More than just a Piece of Fabric

Not too long ago, I happened to be in NYC to see the preparations for the Annual New York Dominican Day Parade. People of all ages – from toddlers to teens, young adults to grandparents – were lined up along 6th Avenue, adorned with flags. Floats were on the side, getting ready to proudly drive down the parade route.

I could not help but wonder…will there ever be an Annual New York Taiwan Day Parade?

I entertained the thought. I tried to picture it in my head.

But wait.

What flag would be used?

Currently, there are many different flags that represent “Taiwan”.
Why? What does each flag mean?

1) Let’s start off with this one:

900px-Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svg

Republic of China (ROC) flag

This looks pretty familiar. This is the flag you would see at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), the same flag you would see when walking out of Taiwan Taoyuan Airport and just about anywhere else in Taiwan. But did you know that this flag was actually first used by the Chinese Nationalist Party (also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT for short) all the way back in 1917 and officially became the flag of the Republic of China in 1928?

This flag only came over to Taiwan in 1949 when the Republic of China lost to the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War.

Possible flag for an Annual New York Taiwan Day?
It’s hard to say. A huge number of Taiwanese people proudly wave this flag because this flag symbolically represents having their own government and being separate from all others. Despite this flag being Taiwan’s international flag and symbol, there are many people who have negative sentiments towards the idea of this flag representing Taiwan because the party behind this flag, the Kuomintang, has a strong history with China (the 228 Incident and the White Terror occurred during KMT rule), and this flag does not represent all of the Taiwanese people.

Kuomintang (KMT) symbol

Kuomintang (KMT) symbol

2) When it’s time for the Olympics or any event where statehood is required, this flag is seen:

Chinese_Taipei_Olympic_Flag_(bordered)

Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee Flag

How come other countries are allowed to freely wave their own flags while Taiwan has to fly this one? Due to tensions across the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan regarding Taiwan’s political status, this Chinese Taipei flag is seen at international events in which China also participates.

Possible flag for an Annual New York Taiwan Day?
We sure hope not. A flag that represents Taiwan should be called the “Taiwan flag”, not a “Chinese Taipei flag”. A country and the people of a country should be able to proudly wave whatever flag, under their own country’s name, without being worried about another country’s intervention or disapproval. In addition, a flag with a name of “Chinese Taipei” does not fully represent Taiwan’s diversity. The “Chinese” part of “Chinese Taipei” is not inclusive of Hakka and aboriginal cultures in Taiwan, and stating just “Taipei” to represent all of Taiwan would be incorrect since Taiwan is composed of much more than just Taipei. There are many other places, such as Hualien, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.

3) Strong advocates of Taiwan independence will often be seen with this flag:

World Taiwanese Congress flag / Taiwan independence flag

World Taiwanese Congress flag / Taiwan independence flag

which is commonly confused with the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan flag:

The Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan flag

Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan flag

The World Taiwanese Congress flag/Taiwanese independence flag is associated with the Taiwanese independence movement, and it is often seen at events that call for the international recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state. One person’s definition of what constitutes Taiwan’s independence may vary from the next person’s definition – but in the end, the underlying theme is to strengthen a truly Taiwanese identity and to reject the “One country, two systems” policy.

Possible flag for an Annual New York Taiwan Day?
It is a possibility. If the core group of the Taiwanese independence movement is able to successfully push towards independence and instill governmental policy changes, there is a possibility that this flag will be the flag. On the other hand, if Taiwan chooses to walk down the path of unifying with China or accepting the “One country, two systems” policy, it is likely that this flag will become known as a symbol of rebellion and revolt.

However, with that being said, if Taiwan does one day lean towards independence, a new chapter for Taiwan will open. With a new chapter will come a new symbol. With a new symbol will come a new flag.

—–

It is quite evident that all of these flags are more than just a piece of fabric. All these flags are heavily symbolic and represent a number of ideals. The people of Taiwan stand hugely divided – unsure and unwilling to accept any one flag to represent all of them. Perhaps reflecting upon the 3 flags above is a way for the Taiwanese people to realize that in order for a nation to be united, they should stop fighting over which flag should be used and should instead stand in solidarity together as a united people.

At this time, given the huge divide of how the Taiwanese people feel about the future of Taiwan, it is disheartening to say that if there ever was to be an Annual New York Taiwan Day, the answer of which flag would be used is still very up in the air.

And while we are on this topic, the other question that goes hand-in-hand with the flag question is…will there ever be an Annual New York Taiwan Day?

That’s a whole other story.

Although the answers to these questions are currently still nebulous, what we can do is to be well-informed and aware of the current situations in Taiwan, as well as strive to understand why Taiwan is at its current position in the international community. We shouldn’t be scared to learn about and grasp the complexities of what makes Taiwan, Taiwan.

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