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Chinese Taipei: As with every Olympics, for the Taiwanese, the opening ceremony became a public humiliation.
In 1971 in fact, the Republic of China (ROC), which is the official name by which Taiwan is known, was forbidden to use the term Taiwan and its national anthem, after a motion of the United Nations recognized only the People’s Republic of China (or mainland China) the right to use the term China in view of the one-China policy (一个中国政策, yīgè Zhōngguó zhèngcè), sanctioned in 1972 in Shanghai. According to this principle, there is only one state called China, despite the existence of two governments claiming to represent China, which diplomatically compels all nations wishing to enter into relations with China not to recognize Taiwan (and vice versa).
Historically, both Taipei and Beijing are China, but in fact, they are separate nations since 1949 (from 1895 until 1945 Taiwan was a Japanese colony), that is since Chiang Kai-Shek fled to Taiwan together with his followers of the Kuomintang (Guomindang) after a gory civil war. Although from a purely practical point of view, Taiwan is to all intents and purposes a real nation, having its own official name, flag, currency, army, and national anthem, it is not a state legally recognized by the international community, except for a small group of states that support and recognize it. In reality, the issue is very complex from a geopolitical point of view, and Chinese threats often remain confined to the press and mainstream propaganda: Taiwan in fact, remains one of the largest investors in China, and thanks to its independence, many of the Chinese traditions that risked disappearing during the delirious years of the Cultural Revolution have been saved. So, once the storm had passed, traditional Chinese culture returned to its homeland through Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Why is Taiwan in the Olympics called Chinese Taipei?
From a political point of view, however, any attempt to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation is strongly opposed by China. And even the world of sports is no exception. According to the Olympic Commission of Chinese Taipei, membership in international organizations has been strongly marginalized by Beijing itself since 1971. Taiwan boycotted the 1976 and 1980 Olympics after the host nations refused to allow the Republic of China to compete using its name. In 1979, the International Olympic Games Commission passed the Nagoya Resolution, giving Taiwan the ridiculous name “Chinese Taipei” and banning its Olympic committee from competing using the original name and national anthem. After some initial resistance, Chinese Taipei finally relented and accepted the difficult compromise in 1981. In 1984 it debuted at its first Winter Olympics, in Sarajevo (at the time in another state that no longer exists today), under the new name.
This compromise has never been acceptedby the Taiwanese. Especially during the last three decades, the citizens of the rebellious island have become even more independent. According to a survey conducted by Chengchi National University, only 13.6% declared themselves Taiwanese in 1991; by 2004, this number had grown to over 45%. In 2016, according to another survey, this percentage reached 80%. This is particularly felt by the younger generation, many of whom participated in the Sunflower Movement protests against further economic integration with their Chinese sister and actively supported the candidacy of President Tsai Ing-wen. Activist Hang Kuo-chang told CNN in January that her movement wants to forge a peaceful relationship with China, but that doesn’t mean the Taiwanese way of life should be sacrificed. Especially after what happened in Hong Kong with the adoption of the controversial security law. As Taiwanese identity has now become stronger as an independent entity, many in Taipei wonder why this nation cannot be officially recognized abroad, also considering that Taiwan is a fundamental economic partner for the entire West.
According to Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Formosa Association for Public Affairs, which fights for Taiwanese independence (Formosa is, in fact, the historical name of the island), the fictitious name damages the dignity of the country and is a real humiliation for its 23 million inhabitants who, on the occasion of each Olympics, have to watch helplessly this farce.