Taiwan, Republic of China, Chinese Taipei: Difficult even for the New York Times

Correspondent uses Universiade picture to illustrate Taiwan's name quandary

Photo from Chris Horton's Twitter feed.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – “Why reporting on Taiwan isn’t easy, in one photo: Taiwanese audience in Republic of China afro wigs cheer the arrival of team Chinese Taipei,” New York Times correspondent Chris Horton tweeted with a picture of the Universiade closing ceremony this week.

Crowds in Taiwan have triumphed as the hosting of the 29th Summer Universiade in the capital has been seen as a success, both for the country’s image and for its athletes, who collected a record 26 gold medals during its August 19-30 run.

The largest-ever international sports event also brought out the island nation’s complicated political situation to the fore, with various rules and restrictions on flags.

China’s insistence on treating Taiwan as a province and not as a separate sovereign country has led to the use of the name “Chinese Taipei” at sports events, and the use of a flag and song different from the official flag and anthem.

In a previous New York Times article, Horton compared the practice to the United States having to accept the name “British Washington.”

Sports fans were allowed to bring in small copies of the real national Taiwanese flags to Universiade games, but the team from Argentina received a letter of protest from the event organizer, the International University Sports Federation (FISU), for carrying a large Taiwanese flag into the arena during the closing ceremony.

Shortly before the games opened, athletes in Uganda were reportedly moved to tears as their government seemed to be advising against their participation due to its “One China” policy. In the end, Uganda relented and its delegation was present in Taipei.

On the closing day of the Universiade, a man waving a large national flag was barred from entering the stadium, which led to indignant remarks from politicians.

A campaign has started to use the name Taiwan instead of Chinese Taipei at the next Olympics, in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, a country deemed sympathetic to the island’s cause.