Over the last week chances are good you’ve seen at least some of the Olympic Games. I was watching a few days ago when I saw a flag for “Chinese Taipei” on the screen. Then I heard an announcer on the CBC refer to this nation that I had not heard of. There are more than two hundred nations participating in these games; I can’t claim to have heard of all of them.
So, what’s the deal with Chinese Taipei? Well, it turns out, Chinese Taipei is really the nation we know of as Taiwan. Riddle solved? Not quite… it turns out Taiwan isn’t really a nation either. You’re probably thinking ‘WHAT!?’ Some of the best stuff is made in Taiwan. The place we know of as Taiwan actually calls itself the Republic of China (ROC). How can there be two Chinas? The China that’s playing host to the 2008 Olympic Games officially refers to itself as the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
So there’s a nomenclature issue… where’s the travesty here? And why does their flag have the Olympic Rings on it? Well, it’s complicated. As an outsider it appears to involve a substantial amount of pig-headedness. There are two criteria for nationhood, which are critical to this issue:
- Self-declaration of nationhood
- Recognition of nationhood from other nations
When PRC went communist, ROC claimed sovereignty over China, even though they no longer had any influence over it. ROC assumed China’s seat at the United Nations on the security council, as it was recognized by most of the world as representing China. Then in the 1970s there was a shift; countries began shifting their recognition to PRC instead of ROC. In a highly controversial move that was possibly illegal under the charter of the United Nations, the Republic of China was expelled from the United Nations in 1971 in favour of the People’s Republic of China under UN General Assembly resolution 2758.
Here’s the rub: with this move, the “United” Nations effectively sanctions the so-called One China policy in which China claims sovereignty over Hong Kong, Tibet and Macau. Behaviour like that is fairly predictable when it’s coming from China, but the UN?
Basically, taiwan got fucked by the UN. Even thirty years later, they are still denied entry into the United Nations.
The result is that Taiwan is not officially recognized. China refuses to allow them to represent themselves as Taiwan or the Republic of China, as it is in contravention to their One China policy. And so the name Chinese Taipei is the compromise that allows Taiwan to participate internationally, such as in the Olympic Games.
Fucking unfair, if you ask me.