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In Taiwan, anger at China over virus drives identity debate

TAIPEI Anger at being confused with China amid the coronavirus outbreak in addition to Beijing’s stepped-up efforts to claim sovereignty is usually stirring warmed up debate around Taiwan about how to further mileage itself from its giant and frequently threatening next door neighbor.

At its central is a argument about whether or not 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 making of the word Taiwan functions for China in its name.

“Taiwan has been brought to grief by China, ” she stated.

On Monday, the New Power Party, among Taiwan’s more compact opposition groups, released the effects of a survey in which nearly three-quarters associated with respondents claimed Taiwan given should have only the word “Taiwan” on them, removing any reference to China.

“During this epidemic period, the people have been recently misunderstood by simply other nations, highlighting typically the urgency of adjusting the English name, ” it said in a statement.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has given a cautious response to the passport idea, noting that according to the constitution, the official name is Republic of China and that the word Taiwan was already added to passport covers in 2003.

“In the forthcoming, if there is comprehensive agreement between the lording it over and resistance parties about this new identify, the Foreign Ministry shall work in managing it, ” spokeswoman Joanne Ou said.

But the government is wary of a name change for Taiwan, saying there is no consensus for such a radical move.

Although the DPP supports the island’s independence – theoretically meaning the official formation of a Republic of Taiwan – President Tsai Ing-wen says there is no need to do so, as the island is already an independent country called the Republic of China. She often refers to the island as the Republic of China, Taiwan.

‘REPUBLIC OF TAIWAN’

Premier Su Tseng-chang has said changing the island’s name isn’t the most urgent issue facing Taiwan.

“If we want to modify then it might be to help ‘Republic involving Taiwan’. Taiwan is more recognized, ” Su said in parliament. “But if there is national consensus, a name change just isn’t the most important thing for the moment. ”

Taiwan’s official name is a throwback to when the Kuomintang party fled to the island after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949, and continued to claim to be China’s legitimate government.

“The Republic of China is a country, Taiwan is not, ” Chen Yu-jen, a Kuomintang legislator from the island of Kinmen, which sits just offshore from the Chinese city of Xiamen, told parliament on Monday.

The statement drew a sharp rebuke from Su, who told reporters it meant Chen had no right to be a member of the legislature.

China’s pressure on Taiwan diplomatically and militarily during the virus crisis has also reduced Beijing’s already low standing in the eyes of many Taiwanese.

A March poll commissioned by Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council and carried out by Taipei’s National Chengchi University showed more than three-quarters of respondents believed China’s government was unfriendly to Taiwan’s, the highest level in a decade.

Any name change would infuriate China, which has a law mandating the use of force to stop Taiwan independence.