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Taiwan: Olympic torch relay-through Taiwan or not?

2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China will have a fabulous start: the route of the Olympic torch relay will be the longest in the history (85000 miles, 130 days). However, the plan was rejected by Taiwan on April 26, 2007. The current proposed route related to Taiwan can be seen on BBC news: the Olympic torch was supposed to be relayed from Pyongyang (North Korea) to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to Taipei (Taiwan), and to Hong Kong and Macau (China). It will then be brought to other cities in China, including Lhasa in Tibet.

Taiwan's officials said Taiwan wanted to participate as part of the ‘international’ route. For example, Taiwan would like to join the Olympic torch relay if it is relayed from Pyongyang to Taipei, and to Ho Chi Minh City. If Taiwan relays Olympic torch to Hong Kong and Macau, as Jiang Xiaoyu, the executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said, Taipei might be referred to one of ‘the overseas Chinese cities’ like Hong Kong and Macau.

tzuhuai objected the Taiwan's officials’ rejection:

政府只不過是為了某種程度上的政治考量才去拒絕, 作秀程度大於真正的實質意義!……體育界的人士說的好:讓政治歸政治、體育歸體育! 本來就不能混為一談。 越是這樣的逃避拒絕,對岸還沒矮化我們我們救自我矮化了, 我們應該要正面回擊才是! 而不是一直用以前的手法、手段, 去逃避對岸的措施! 對岸越是想矮化我們, 我們應該要讓國際知道台灣的聲音、地位以及特有性! 而不是每每在國際舞台上自我退出, 喪失許多珍貴的機會!

The government's rejection was kind of based on their political benefit. They wanted to show off instead of understanding the essential meaning of the rejection…..What people working in athletics said is right: let politics argument go to politics, and let athletic activities go to athletics! Politics and athletics should not be mixed together. When we tried to reject or evade, we would be repressed before China represses us. We need to fight back! We should not always use the same methods to evade China's repression. As long as China wants to repress us, we should let the world know Taiwan's voice, position, and identity instead of leaving the global society and losing the valuable opportunity.

On the other hand, Chen, Yung-Chih supported this decision made by Taiwan's government.

由Temple Preah Vihear我們便可瞭解到,無論任何形式之「默示」都有可能造成國家領土的損失;既然這樣,當瀕臨絕種動物之跨國運送活動須像CITES公約組織通報 的情況下,大陸當局主張將團團與圓圓送到台灣不必向CITES公約組織通報之舉動時,以及,奧運聖火離開台灣後隨即轉向香港或澳門等一國兩制之地區時,我 們是否該思考一下,我們是否落入了「默示」的圈套裡了呢?聖火不是完全不能來,但是唯有進出台灣均行經第三第對台灣之現況才是最有利的處理方式!

From the case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear we know that any kind of ‘acceptance’ is possible to result in territory lost. As a result, when China said they could give Taiwan two pandas, which are endangered animals, without informing CITES and when China proposed to relay Olympic torch to Hong Kong and Macau, which are under the principle of ‘one country, two systems,’ after Taiwan, we need to think about if this action is a trap of ‘acceptance.’ Olympic torch can come to Taiwan, but it is advantageous to Taiwan only if it is not relayed to any cities in China before or after Taiwan.

Norya II talked about the effect of international media coverage of the story:

國際媒體也都精確而不含糊的指出,支那聖火的傳遞路線是將台灣矮化為屬於支那一個地區的路線,因此,讓國際人士更加知道原來台灣與支那是二個不相同的國家。

International media pointed out accurately that the current relay route proposed by China implies Taiwan is part of China. The reports can let people in other countries understand that Taiwan and China are different countries.

In China, some bloggers were not happy about Taiwan's rejection because they though it was an alternative claim that Taiwan and China are different countries. For example, in maozhuxi1312's article:

陈SB及那些妄图搞分裂的激进派,告诉你们,地球就一个,中国也只有一个,它的名字叫”中华人民共和国”.回头掂量一下自己,害怕的话就早早的归顺,顽抗到底,是死路一条!

To Chen Shui-Bian (Taiwan president) and other secessionist: there is only one earth, and there is only one China. It's name is People's Republic of China. How about going back and weighing yourselves? If you are afraid, then you should submit yourselves to China. If you want to resist, it is a dead end!

In addition to the blame and threat, maozhuxi1312 analyzed why Taiwan rejected:

其实这样的结果在刚刚听说圣火路经台北市的时候,就可以预知.
台湾目前正搞正名化,主体化,而在奥运火炬问题上早就有明确态度,从第三国进,再从第四国出。 那么目前的这个路线与台湾的想法差距比较大,我们说是意识形态也好,是防止矮化也罢,反正是谈不拢的,既然早知道谈不拢,它拒绝又有什么奇怪的,体育本身就有政治性,我们协商的对象竟然是个民间组织,这样怎么可能不失败,毕竟目前代表台湾人的是台湾政府。 如果务实的化,真的想促进两岸关系,这些问题又算什么问题,从那里进,从那里出又有什么关系,释放些善意难道就那么难?

This result could be predicted when I knew the Olympic torch was planned to relay to Taipei. Now Taiwanese are talking about name-rectification and identity, and they already showed their principle: relaying from and to other countries. The current route is different from what Taiwanese thought about. We can say it is due to ideology or avoiding repression. The route will not be accepted at the end. Since we already knew it cannot work, it is not strange that Taiwan's government rejected. Athletics itself is political. If what we are working with is a civilian organization, why will it not fail? Now it is Taiwan's government representing Taiwanese. To be pragmatic, if we want to improve the relationship between China and Taiwan, the route should not be a problem. What's the matter about relaying from or to where? Is it that difficult to show the goodwill?

There is a Chinese idiom ‘yin zhen zhi ke,’ which means drinking poison to quench thirst. It seems that China plans to set up this kind of difficult condition for Taiwan. Taiwanese hope to join the Olympic torch relay because Taiwan has been isolated from the international society because of China for so long. dAb said:

我的腦海裡在幻想著…未來台灣代表隊出場的時候說不定只能孬屈地舉著中國台北的牌子。雖然我並不是所謂的台獨派或國統派,但我不認為有誰可以接受;或是有誰應該能夠接受這樣的可能性。所以新聞至此,我茫然失措。

In my imaginary…it is possible that our athletes need to take the label of ‘China Taipei’ in the Olympic Games. Although I cannot be categorized into ‘pro-independence’ or ‘pro-union,’ I do not think who can accept this condition or who should accept this possibility. Reading the news, I am confused and do not know which side I should support.

In the middle of all the controversies, maybe we should read the story about how Olympic torch relay was first proposed. In 1936, before World War II, Nazis government in German gave birth to this modern Olympics symbol–a series of torch-bearing runners carrying the inspirational flame cross country to the stadium for the lighting ceremony. Was it political? The torch relay were planned to link Olympiad's origin and its modern rebirth in the Aryan ideal. Based on the book ‘Nazi Games’ written by American historian David Clay Large, the relay was turned into an advertisement for Nazi across southeastern and central Europe, a region coveted by Nazi. The seemingly innocuous torch relay to Berlin prefigured the naked aggression to come.

There is a Taiwanese proverb ‘when blind people eat dumplings, they know the number (of the dumplings that have been eaten) in their minds.’ I am sure both Taiwan's and China's officials know why they made this and that decisions. Although the slogan for 2008 Olympic Games in Beijian is ‘one world, one dream,’ both Taiwanese and Tibetan seem to have different dreams from China's.

11 comments

  • Excellent post.

  • Very good article, much appreciated.

  • C.H. Wu

    It is such a stupid behavior by the government. They just lost the best chance to let the world hear the name “Taiwan” since Beijing has totally accomplished isolating Taiwan from the world map.
    There used to be “Made in Taiwan” label on products, now there is NOTHING with that label any more.

    Chen and DPP claim they are not Chinese wasting so much energy and money dividing society, promoting hatred among people simply for their very narrow personal gain.

    Isn’t this EXACTLY what we always know the “Chinese is like a plate of loose sand”, they only have guts to fight among themselves trying to kill the others.

    When it comes to working together, like Jews, NO WAY.

  • ifan

    Hi C.H. Wu,
    Thanks for leaving your comment, and I hope your words do not represent what you pointed out in your comment–promoting hatred among people.
    By the way, the proverb you used in your comment ‘Chinese is like a plate of loose sand’ is interesting, and maybe I will write an article about how this proverb describes the Chinese business style in the future.

  • dishuishuidi

    不管怎么说,没必要全都一副特别支持奥运的样子,有人反对应该的,台湾只不过参杂了许多其他的因素,让这种不合作变成了作秀。

  • Aussie

    The Taiwanese government made the right decision in rejecting the torch relay plan, because it draws international attention to the Chinese Communist Government’s attempts to force the union of the 2 very different nations.

    China is a nation of single-minded dictatorship while Taiwan is a land of free-speech and democracy.

    Taiwan has a right to stand up for their independence from China’s tyrannous clutches.

  • tequiero

    To say that the Olympic games are pure sports and non-political is being very naive…from days of Hitler to the very recent, Olympic games have been used by different groups to convey their political agenda…Therefore it is impossible to separate the politics from sports.
    The Torch route clearly conveys PRC’s agenda by stating that the Torch will enter “three special districts” before entering the mainland…So one would ask, something’s wrong with the math, there’s only two special districts, HK and Macau where does the third one come from? hehe…guess for yourself what they mean.
    Taiwan has many other opportunities to show itself among the international society…not only by officials of the government but also by citizens of Taiwan…recognition of one’s own country is more important than an Olympic torch is what I would say. And for those that say keep politics out of it…I say to you wake up and grow up. The real world is more complicated than the dream world.

  • Emily Y.

    Wow, what are they teaching in China? Taiwan has been a self-governing nation for the past several decades. Please don’t believe everything that the Chinese gov’t tells you. You already know they censor the crap out of your internet.

    Hearing China trying to claim Taiwan is like hearing Britain trying to claim the US. Sure we speak the same language but there are a lot of things different. Please get over it.

  • Jess

    Well its not the teaching in China, its a factual history. the point is – what spoon feed information have you been taught? The taiwan island has always been part of china, though it has gone through its fair share of ‘invation’ forces during the WWII – particularly by the Japanese. The taiwanese ‘government’ was the Nationalist party which fled mainland china after communist came to power post the defeat of the ‘invation forces’. (see it like liberal party losing election to labour party). Then it decided to establish its party base in Taiwan island and attempted to declare itself independent. This issue would have not been existant had the USofA (who seem to think they are the world’s police) steped in and thus the dispute of taiwan-china existed until present day. (In Taiwan, they claim governingship of mainland China as well.)

    Similarly, had the lost Liberal party decides to takeover Tasmania and call themselves Republic of Tasmania, i’m sure the whole lot of mainland Aussies wouldn’t be very comfortable either. Every story has more than two sides to it, its all just political play – on both sides.

  • Lil

    I quite agree with Jess, who gives a clear fact about history and a good comparison.

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