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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Innocent Mistake, Freudian Slip or Expose of a Manchurian Candidate?

Yesterday, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou inadvertently referred to the ROC Government as the 'Chinese (adjective) Government'. Here's how the Taipei Times reported it:
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday morning thanked the outgoing Solomon Islands ambassador at the Presidential Office, but referred to his administration as the “Chunghua government” (中華政府) or “Chinese government.” Expressing his gratitude for the Solomon Islands’ assistance following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Morakot in August, Ma said the “Chunghua government” and its people thanked the Pacific ally’s parliament for passing a resolution expressing concern over the destruction.

Solomon Islands Ambassador Beraki Jino has been posted in Taiwan for six years and will move on to Australia to serve as high commissioner.

Realizing his mistake, Ma immediately corrected himself and said he meant the “government of the Republic of China.”
For those not sure of why this should be an issue some clarification is required. The term Chungguo means China whilst the term Chunghua means, broadly, 'of Chinese culture' or 'of the Chinese diaspora'. The full title of the ROC is Chunghua Mingguo which means 'the Chinese Republic' which is usually translated as the Republic of China. So, to refer to the ROC Government as the Chunghua Government essentially absents the term 'republic'. For the President to make an error of speech is only human but in Taiwan's political climate such a mistake can carry very serious implications, especially when the President has been busy downgrading Taiwan as a region of China (ROC) and claiming that the PRC is still under the umbrella of sovereignty of the ROC. One is therefore left with the following interpretations:

1) An innocent mistake
2) A Freudian slip - Ma has Chunghua on his mind and has been attempting to reify the idea that Taiwan is Chinese through stressing that Taiwanese are Chinese culturally and part of the Chinese diaspora - hence his accidental confusing of terms.
3) An insight into Ma's real conception of his Government and the status of Taiwan - that it is only Chunghua (after all there cannot be two Chinas): a convenient articulation that eases the political process of downgrading the ROC in preparation for integration into the PRC.

You choose. No doubt many Taiwanese will not be impressed by his 'slip of the tongue', if that was what it was.


At 8:42 AM, Blogger Carlos said...

Not being in Taiwan anymore, I have to ask… how many people noticed? Is it only the pan-green blogosphere that's talking about it?

I always felt that Taiwanese were pretty accepting of the Chunghua label, even those who label their own nationality as Taiwanese.


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