Here’s a puzzle about a Chinese phrase, or maybe I am just ignorant not to know it. I, of course, am familiar with this common expression, cán shí ( 蠶食 ), meaning a silkworm nibble. What I didn’t know is that it’s equivalent to the English version of “salami slicing” or “salami tactics”, in politics. Maybe more erudite readers can point out whether that’s true. Interestingly, I just realise that can shì ( 慘事 ), meaning a tragedy or disaster and cãn shì ( 餐室 ), as in a dining room or a restaurant, all spell the same way in pinyin. One more reason I think people should learn Chinese by memorising the characters, or at least the radicals, rather than pinyin. But that’s just my own language bias. We never understood what ‘China’ meant Anyway, I digress. The article I was reading in The New York Times compares China’s recent tactics, such as in the South China Sea, with Taiwan, and with India in the Himalayas, to salami-slicing or cán shí, as a notion in game theory. That may or may not be so, but it seems rather obvious that Taiwan under the Democratic Progressive Party is salami-slicing its way towards independence, or at least trying to, with full encouragement from the United States. The idea is to move against an enemy in small steps that are irritating but not big enough for the enemy to respond with a full-blown retaliation. Some of these recent moves have been successful, others less so. Applying to the World Health Organization as an independent observer? That one didn’t work, as the WHO has been working closely with Taiwan’s health authorities anyway, over Covid-19 and long before that. Effeminacy is a pop trend, not a conspiracy Let’s call it the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, instead of Taipei. That works, as Vilnius, no doubt with full backing from Washington, is willing to stick its neck out to the extent of accepting a mutual withdrawal of ambassadors with Beijing. To keep up the momentum in the Baltic and central Europe, the island is sending a 65-member delegation to boost economic ties with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Meanwhile, Washington may well follow suit by allowing the island to change the name of its “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to “Taiwan Representative Office”. What’s in a name? Well, a lot, when you are a silkworm trying to nibble your way to independence.