Friday, March 13, 2009

Where the f*** is ‘Chinese Taipei’ anyway? [UPDATED]

As I was searching the Web for data on Taiwan’s accomplishments for a book I am working on — provisionally titled Democracy in Peril: Taiwan’s struggle for survival from Chen Shui-bian to Ma Ying-jeou — I came upon the following passage:

Gender Equality in Chinese Taipei

It is perhaps easiest to consider the situation of women in Chinese Taipei in comparison with that of women in mainland China (PRC). While Chinese Taipei has adopted a Western civil and capitalist legal system over the past century, its Civil Code retains strong paternal characteristics whereas PRC legislation upholds the principle of gender equality …

The site,, shows the Nationalist flag with the caption “flag of Chinese Taipei.” The About page informs us that Wikigender is a project initiated by the OECD Development Centre to “to facilitate the exchange and improve the knowledge on gender-related issues around the world.” One listed source, APEC Gender in Chinese Taipei, Chinese Taipei Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC, links to, a page on the Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC, which also refers to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei.”

Given China’s weight at APEC and its bullying of member states on the question of Taiwan, it is not surprising that the designation “Chinese Taipei” would be used, and it is in fact the name under which Taiwan has participated at its meetings. But at a project initiated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development? (It should be noted that while China is not an OECD member, it is what is called an “enhanced engagement country.”)

This bodes ill. Little by little, the name Taiwan (or even Republic of China) is being effaced and replaced with the name “Chinese Taipei.” The global commons of free information is being exploited to cultivate future generations of people who will have no clue that there once was this place called Taiwan. On the gender equality question, which I wanted supportive data on, the great accomplishments that the people of Taiwan have made on that front — Taiwan is second to Japan in all of Asia — are being ignored by the designers of the Wikigender site and the OECD. The Taiwanese architects of that great success are being replaced by people in that odd place that doesn’t exist called “Chinese Taipei,” as if Taiwanese didn’t even have a right to be proud of what they’ve achieved. By rebound, this creates the impression that China — or part of China, as “Chinese Taipei” must be — would be capable, under the current government there, of such social accomplishments.

I have written to the designers of the Wikigender site to complain. As always, if they bother to respond (or, less likely, correct the error), I will keep readers informed.

[UPDATE] Wikigender responded today in a short e-mail: “Based on OECD agreements with the Chinese Authorities, the Development Centre (as the creator of Wikigender) is equally obliged to follow this denomination.

After filing an application for observer status at the OECD in September 2003, Taiwan was granted “ad hoc observer status” in December 2004 under the name … “Chinese Taipei.” OECD sources at the time, however, said the designation was a “temporary arrangement” rather than a “formal status.” Regardless of whether the deal was made with Taipei or Beijing, it coincides with China’s strategy of removing the name “Taiwan” from international institutions. Four-and-a-half years on and with presumed pressure from Beijing (the so-called Chinese Authorities mentioned in Wikigender's reply to me, presumably), the “temporary” arrangement risks congealing into something more permanent; in other words, it is turning more into a “status.” All OECD documents and publications, it should be noted, refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei.”


Taiwan Echo said...

Thanks for this great post and the effort.

Anna said...

I always wonder: where does that name leave Gaoxiong, Tainan, Jilong etc etc? How can an athlete from Pingdong be from Taipei, Chinese or otherwise?

E.M.E. said...

AACSB is listing the country name of its Taiwanese business schools as Chinese Taipei. But those business schools that pay hefty annual membership fees don't seem to bother to request for corrections.