Bilateral International Relations Prelims cum Mains

Air India toes China line, draws Taiwan fire

The News

  • Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC) is deeply disappointed with Air India changing ‘Taiwan’ into ‘Chinese Taipei’ on its website.
  • It regrets that this move taken by Air India, a state-owned airline, can be seen as a gesture of succumbing to the unreasonable and absurd pressure from China.


Background of the turf war

  • The first known settlers in Taiwan are Austronesian tribal people thought to have come from modern day southern China.
  • The island first appears in Chinese records in AD 239, when China sent an expeditionary force to explore – a fact Beijing uses to back its territorial claim.
  • After a brief spell as a Dutch colony (1624-1661) Taiwan was unquestionably administered by China’s Qing dynasty from 1683 to 1895.
  • In 1895, following Japan’s victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing government had no choice but to cede Taiwan to Japan.
  • But after World War Two, the Republic of China – one of the victors – began ruling Taiwan with the consent of its allies the US and UK, after Japan surrendered and relinquished control of territory it had taken from China.
  • Towards the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and before the post-war treaties were to be signed, members of the Kuomintang party (KMT) were driven out of the mainland by the Communists, who would later establish the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • The KMT retreated to Taiwan, becoming a government in exile.
  • For some time, it was internationally recognised as the government of the Republic of China (RoC).
  • The turf war over the name began in the 1970s, with increased official recognition for the PRC in international event.
  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had informally been using a number of names in its events to differentiate the RoC from the PRC.
  • In 1979, China agreed to participate in IOC activities if the RoC was referred to as “Chinese Taipei”.
  • In Nagoya, Japan, the IOC and later all other international sports federations adopted a resolution under which the National Olympic Committee of the RoC would be recognised as the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, and its athletes would compete under the name Chinese Taipei.
  • Not allowed to use its flag and national anthem in the subsequent Summer and Winter Games, the RoC Olympic Committee boycotted the subsequent Summer and Winter Games in protest.
  • In 1981, however, the government of the RoC formally accepted the name Chinese Taipei.



Tussle for the name

  • With Chinese Taipei as the name for Taiwan designated in the Nagoya Resolution, the RoC and the PRC recognise each other at various events.
  • In 1998, China pressured the Miss World Organization to rename Miss Republic of China 1998 to Miss Chinese Taipei; since then, the latter has been competing under that name.
  • In recent decades, under Chinese pressure, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been using the name Chinese Taipei. “Taiwan” does not appear on the member countries list of either organisation.
  • Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week while fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report for listing certain areas as countries.
  • China’s Civil Aviation Administration demanded an apology from Delta Airlines for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The airline responded by saying it had made a “grave mistake”.


India’s stand on “One China” Policy

  • Since 1949, India has accepted the “One China” policy that accepts Taiwan and Tibet as part of China.
  • However, since 2010, when Beijing was issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, India has not been explicitly mentioning “One China policy” in bilateral joint statements.
  • Delhi has often used the issue to make a diplomatic point. If India believes in “One China” policy, China should also believe in a “One India” policy.
  • Now, the government has maintained that Air India’s decision is consistent with international norms and India’s position since 1949.
  • Taiwan has lodged a protest, while Beijing has welcomed the Air-India decision.
  • The renaming is possibly yet another reflection of India’s effort to reset ties with China.
  • Also, India and Taiwan do not have full-fledged diplomatic ties. Both sides maintain trade representatives in each other’s capitals.

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