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"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". In particular, the term "Taiwan, Province of China" often appears in the drop-down menu list of many websites and computer software that show a list of ISO 3166-1 country names (see UN and ISO section below). 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 now commonly known as "China"). 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 separate 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, U.S.". 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 Taiwanese people, 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 those Taiwanese who believe in Taiwan Independence and want to disassociate Taiwan with "China" and a Chinese identity, (i.e., desinicize), 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 been unambiguous from 1945 to 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.[a] 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 original territory (mainland China) in 1949, when they proclaimed the "People's Republic of China" on that territory.
Since then, two Chinas have 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 in 1949 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 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, he stated that relations between PRC and ROC are not between countries but regions of the same country.
In 1971, the People's Republic of China 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, 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) does not 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 is considered 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, under the PRC's 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" in English but rather as "Taiwan Province, Republic of China" (中華民國臺灣省; Zhōnghuá Mínguó Táiwānshěng), and typically such reference only occurs in the Chinese language in the ROC's official documents and as the marquee in the administrative offices of Taiwan Province government. However, references 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" usually appears only in PRC-controlled media and in the ISO 3166-1 codes to convey the sense that Taiwan is part of its "China".
ROC (Taiwan) government
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 supporters
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 also view that Taiwan is no longer part of China since "China" is recognized by the UN as being the People's Republic of China (PRC) rather than the ROC/Taiwan, 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.
Situations where it is used
The United Nations and the ISO
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 a complete list of country and territory names for computer programs and websites, "Taiwan, Province of China" is sometimes seen on pull-down menus instead of "Taiwan" for this reason.
The term is often used in Chinese media whenever Taiwan is mentioned, as in news reports and in TV shows. Particularly, when Taiwanese entertainers are on talk shows or being interviewed, the Chinese subtitles on the TV screen would always say "Taiwan, China," despite the fact the person never mentioned "China," thereby putting words in the person's mouth.  Also, there has been controversy about Chinese talent shows forcing Taiwanese contestants to introduce themselves as from "Taiwan, China" or from "Chinese Taipei." For example, singer UNI Yeh, on her first appearance on the Voice of China, introduced herself as being from "Pingtung District, China Taipei," which caused an uproar among Taiwanese netizens. Her response was that she was instructed to say so by the directors and was nervous.
If a place of birth on a United States passport application is written as "Taiwan, China" that cannot be shown in passports per One-China Policy, the United States Department of State advises contacting the applicant to ascertain whether he/she prefers either "Taiwan" or "China" as his/her place of birth.
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 "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".
- Political status of Taiwan
- Cross-Strait relations
- Taiwan independence
- Index of Taiwan-related articles
- Outline of Taiwan
- Chinese Taipei
- 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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