China’s appellation contrôlée

Readers' Views No 237, May 2003
OECD Observer

In an organisation as internationally minded as the OECD, I fail to understand the reasoning for the continued reference to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei”. While I understand the term to be the outcome of an agreement between you and China, surely there is an inconsistency here. Especially since it split from China in 1949, Taiwan has evolved into a modern, vibrant democracy of the type you normally encourage.

To some, arguing over a name may seem semantic, but to my mind, it ultimately speaks to a greater unwillingness on the part of the OECD to acknowledge the global presence that Taiwan has acquired independently of, and frequently in opposition to, Chinese communism. While I know that the OECD is building bridges with China through its work programme, to allow the mainland to dictate the island’s appellation is to recognise China’s disregard for Taiwan and to deny the existence of the most thriving example of modern Chinese economic and social liberalisation.

We need only consider the current SARS crisis to see the consequences of such reasoning: while the World Health Organisation has dispatched aid throughout Asia, much of it to China, its refusal to recognize Taiwan (its appellation policy is similar to the OECD’s) has effectively deprived the island of much needed medical assistance.

That major OECD member countries themselves acknowledge Taiwan by its proper name (just check their websites!) makes the OECD’s position even more curious. While the term “Chinese Taipei” may seem to the OECD a compromise, if it is determined in its efforts to placate the Chinese, then it might as well simply label the Taiwanese as some Chinese see them: counterrevolutionary separatists.

—Zheng Yan Li, Toronto, Canada


©OECD Observer No 237, May 2003




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