and ambiguity over the meaning of "China" and which "China" stemmed from the division of Republic of China into two Chinas at the "end" of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The term "China" historically meant the various regimes and imperial dynasties which controlled territories in mainland Asia prior to 1911, when the imperial system was overthrown and the Republic of China (ROC) was established as the first republic in Asia. In 1927 the Chinese Civil War started between the Kuomintang (KMT, founding party of the ROC) and the Communist Party of China, a rebel force at the time. The Chinese Communists eventually won control of most of ROC's territory (mainland China) in 1949, when they proclaimed the "People's Republic of China" on that territory. Since then, two Chinas existed, although the PRC was not internationally recognized at the time. The Republic of China government, who received Taiwan in 1945 from Japan then fled to Taiwan with the aim to retake mainland China and retained the name "Republic of China". Both the ROC and the PRC still officially (constitutionally) claim mainland China and the Taiwan Area as part of their respective territories. In reality, the PRC rules only Mainland China and has no control of but claims Taiwan as part of its territory under its "One China Principle". The ROC, which only rules the Taiwan Area (composed of Taiwan and its nearby minor islands), became known as "Taiwan" after its largest island, (an instance of pars pro toto). It stopped official active claim of mainland China as part of its territory after constitutional reform in 1991. However, since the 2008 election of Ma Ying-jeou, he again asserted that mainland China is part of Republic of China territory according to its constitution, and in 2013 stated that relations between China and Taiwan are not between countries but regions of the same country.
In 1971, the People's Republic of China subsequently won the United Nations seat as "China" and use of the name and expelled the ROC from the UN. Since then the term "Taiwan, China" is a designation typically used in international organizations like the United Nations and its associated organs under pressure from the PRC to accommodate its claim and to give the false impression that Taiwan belongs to the PRC. (The term "Chinese Taipei" was similarly created for the same purpose.) However, the political status of Taiwan is a complex and controversial issue and currently unresolved, in large part due to the United States and the Allies of World War II handling of the surrender of Taiwan from Japan in 1945 (which was to be a temporary administration by the ROC troops), and the Treaty of Peace with Japan ("Treaty of San Francisco") in 1951, for which neither the ROC nor the PRC was invited, and left Taiwan's sovereignty legally undefined in international law and in dispute.
Ambiguity of "Taiwan Province"
The term "Taiwan, (Province of) China" is also potentially ambiguous because both the ROC and the PRC each has administratively a "Taiwan Province", Taiwan Province, Republic of China and "Taiwan Province, People's Republic of China", and neither of these provinces covers the Matsu Islands, Wuchiu, Kinmen, the Pratas Islands and Itu Aba, all of which have been retained by the Republic of China. Geographically speaking, they both refer to the same place. The existence of the extra term "Taiwan Province, PRC" is merely because of PRC's insistence that Taiwan is part of China. Without more specific indication, it is unclear to which "Taiwan Province" is being referred. However, since China (PRC) doesn't actually control Taiwan and its "Taiwan Province" exists only on paper, as a practical matter, "Taiwan Province" refers only to the Taiwan Province under Republic of China's administration.
Although the word "China" could also possibly be interpreted to mean "Republic of China", this interpretation is no longer common since "China" is typically understood as referring to the PRC after the ROC lost its UN seat as "China" in 1971, and a term distinct from "Taiwan", the name with which the ROC has become identified. Also, only the ROC's Taiwan Province exists in reality and is under the ROC's actual territorial control, whereas the PRC's "Taiwan Province" exists only on paper, on the PRC's official administrative documents and under its government administrative structure but without an actual provincial government. Instead, the PRC has a Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council to deal with issues and policy guidelines relating to Taiwan.
The ROC also does not refer to its Taiwan Province as "Taiwan, China" but rather as "Taiwan Province, Republic of China" (中華民國臺灣省), and typically such reference only occurs in the Chinese language. However, reference to the province is now rare since the Taiwan provincial government has largely been dissolved and its functions transferred to the central government or county governments since 1997. Therefore recent uses of the term "Taiwan, China" are usually promulgated by the PRC to convey the sense that Taiwan is part of its "China".
ROC (Taiwan) government's objection
Although the Republic of China is not a member of the United Nations, the term "Taiwan, China" has sometimes been used by the U.N. to refer to the Republic of China. (The ROC is prohibited from using its official name internationally under pressure from the PRC and uses "Chinese Taipei" in other organizations.) The ROC sees its use as a denial of the ROC's status as a separate sovereign state, diminishing it under "China", which implicitly is the PRC. Various instances of the use of the term by international organizations or news media have been met with protest from the Taiwanese government officials and citizens. In the latest incident on May 10, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the UN, referred to Taiwan as "Taiwan, China" in its documents. (The ROC participates in the WHO under the name "Chinese Taipei".) Republic of China's president Ma Ying-jeou protested WHO's action and accused PR China of "pressuring the UN body into calling" the ROC "Chinese territory", and stated that Beijing's moves were "very negative" for bilateral ties. Ma, who took office in 2008, has taken many measures to improve Cross-Strait relations.
Taiwan independence viewpoint
The confusion and fight over use of the "China" name and the lack of name recognition of "Republic of China" itself and recognition as a country are part of the reason for the supporters of Taiwan independence to push for an identity apart from "China" and for renaming the ROC and gaining international recognition as Republic of Taiwan. Some supporters also reject the legitimacy of Republic of China's takeover of Taiwan from Japan at the end of World War II since 1945 (due to the lack of transfer of sovereignty in the Treaty of Peace with Japan). They view that Taiwan is no longer part of China since "China" is recognized by the UN as being the People's Republic of China, and so placing "Taiwan" and "China" together in one term is not only incorrect and an oxymoron but also offensively demotes the ROC's national sovereign status under China and causes unnecessary confusion with PR China.
Use in Vietnam
In Vietnam, most government documents and many state media usually use the forms Đài Loan (Trung Quốc) ["Taiwan (China)"] or Đài Loan, Trung Quốc ("Taiwan, China") to refer to Taiwan or Republic of China in many contexts, including in music and entertainment coverage. In other media, they often use the term "vùng lãnh thổ" ("territory") or "hòn đảo" ("island") to refer to Taiwan when wanting to avoid repeating the term "Taiwan" many times in their article. The term "Tỉnh Đài Loan" ("Taiwan Province") sometimes appear in media to refer to all of "Taiwan Area" (not only referring to the Taiwan Province of ROC). In general, Vietnamese state media never refer to Taiwan as a "nation" or a "state".
Use in the UN and other instances
The term "Taiwan, Province of China" also appears in the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 3166-1 country codes because its information source, the publication UN Terminology Bulletin-Country Names, lists Taiwan as "Taiwan, Province of China" due to the PRC's political influence in the United Nations as a member of the UN Security Council. Since the ISO 3166-1 code is a frequently used data source for computer programs and websites to pull a list of country names, "Taiwan, Province of China" is sometimes seen on pull-down menus instead of "Taiwan" due to this reason.
- Two Chinas
- Chinese Taipei
- Political status of Taiwan
- Cross-Strait relations
- Taiwan independence
- Index of Taiwan-related articles
- Outline of Taiwan
References and Notes
- "Taiwan protests 'province of China' WHO label".
- There is some debate whether the war has ended since the two Chinas are still fighting for international recognition and assurance of sovereignty. See Chinese Civil War for details.
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- "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Taiwan, China". World Health Organization. 2003-12-17.
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