china taiwan

China Censors Taiwan-Related Words, Including ‘Taiwanese Language’ And ‘1992 Consensus’


(image by methodshop .com via Flickr)

The Chinese government has released a new list of ‘forbidden words’, including political and cultural terms related to Taiwan. In 2016 Beijing had already issued instructions to Chinese news outlets to avoid the use of sensitive terms such as ‘country’ or ‘president’ in articles about Taiwan.

The new list of forbidden words, which was published by Xinhua News Agency on October 27, aims at shaping China‘s domestic narrative with regard to issues of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory that must be ‘reunified’, either peacefully or by force.

Among the words and terms that Chinese media will no longer be able to use are “Taiwan’s government”; instead the phrases “Taiwan’s authorities” or “the Taiwan side” must be used. “Country”  (国家) and central government (中央) are banned, too. “Presidential office” and “Executive Yuan”  must be referred to as “office of the leader of Taiwan’s authorities” (台湾当局领导人办公场所) and “office of the administrative agencies of the Taiwan area” (台湾地区行政管理机构办公场所).

The guidelines prohibit the use of everyday words such as “visa”, which must be rendered as “travel document” (旅行证件), and even of “Taiwanese language” (台语), which must be referred to as “Southern Min language”  (闽南语). Southern Min is a language spoken in various parts of the Chinese-speaking world, including mainland China’s Fujian Province. The use of the term Southern Min aims at depicting Taiwan as part of southern China’s linguistic sphere, an attempt at legitimizing the CCP’s nationalist narrative that common heritage must lead to political union. It must be noted that southern Min dialects are also spoken in Singapore, yet Beijing doesn’t claim it as part of its territory.

The ban also affects the so-called ‘1992 consensus‘, an unofficial agreement between the CCP and the Guomindang. Both the CCP and the Guomindang view Taiwan as part of China, but they disagree on which state represents China: the CCP holds that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the sole representative of China, while the Guomindang holds that the Republic of China (ROC) is the only lawful Chinese government. The Guomindang-led ROC government retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after it was overthrown by Mao Zedong’s Communists.

Both the CCP and the Guomindang, which believe in the necessity of ‘reunification’ of China and Taiwan, have repeatedly called on incumbent Taiwanese president Ts’ai Ying-wen to adhere to the principle. However, the CCP has now officially banned the phrase  ‘1992 consensus: one China, different interpretations’ (九二共识、一中各表), but allows the usage of ‘one China principle’, ‘one China’ as well as ‘one country, two systems.’ This shows that Beijing has no intention of honouring the Guomindang’s interpretation of the agreement.

Since taking office in 2012 Chinese President Xi Jinping has made clear that he wants Taiwan to be ‘reunified’ with mainland China under the ‘one country, two systems‘ formula already used to incorporate Hong Kong and Macau into the PRC. This would give Taiwan a ‘high degree of autonomy’ under the overall leadership of the Communist Party.

Polls show that the majority of Taiwanese voters support President Ts’ai Ying-wen’s rejection of Beijing’s ‘reunification’ agenda.

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