Monday, July 14, 2008

Do Not Allow the Name Game to Undermine Cross-Strait Good Will

Do Not Allow the Name Game to Undermine Cross-Strait Good Will
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 14, 2008

Emotions have been running high recently between Taipei and Beijing over the issue of Taiwan's participation in the Olympics. State Council for Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi is changing the signs at the Beijing Olympic International Press Centre, from "zhong hua tai bei" to "zhong guo tai bei." His explanation was that the English term "Chinese Taipei" translates as "zhong guo tai bei" and therefore ought not to be interpreted as a case of Beijing "demeaning Taiwan." Yesterday President Ma formally responded to Yang Yi's statement. He said that the use of "zhong hua tai bei" by both sides was already the consensus. Introducing "zhong guo tai bei" would touch off a new round of controversy. President Ma urged Beijing "Don't be like that." This round of verbal jousting shows that although the two sides are eager to preserve the friendly atmosphere that now prevails, their bottom line -- what they are willing to tolerate, is coming into play.

Senior diplomat Wang Yi is a veteran of numerous diplomatic encounters with Taipei. Given his background, does anyone believe he could be so amateurish as to believe there is no difference between "zhong hua tai bei" and "zhong guo tai bei?" The term "zhong hua tai bei" has long been the custom for Taipei's participation in international sporting events. Changing it to "zhong guo tai bei" reduces it to the same level as Hong Kong and Macao. How can one not suspect Beijing of attempting to "demean Taiwan?" If Beijing really believes this is "a minor matter," then they have seriously underestimated Taiwan's sensitivity. If President Ma cannot get "zhong guo tai bei" changed back to "zhong hua tai bei," and allows the Olympic delegation to attend under such conditions, he will be blasted by the political opposition. This would compel President Ma to adopt a hard line on the matter.

Beijing's behavior is truly baffling. It knows perfectly well that a single word is enough to provoke a political dispute. Yet it cannot resist the temptation to give Taiwan a hard time. One really has to wonder why. Wouldn't it be better to allow the team from Taiwan to feel good about participating in the Beijing Olympics? Must it make them set out full of regrets, and return full of frustration? Moreover, the Republic of China national team has used the name "Chinese Taipei" to participate in international sporting events for over 20 years. The Taipei side is the one that has been forced to bend all this time. If it is now to be designated as "zhong guo tai bei," and demoted to the same level as the Hong Kong and Macao delegations, will anyone believe this is not an attempt to "demean Taiwan?" Put bluntly, if this problem can not be resolved in a reasonable manner before the opening of the Olympic Games in August, it will become a ticking time bomb.

The tensions from this controversy underscore the fragility of cross-Strait relations. To re-establish a friendly bilateral atmosphere will require much effort, wisdom, and patience. To undermine such an atmosphere however, merely requires one wrong move.

No one will deny that cross-Strait relations are currently moving towards reconciliation. Over the past few days, Mainland tourists have successfully completed their first trip. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is planning to further relax limits to investment in Mainland businesses. Restrictions on cross-Strait financial and economic relations, trade, and tourism have been loosened more in the past two months than they were in the past eight years. Everyone can see that authorities on both sides of the Strait are hoping to maintain this atmosphere. This has been the easy part. Whether such an atmosphere can be sustained over the next few months will be the acid test.

First, in early August, President Ma is likely to visit the Republic of China's Central and South American allies. His transit through the United States will raise the issue of Ma's status and treatment by Washington. It will attract Beijing's concern. It will become the focus of universal attention. It will be followed by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September. Will the Ma administration continue to demand membership in the United Nations? This is a highly sensitive matter. Finally, there is the sticky matter of Washington's arms sales to Taipei. Word has leaked that Beijing is applying pressure behind the scenes. Add all these up, and it is easy to that the real test for cross-strait relations has just begun.

Many issues are interrelated. If Beijing deliberately gives Taiwan's delegation to the Beijing Olympics a hard time, and uses the Open Ceremony to woo the Republic of China's allies; if it uses President Ma's transit through the United States to embarrass him; President Ma will be hampered in his efforts to open cross-Strait links. It will then be impossible for President Ma to demonstrate good will in September on the issue of membership in the United Nations. The pressure he will face is entirely predictable.

Therefore, one must not underestimate the sensitivity Taipei has about the name it must use to participate in the Olympics. Whether "zhong hua tai bei" or "zhong guo tai bei" demeans Taiwan is not merely a matter of Chinese translation. It is not something the Beijing leadership can take for granted. It is something the public on Taiwan feels in its gut. In order to avoid more serious controversy in the future, Ma president is right to tell Beijing, "Don't be like that!"

中國時報  2008.07.14

 為了台灣參加奧運的名稱問題,兩岸最近不帶火氣地過了一招。國台辦發言人楊毅就北京奧運國際新聞中心將「中華台北」標示為「中國台北」一事,解釋其都是英文Chinese Taipei的中文譯文,不能說是北京在「矮化台灣」,針對楊毅的說法馬總統日前也有了正式回應,指兩岸對使用「中華台北」上早有共識,「中國台北」將會引發新的爭議,馬總統昐望北京「不要這樣」。這場隔空的對話,清楚透露兩岸雙方都想維持目前友善的氣氛,但雙方能夠容忍的底線也正逐漸浮現張力。

 講實在話,以王毅資深外交官的背景,往昔在外交戰場早與台北過招多次,怎麼可能會外行到認為Chinese Taipei譯成「中華台北」或「中國台北」沒有差別?將早已成為台灣參與國際賽事慣例的「中華台北」改成與港澳同級的「中國台北」,怎麼會沒有「矮化台灣」之嫌?北京當局如果認為這只是「小事一樁」,不必大驚小怪,那他們就真低估了這個問題在兩岸及台灣內部的敏感性。馬總統如果在「中國台北」無從改回「中華台北」的情況下,就授旗讓奧運代表團出發,肯定會被在野黨罵到翻,屆時等於得逼著馬總統選擇「立場強硬」了。






 所以,千萬別低估台灣參加奧運使用名稱問題的敏感性,使用「中華台北」或是「中國台北」是不是在矮化台灣,絕不是中文翻譯的問題,更不是北京領導階層的「想當然爾」, 而是台灣民眾的具體感受問題,為了避免未來引發更大的爭議,馬總統說得對,北京真的「不要這樣」!

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