Taiwanese official says aloud formal title of Taiwan during Nanjing visit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 3:09am

A senior Taiwanese envoy raised eyebrows on the mainland yesterday when he used the island's official name during a landmark ceremonial visit to Sun Yat-sen's resting place.

Wang Yu-chi, the head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, used the phrase Republic of China at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing, where Beijing and Taipei government officials are holding their first official talks in six decades.

"The Republic of China, the first democratic republic in Asia established by Dr Sun Yat-sen, has existed for 103 years," Wang said in brief remarks before officials from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, Taiwanese journalists and a huge group of mainland tourists.

The statement seemed to contradict Beijing's official line that the People's Republic of China - founded by the Communist Party in 1949 as Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan - is the one true China. The party maintains Taiwan is a breakaway province, not a republic, as "103 years" would appear to suggest.

Watch: China and Taiwan hold historic talks

Wang went on to say that he believed Sun would be gratified to know that his "three principles of the people" - nationalism, democracy and the welfare of people - were now being practised in Taiwan. Sun is revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait for his role in the 1911 revolution and the founding of modern China.

The deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, sidestepped any controversy, saying it was a known fact that Sun led the revolution that overthrew the imperial regime 103 years ago.

Wang later gave a speech to about 200 students at Nanjing University about the benefits of democracy and the need for young people to be more open minded and tolerant of differences in others to help create a new era in cross-strait relations.

Wang revealed that he was on a team representing National Taiwan University debating with counterparts from Nanjing University in Singapore in 1990.

"We were the opposition side in the debate over whether it is possible for people around the world to co-exist and we won the debate at that time, but 24 years later, and having become the head of the Mainland Affairs Council, I am here to pursue the feasibility of peaceful co-existence of the two sides across the Taiwan Strait," he said.

Wang led a delegation to Nanjing on Tuesday to hold talks with the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun. The two sides have, among other things, set up an official mechanism to raise issues of concern. Wang is scheduled to visit Shanghai today where he will meet Zhang again.