— Consider reading the article Fed up of being confused with China amid coronavirus outbreak, Taiwan redesigns its passport cover on OpIndia website —
Taiwan has decided to issue new passports to ensure better differentiation from China across the International community. The new design will give more focus on the word “Taiwan”, as opposed to the current design that mentions its official name “Republic of China” more prominently.
Times change & so do passports. #TAIWAN is front & center of the new design. Greater visibility equals easier recognition & less confusion. The country’s passport is the 33rd best worldwide, affording holders visa privileges in 170 countries & regions!
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) (@MOFA_Taiwan) September 2, 2020
The problem with the old design
The official name of Taiwan is “Republic of China”, while the official name of mainland China is “People’s Republic of China. This often creates confusion in foreign countries, and many times Taiwanese passport is confused with the Chinese passport. In the 1940s, the government that controlled China was defeated in the civil war and had fled to modern-day Taiwan. Taiwan uses the word “China” for a long time. Beijing also claims that Taiwan is its territory though the Communist Party has never ruled the nation.
Confusion during Covid-19 pandemic
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Taiwan’s controversy being recognized as a part of China has emerged again. The government of Taiwan has successfully controlled the epidemic on its own. However, as it is considered a part of China by several nations worldwide, they were included in the list of travel bans imposed against Chinese nationals by such countries. It gave the much-needed push to the demand for a name change.
The competition organized by Taiwan
The government held an online competition in search of a new passport cover. It drew hundreds of submissions. Though the competition terms clearly mentioned that the winner design might not make it to the final design of the passport, it attracted the attention of the young generation in Taiwan to explore and reimagine the national identity. Taiwan is attempting to get recognition as a distinctive country independent of China’s connection. Many submissions for the new passport design featured famous Taiwanese foods, including braised pork rice, bubble tea, and more.
The new design and why there were minimal changes
During a press conference, Taiwanese officials explained why they chose the new design and its significance. They said that the new design has the word “Taiwan” written in bigger font in the center. The officials claimed that it would help in causing less confusion. The phrase “Republic of China” is written in smaller letters circling the sun emblem of Taiwan. The officials said they wanted to improve Taiwan’s recognition with minimal changes. The color of the new passport design remains the same as the old one.
Criticism from the Taiwanese
The citizens of Taiwan have, however, ridiculed the new design. Some critics said that Taiwan chose the safest option in terms of design. They said that it does not achieve the purpose of amplifying Taiwanese identity. Catherine Chou, assistant professor of pre-modern European history at Grinnell College, said in a tweet that though the design is geopolitically clever, “I feel compelled to represent the diaspora who left Taiwan who left precisely to escape the Republic of China and have never lost sight of their ultimate goal: a Republic of #Taiwan.”
I think it’s a geopolitically clever design, for all the reasons listed below Though I do feel compelled to represent the diaspora who left Taiwan who left precisely to escape the Republic of China and have never lost sight of their ultimate goal: a Republic of #Taiwan https://t.co/qUJf718tev
— Catie Lilly (@catielila) September 2, 2020
Taiwan has tweaked the design several times
The Taiwanese passport has seen changes in the design multiple times over the years. They added the word “Taiwan” to the cover in 2003. The Taiwanese started to put stickers with the words “Republic of Taiwan” on their travel documents that led to the denial of their entry into China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The government will start a bureaucratic process to notify all nations across the world and the International Air Transport Association about the passport change. They aim to issue the new passport in January 2021.