China and Taiwan


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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Li Ao, a Taiwanese politician who favors unification (or reunification, depending on your political slant) with mainland China, is currently touring the mainland. China’s official Xinhua news agency proudly points out how Li has thanked the Chinese Communist Party for bringing prosperity and military power to China, adding, “Only the Communist Party of China is capable of doing this.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times focuses on Li Ao’s criticism of the Communists. It reports that Li Ao “chided China’s leaders for suppressing free speech, ridiculed the university administration’s fear of academic debate and advised students how to fight for freedom against official repression.”

The Taipei Times is just happy Li Ao can be his own, kooky self, provoking both Taiwan and China.

The Great Mall of America is nothing compared to what’s getting built in China these days. We’re talking malls over 130 acres, or 1/5 of a square mile.

I don’t remember how I came across this, but… Singaporean English, or “Singlish,” has various particles derived from Chinese that are sprinkled throughout conversation, like, “You see my husband’s not at home lah,” or “There’s something here for everyone lah.” Even many Singaporeans can’t explain when they use it, but Mr Brown makes a valiant attempt. The English language is more diverse and complicated than I imagined.

Say it ain’t so: a Hong Kong government report says that dim sum is high in salt and fat and suggests not eating it too often. It’s not going over too well in Hong Kong.

Whenever I visited Taiwan, I always found it disconcerting to see “Long Life Cigarettes” being sold in Buddhist temples. Those days may be numbered. A proposed amendment to the Tobacco Hazards Act would, among other things, ban any words or phrases which imply that smoking does not harm health.

My previous post on an African-American boy who sings Chinese opera reminded Rich of a former Chinese scholar named Abigail Washburn who sings bluegrass songs in Chinese. She is currently touring China and getting a good reception.

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