CCTV's use of 'Taipei, China' in reports sends political signal, triggers debate

A woman rides a bike past Taiwan and China national flags during a rally held by a group of pro-China supporters calling for peaceful reunification, Taiwan, May 14, 2016. Photo: Reuters

China Central Television (CCTV)'s reference to Taiwan as "Taipei, China" during its coverage of a sporting event indicates Beijing's dead-set stance over the "one China" policy, as Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen refuses to honor the "1992 consensus", a Chinese expert has said.

Last week, CCTV changed the name of the Taiwan team into "Taipei, China" in its reports on the 2017 Asian Table Tennis Championships. Previously, the state broadcaster normally used "Chinese Taipei" as the name of the team.

Taiwan, which is seen by Beijing as a breakaway province, has always taken part in the international sporting events under the name "Chinese Taipei".

"In the backdrop of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declining to acknowledge the '1992 consensus', CCTV's move reflects the Chinese mainland's clear adherence to the 'one China' principle and its strong objection to the 'one China, one Taiwan' parlance," Wang Jianmin, a research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a recent interview with the, a state-owned news website in China.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding between the Kuomintang and Beijing that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is only "one China", with each side having its own interpretation of what "China" means.

The CCTV move could be interpreted as the Chinese mainland's strong political signal and even a warning to the Taiwanese authorities, as Beijing has been stepping up its efforts to pinpoint the political status of the island, Wang said.

Since the pro-independence DPP took power last year, Beijing's push to reduce Taiwan's international space has intensified, compared with the era of Ma Ying-jeou, who was in favor of improving relations with Beijing, Li Zhenguang, a Taiwan expert at Beijing Union University, said, according to a report by Taiwan's Want Daily.

CCTV's name change has caused sensation in Taiwan, as Tsai will celebrate the first anniversary of inauguration as Taiwan's leader next month.

Some radical lawmakers from the DPP complained that Beijing was "riding on the head of Taiwan", urging the Taiwanese authorities to consider using the name "Taiwan" on the "international stage". The lawmakers also blamed the head of the so-called "foreign affairs department" of the island for his incompetence in the "diplomatic battle" with Beijing.

On Monday, Katherine Chang, head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top mainland policy-making body, lodged a protest against CCTV's reference to Taiwan as "Taipei, China" during its coverage.

"We want to lodge a strong protest and our dissatisfaction (with Beijing). It is regrettable. Taiwan is definitely not a part of China. The move taken by China will not have a positive impact on the cross-strait ties," Chang said.

Chang also said that the unilateral move "belittled Taiwan" and was "absolutely unacceptable".

However, many Taiwan's Internet users sniffed at the remarks by the radical lawmakers and Chang.

"(Politicians) only pay lip service to their views. Do they dare to have a direct confrontation with the Chinese mainland?" a Taiwanese netizen asked on an online social platform.

In the Chinese mainland, CCTV's move won warm applause from many Internet users, who firmly backed Beijing's stance that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

"There is nothing wrong in calling Taiwan 'Taipei, China'," a Weibo user said.

In fact, CCTV is not the first state media to use "Taipei, China" to name the Taiwan team. In February, the Xinhua News Agency, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), referred to Taiwan as "Taipei, China" in its report about a curling match during the 8th Asian Winter Games.

"Chinese Taipei" is a name that was recognized by Beijing and the Taiwanese authorities to be used in the international sporting events in 1989, when the two sides had a common wish to let Taiwan participate in the 11th Asian Summer Games held in Beijing in 1990, according to media reports.

Currently, "Chinese Taipei" is widely used in many activities held by the international organizations including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which allow the participation of non-sovereign regions.

Since 1989, the forces seeking Taiwan's independence have been playing word game to highlight the so-called "sovereignty" of the island.

In 2004 when the World Medical Association (WMA) held its annual meeting, the Taiwanese authorities announced to replace the name "Chinese Medical Association Taipei" by the "Taiwan Medical Association". In the same year, some Taiwanese media called for the use of "Taiwan" as the name of the team in the Athens Summer Olympics.

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