Taiwan New Passport Shrinks ‘Republic of China’

Taiwan released a new passport on Monday that diplomatically takes up the concept of social distancing amid the pandemic.

The official name of the self-governing island, Republic of China, has been reduced, although it remains on the cover in Chinese characters. The words “Taiwan Passport” appear in large bold type. The government said at the start of the pandemic it was all in an attempt to reduce confusion around citizens traveling during the coronavirus outbreak and separate them from people coming from mainland China as many countries rushed to let Chinese travelers in to refuse.

“Today is the day,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in an Instagram post on Monday evening. “The big TAIWAN on the cover will accompany the people of the country to travel the world, and it will also make the international community unable to ignore the existence of Taiwan,” she wrote. (She also boasted that last year Taiwan successfully slowed the spread of the virus while maintaining economic growth.)

The passport change is the latest volley in the tense relationship between the island and China, which Taiwan regards as its own territory and long warned that it will eventually have to unite with the mainland.

The unveiling comes days before U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft is due to travel to Taipei on a three-day visit to counter China’s attempts in recent years to isolate Taiwan on the global stage and to assist its secretary of state Mike Pompeo described it as an attempt to show “what a free China could achieve”.

The Chinese state newspaper Global Times published an editorial in response to the announcement threatening an “avalanche” from Beijing. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army fighters will fly over the island of Taiwan immediately and declare Beijing’s sovereignty over the island in an unprecedented manner,” the newspaper wrote.

Last weekend, Pompeo also announced that the United States would relax its restrictions on interaction between American officials and their counterparts in Taiwan, as the Trump administration has sought a tougher line against Beijing in recent days.

Updated

Jan. 11, 2021, 6:46 ET

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have steadily deteriorated. China regularly sent military planes into Taiwan’s airspace and used a stream of threatening language. When Taiwan held a reception in October to celebrate its national day in Fiji, two diplomats from mainland China showed up at the reception without being asked to try to photograph guests. A fist fight ensued.

In 2002, Taiwan added the words “Issued in Taiwan” to its passport. A few years ago, some Taiwanese citizens started changing their passports by putting up “Republic of Taiwan” stickers that angered China. In July, the Taiwanese legislature passed a resolution revising the document again, urging the Ministry of Transportation to consider renaming Taiwan’s state-owned China Airlines.

Taiwan’s New Power Party launched an unofficial online competition last year to redesign passport coverage, and people handed out designs with maps of the island, a monk in a canoe, and a bird balancing bubble tea on its head.

The authorities ultimately opted for a traditional design in which the “Republic of China” was reduced to a small fraction of its original size and surrounded by an icon of a sun.

Taiwan gave a glimpse of the new passport design in September, months after the coronavirus first appeared.

“Our people have always hoped that we could bring Taiwan’s visibility to the fore to avoid people mistakenly believing they were from China,” said then-Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said at the time that “whatever tricks the Taiwanese authorities used, they” cannot change the fact that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. “

By Monday morning, the consular office in Taipei, the capital, announced that it had received more than 700 applications for the new passport, compared to a typical daily average of 1,000, Reuters reported. A new version of the e-passport has also been released, the State Department said.

Claire Fu contributed to the coverage.

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