I was surprised to learn that Google Maps was referring to Taiwan as a “province of China.” After all, how can there be room on a map for such a long label? It turned out the map itself only ever labeled Taiwan as Taiwan, but up until Monday, there was a space to the left of the map that listed the “official name” of a region if the map was zoomed out that far. And Google presumably got those official names from sources such as the ISO. Now that Google has removed that space, those official names, and the source of the controversy, are gone.

But, despite protests to the contrary, it is actually true that Taiwan is technically a province of China. The real question is: which China? The government that rules Taiwan is officially called the Republic of China, which was founded in 1912 after the emperor was overthrown. Even though it lost control of mainland China in 1949 to the communists, for decades it claimed it was the sole legitimate government for all of China, which the United Nations and the United States recognized until the 1970s. The only parts of China that the Republic of China currently rules is Taiwan province and a few bits of Fujian province.

Of course, no one thinks of the Republic of China when they think of China. “China” is, for all intents and purposes, synonymous with the People’s Republic of China ruled by the communists. Even the current government in Taiwan thinks so, and it is now promoting a “Taiwan”-based identity ahead of the “Republic of China.” Therefore, calling Taiwan a “province of China” is just asking for trouble, and I’m glad Google got rid of it, even if it was indirectly.

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