Over a year ago I wrote two posts on pro-independence President Chen Shui Bian’s (陳水扁) campaign of “rectification of names (正名)”, in which various agencies, school texts, and other labels were renamed to suggest an affiliation with Taiwan rather than China.
Where the now former president Chen is a member of the pro-localization Democratic Progressive Party (DPP-民進黨 ) and himself of the more radical localization/independence faction, the new president Ma Ying-jiu (馬英九) is a member of the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT-國民黨), and may make Chinese appeasement an aspect of his administration’s policy. This could easily include reversals of DPP iniatives such as the renaming of national corporations (post, oil, etc.) and the removal of former dictator Chaing Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) name from both the Taipei area airport which formerly bore his name, and to the grand Ming imperial tomb-inspired complex now currently knows as Democracy Memorial Hall (臺灣民主紀念館), but originally constructed as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (蔣介石紀念館) following his death. While one can understand why Taiwanese democrats (small ‘d’) might object to the former dictator being memorialized in the style of the Ming Emperor’s (although his body is not buried there), it is also easy to see why some members of the KMT-Chiang’s political party-objected to the alteration, and why there is bound to be at least some amount of lobbying for a new executive order to change it back, now that their party has retaken the presidency.
One of the most notable of these renamings was the change of the national postal system from Chunghwa Post- which means China Post (中華郵政) to Taiwan Post (臺灣郵政). While this change has not (yet?) been reversed, it is possible that Taiwan may be in for a round of doubly confusing name flip-flops and reversals. As the Taipei Times reported on the day of Ma’s inauguration (yesterday, May 21)
Forty-year-old Mr Chen waited for two hours before he could put his hands on the sets he had ordered. He said he had purchased the stamps not only because Ma was president, but also because the Chinese characters for “Republic of China” were once again on the stamps.
Last year, the stamps issued by Taiwan Post Co only bore the name Taiwan.
Is this merely an example of the Taiwan Post Co honoring the new chief executive by printing his portrait next to the official name of the country he now leads, or a foreshadowing of a larger restoration of China -oriented names by the new administration? How deeply has Chen’s rectification of names really penetrated in Taiwan? Do most people prefer the localized names to the ones matching the country’s official name of Republic of China? How much has the necessity for campaigning in competitive elections with an electorate made up mostly of ethnic Taiwanese really changed the formerly mainlander-dominated KMT? And where does technically-mainlander but Taiwan-raised pragmatic Ma fit into this? Unfortunately, I have not been in Taiwan for over two years now and I really do not have a very solid sense of how most people have been reacting to these issues recently. It may be safe to predict that Ma will not be renaming any more “China” such-and-such to “Taiwan” such-and-such, but whether he will let all of the recent changes stand is another question entirely.