Are you like me? Have you been watching the Olympics? It has been on at our house a lot. And one thing I've been intrigued about is the existence of this new country I'd never heard of before: Chinese Taipei. My curiousity was piqued when I saw the flag (seen at right). This flag is clearly a stop-gap measure to leave us focussed on the sports rather than the issue.
So I did a bit of digging. Which of course means that I googled it and spent ten minutes on Wikipedia. (There is a reason I was given a "research skills" award by my school you know! By the way, I don't have to capitalize Google when I use it as a verb, do I?) Here's what I found out:
Apparently there has been a long and heated rivalry between the island we know as Taiwan and the mainland region we know as China. Officially, the latter wishes to be known as the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the former as---here's where it gets interesting---the Republic of China (ROC). They like to go by Taiwan, as well. This is their actual flag below:
It turns out that in the 70s the ROC was actually trying to claim governance over the whole of China. If I'm gathering it right, the contention was that theirs was the rightful "heir" to Chinese governance and Taipei was the rightful capital. This idea was rejected by the PRC, and ultimately also by the United Nations, and it has led to decades of back and forth on the actual identity of each. Most of us are ignorant of this, and simply know them as China and Taiwan. There is good reason for this. Taiwan operates like a country of its own in almost every way, except that the People's Republic of China is able to assert authority over it by strong-arming it diplomatically.
Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia: "The PRC refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes the ROC, but does not object to nations conducting economic, cultural, and other such exchanges with Taiwan that do not imply diplomatic relation. Therefore, many nations that have diplomatic relations with Beijing maintain quasi-diplomatic offices in Taipei. . . .
The US, Canada, the UK, India and Japan have formally adopted the 'One China' policy, under which the People's Republic of China is theoretically the sole legitimate government of China. However, the United States and Japan acknowledge rather than recognize the PRC position that Taiwan is part of China. In the case of Canada and the UK, bilateral written agreements state that the two respective parties take note of Beijing's position but do not use the word support" (emphasis mine).
Officially the US and UK have stated that they wish for the PRC and ROC to resolve their differences peacefully, and by semantically skirting the issue they manage to stay relatively uninvolved. Interestingly, Vatican City is one of only 23 countries which officially recognizes the ROC. The others are all in Central America and Africa, and are likely able to do so because of their alignment with Catholocism, to which the PRC is already opposed anyway.
So there you have it. THAT is why in its coverage of the Olympics the CBC refers to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei. As Ron McLean said at the opening ceremonies, they do it "out of deference to China".
I don't want to pretend I know more than I do about this issue. Maybe the PRC or the ROC have a rightful claim. I don't konw. But what I do note is that our media, who are supposedly neutral observers, able to investigate and report freely, are joining the nations (who are probably right to stay out of it and be diplomatic) in skirting the issue, not reporting to us the facts, and simply going along with the economic powers-that-be. I've watched a lot of Olympics, and yet I had to go to Wikipedia to find out the truth. That's always a scary situation.
I don't want to overstate things though. The ROC has agreed to go with "Chinese Taipei" and to use this flag. The PRC actually wanted to call them "China's Taipei". But the ROC said they would immediately withdraw from the games publicly if this name was ever used at the games or on Chinese television.
By the way, Canada whoooped Taiwan in softball yesterday.