TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A day after Chinese government officials cried foul over NASA's listing of Taiwan as a country on a website menu, the space agency quickly watered down the terminology on the site in an apparent effort to appease Beijing.
On Monday (March 29), an editorial posted on a website run by China's state-owned mouthpiece the People's Daily claimed that some Chinese netizens had noticed that Taiwan appeared under the "country" option on a NASA website, enabling people to have their name sent on its next mission to Mars. It then described the listing for Taiwan as an "unforgivable mistake" that violates the norms of international relations and "hurts the simple feelings of the Chinese people."
Application form labels dropdown menu "country" on March 31. (archive.org screenshot)
During a press conference on Wednesday (March 31), Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Spokesperson Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) said, "We hold a clear and firm attitude that the island of Taiwan is part of China." She then urged the space agency to "correct its mistake immediately."
Without making any official announcements, NASA quietly made some changes to the form on Thursday (April 1). In an archived version of the website from Wednesday, the site asks users to choose their "country," before revealing a list of countries.
Application form labels dropdown menu "location" on April. (NASA website screenshot)
On Thursday, the "country" option had been changed to "location" and once the dropdown appears, users are told to select a "Country/Region/Territory." The use of the ambiguous term "location" seems to be out of step with the U.S. State Department, which has eased restrictions on diplomatic interactions with Taiwan, including the use of the term "country" to describe Taiwan by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 10.
NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the terminology changes and additions.