Taiwan’s identity and translations of official names

One of Taiwan’s government ministries changed its name recently — but just its English name. The Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission has become the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission. In Mandarin, however, it remains the Qiáowù Wěiyuánhuì (僑務委員會).

This isn’t the first time under the Chen administration that a government body’s English name has been changed while its Mandarin one was left alone. Here are a few more examples.

Mandarin Name English Name
Pinyin Hanzi old new
Yuánzhùmín Wěiyuánhuì 原住民委員會 Council of Aboriginal Affairs Council of Indigenous Peoples
Guóyǔhuì 國語會 Mandarin Promotion Council National Languages Committee
Zhōnghuá Mínguó Duìwài Màoyì Fāzhǎn Xiéhuì 中華民國對外貿易發展協會 China External Trade Development Council (CETRA) Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA)

Especially ingenious is the change from “Mandarin Promotion Council” (Guóyǔhuì) to the “National Languages Committee.” The root of Guóyǔ, which is the term by which Mandarin is generally referred to in Taiwan (as opposed to putonghua in China), is literally “national language.” But since Mandarin does not have distinct forms for plurals (with a few exceptions), what was “Mandarin” can be deftly reattributed to “national languages.”

One easily confused name that has not been changed — at least not yet — is that of the Central Bank of China (Zhōngyāng Yínháng / 中央銀行). Since the Mandarin name means simply “central bank,” this would seem to be a name easily switched in English to Central Bank of Taiwan. I suspect the reason this hasn’t happened is that the central bank is probably a member of international organizations, and moves to change its name in these could open up a can of worms in that China likes nothing better than to pressure international groups to exclude, downgrade, or otherwise demean groups representing Taiwan. China is particularly fond of forcing the renaming of Taiwan’s international organizations.

To return for a moment to the matter of the names and central banks, the PRC’s own central bank is called the People’s Bank of China (Zh?ngguó Rénmín Yínháng / ?????? / ??????). This should not to be confused with the Bank of China (Zh?ngguó Yínháng / ???? / ????), which is the PRC’s largest state-owned bank and the one with the distinctive skyscraper in Hong Kong.

A few of Taiwan’s government-sponsored English-language publications have altered their names, including the Free China Journal, which became the Taiwan Journal, and Sinorama (Gu?nghuá Zázhì / ????), which became Taiwan Panorama (Táiw?n Gu?nghuá Zázhì / ??????).

Some, such as those in the pan-blue media, like call all this desinification. Others, however, argue that the process simply follows one of prime dictates of Confucius, that most Chinese of philosophers: the rectification of names.

Of course, as Poagao reminds us in CAL name change refused, not all changes would be as welcome as others. ;-)

Here’s one of the stories:

Zh?nghuá Mínguó Qiáowù W?iyuánhuì ji?ng Huáqiáo de Y?ngwén míngch?ng zh?ng “Overseas Chinese” g?iwéi “Overseas Compatriot” (h?iwài tóngb?o), zài qiáo shè y?nq? bùtóng kànf?. Ni?yu? Zh?nghuá g?ngsu? zh?xí w? ruì xián j?nti?n zh?ch?, Overseas Compatriot (h?iwài tóngb?o) su?zh? y?ngg?i shì “Zh?ngguórén” (should be Chinese).

Qiáow?ihuì Ni?yu? Huáqiáo wénjiào zh?ngx?n zh?rèn Zh?ng J?ng-nán zé shu?, yuánxi?n sh?yòng “Chinese”, yìy? Zh?ngguó dàlù hùnxiáo, wàiguó y?urén y? cháng g?o bù q?ngchu, wèile y?usu? q?gé, cái huì g?ngg?i Y?ngwén míngch?ng, méiy?u qít? mùdì.

Ni?yu? Huábù j?nti?n zài Zh?nghuá g?ngsu? j?xíng Shu?ngshí Guóqìng qìngzhù dàhuì, chúle qiáo shè l?ngxiù jí Qiáob?o d?ng shù b?i rén yùhuì wài, b?okuò Ni?yu? Zh?u c?nyìyuán Martin Connor d?ng M?ijí rénshì y? yìngy?o ch?xí. W? ruì xián y? Y?ngwén zhìcí shí tèbié tíjí shàngshù kànf?, zàich?ng y?u Táib?i zhù Ni?yu? j?ngjì wénhuà bànshìchù chángxià lìyán, fùchùzh?ng jì yùn sh?ng jí lín wéi yáng d?ngrén.

Chúle Qiáow?ihuì Y?ngwén míngch?ng y?usu? g?ibiàn wài, xiàny?u Qiáow?ihuì zài M?iguó shèlì de Huáqiáo wénjiào zh?ngx?n (Chinese Culture Center), Y?ngwén míngch?ng y? g?iwéi Táib?i j?ngwén chù wénjiào zh?ngx?n (Culture Center of TECO).

Zh?ng J?ng-nán t?nyán, bùsh?o Qiáob?o duì Qiáow?ihuì zhè xiàng x?n juédìng shì y?u bùtóng kànf?, dàn Qiáojiào zh?ngx?n Y?ngwén míngch?ng g?ibiàn bìngwèi y?ngxi?ng qí fúwù h?iwài qiáob?o de z?ngzh?, gèxiàng fúwù zhàocháng yùnzuò, y? huì gèng qiánghuà fúwù qiáo shè.

resources, many of which are slanted and verge on being whiny:

One thought on “Taiwan’s identity and translations of official names

  1. I called some officials at the Bank of China to ask whether a name change was in the pipeline or what had been the reaction to earlier attempts at a move toward using “Taiwan.” But the officials were cautious, as I suppose reflects a proper banker, offering little more than this is a “sensitive issue.”

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