China (zhongguo, ୰ᅧ) and the PRC (zhonghuarenmingongheguo, ୰⳹ேẸඹᅧ)—“us” or “them”?
In the 2012 Summer Olympics, athletes from China wore sportswear labeled “China” on the right, and zhongguo on the left. Zhongguo, however, was not mentioned by Taiwan’s Central News Agency, which referred to China’s team as either “zhongguo dalu dui” (Chinese mainland team) or just “dalu dui” (mainland team). This officially defined usage (naming China dalu, as discussed in the fourth chapter) is consistently followed in pro-blue newspapers such as the UDN and China Times, though pro-green newspapers like the Liberty Times and Apple Daily more often call China simply zhongguo dui (China team). Conversely, though the official Olympics-sanctioned name for Taiwan’s team is “Chinese Taipei” (zhonghua taibei), that name is rarely uttered in Taiwan discourse: the Central News Agency and pro-blue newspapers dropped taibei, calling it the “zhonghua dui” (Chinese team) whereas pro-green newspapers paid no attention to the China-focused name, simply calling it the “taiwan dui” (Taiwan team). Involved here are two sets of vocabularies: pan-blue’s dalu dui versus zhonghua dui, and pan-green’s zhongguo dui versus taiwan dui. How zhongguo, zhonghua, zhonghua taibei, and taiwan participate in political negotiation between Taiwan and China has proved a tangled issue whose solution remains elusive. Fundamental to this complicated situation is the increasingly contested sense of Chinese-ness, encapsulated in zhongguo and its alternative and concomitant expressions, such as zhonghua, zhonghuaminzu, huaren, zhongguoren, and even the ROC’s and the PRC’s titles-zhonghuaminguo and zhonghuarenmingongheguo-each pointing toward divergent aspects of Chinese culture, ethnicity and nationality, all of which can be abbreviated as just zhong or hua. Zhongguo’s boundaries are further complicated by an equally challenging and contested name-taiwan-in the wake of rising Taiwanese consciousness. In the see-saw struggle and oscillation between the metaphorical clusters zhongguo and taiwan, and in their attempt to each gain an upper hand over the other (Chang and Holt, 2007), zhongguo’s meanings continue to be revised and its applicability as a proper name for China questioned. Unlike names such as gongfei, zhonggong, dalu, or duian, whose referent is only China, zhongguo is unique in that it can refer to China only or to both China and Taiwan, depending on context and even choice of words, such as changing one character to transform zhongguo into zhonghua. Indeed, the boundaries of
applicability of the term zhongguo-its manifold forms of expression and resilient morphing ability-lead to substantial dispute and fiercely contesting voices. Another unique feature of zhongguo is that invoking the character guo specifies its claim to statehood. Unlike the English translation of “China” and “Chinese,” zhongguo can be translated as “Central Nation” or “Middle Kingdom,” and zhongguoren, “people of the Central Nation.” China’s official title, zhonghuarenmingongheguo, sometimes shortened to zhongguo, confirms its official status and sovereignty. Other metaphors-whether the image of evil bandits (gongfei); a party endorsing a different political ideology (zhonggong); an imagined mainland (dalu); or the Taiwan Strait’s opposite side (duian)—all fail to acknowledge China as a state. While zhongguo is constantly disputed, except for the few years under DPP control, the name “PRC” has never been freely uttered by the ROC government. This chapter first lays the groundwork for the muddy and polysemous name zhongguo, which has variously represented culture, nation and state (Wang and Liu, 2004), all while encumbered by the vast and convoluted history and emotion implicated in the formation of Chinese identity (Wu, 1994). We also analyze the linguistic construction of zhongguo and similar concepts such as zhonghua, zhonghuaminzu, zhongguoren, and huaren, individually and collectively defined as “Chinese-ness.” Specifically, we discuss how the language’s flexibility in allowing the reduction or addition of characters provides unique opportunities for identity brokers to skillfully manipulate convoluted political realities to suit their agendas. Building on this groundwork, we address how zhongguo in the ROC’s official discourse moves from a term designating people in both Taiwan and the Mainland (“our China”), to exclusively designating only China (“their China”), then back to China-centered discourse, again a common denominator since 2008. “Our China” has been promoted by the ROC’s government via its “one China” policy since 1949, a claim accompanied by the prohibition of the use of China’s official title. We trace the history of zhongguo’s absence from Taiwan’s official discourse until roughly after 2000, when “China” was increasingly used as the PRC’s exclusive name. “Their China” comes from dividing “China” into “China’s China” and “Taiwan’s China,” presumably to be followed by transformation into “their China” and “our Taiwan.” Central to such transitions is the competition and relative positioning between conceptions of the zhong (China) and the tai (Taiwan). Last, we examine how, after 2008, China-centered language has resumed in ROC official discourse through the agency of zhonghua, or simply hua. By committing to such concepts at the cultural level and avoiding the use of zhongguo, Ma’s government has tried to find a new balance between zhong and tai, particularly in its attempts to be more amenable with China. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how conceptions of zhongguo shape Taiwan’s identity negotiation. Of particular interest is how refusing, or agreeing, to designate China as “China,” as well as how the “PRC” touches on the core issue of whether China should be treated as an independent state, affects Taiwan’s quest to realize its identity. This development must also be understood
through unpacking tensions between the “one China” policy and efforts to deSinicize and destabilize “China” while centralizing “Taiwan” through complicated processes and movements.