Anger at being confused with China amid the coronavirus outbreak and Beijing’s stepped-up efforts to assert sovereignty is stirring heated debate in Taiwan about how to further distance itself from its giant and often threatening neighbor.FILE PHOTO: Tourists wear protective face masks to protect themselves from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while passing by a flag rising ceremony at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
At its core is a debate about whether to drop “China” from the island’s official name, the Republic of China.
During the virus crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO), which considers the island part of China, has listed Taiwan’s far lower case number under China’s, and China has repeatedly insisted only it has the right to speak for Taiwan on the global stage, including about health issues.
Taipei says this has confused countries and led them to impose the same restrictions on Taiwanese travelers as for Chinese, and has minimized Taiwan’s own successful efforts to control the virus.
Taiwan has been debating for years who it is and what exactly its relationship should be with China – including the island’s name. But the pandemic has shot the issue back into the spotlight.
Lin I-chin, a legislator for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said in parliament last month that Taiwan should change its English name to “Republic of Chunghwa”, an English rendering of the word Taiwan uses for China in its name.