Known as the Double Tenth, October 10 marks the start of the 1911 revolution that ended the Qing dynasty and led to the founding of the Republic of China. It has been celebrated in Taiwan since the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists in the Chinese civil war in 1949 and fled to the island.
Organisers of the Double Tenth celebrations revealed this year’s logo, featuring two “10” characters, on Monday. Its slogan in Chinese reads: “Democratic Taiwan, resilience and sustainability”.
But it is the words in English underneath – “2023 Taiwan National Day”, with no mention of the Republic of China – that have drawn fire from the island’s Beijing-friendly camp.
“The ROC national day celebration is a very important event and it is absurd for the [Democratic Progressive Party] government to do away with the ROC title on this occasion,” said Lin Te-fu, former deputy secretary general of the main opposition Kuomintang party.
Chang Chi-lu, who heads the opposition Taiwan People’s Party caucus in the legislature, went further, saying it gave the impression that the government was trying to push independence for the island. He suggested the English be amended to “ROC (Taiwan) National Day”.
But the government said it had no intention of trying to change the island’s official name.
“We have used ROC in front of the general title of the entire event. So there is nothing to worry about and no political action either,” Hua Ching-chun, deputy interior minister, said on Tuesday.
Vice-Premier Cheng Wen-tsan said the “different presentation” of the island’s name “in no way changes the fact that we are the ROC government”.
“The criticism from the opposition is unnecessary and I think either Taiwan or the ROC is the location of where we exist,” he said.
“[The logo] is just a gimmick to sway votes,” Kuo said, adding that it was more important for the DPP to push forward the independence timetable.
“I want to tell the DPP government and Lai Ching-te that being the ruling authorities, they should never take the lead to erase our national title … and put forth their political ideology to trample on the ROC, which belongs to all the people here,” Hou said.
He said Lai had long promoted an official separation between Taiwan and mainland China, but with the election coming up he had claimed there was no road map for independence.
“If he cannot recognise the ROC … he does not deserve to be the ROC president,” Hou added.
Lai told Bloomberg last month that he had no plan to pursue formal independence or to change the cross-strait status quo.
Chen Shih-kai, a spokesman for Lai’s campaign office, said that instead of finger-pointing, the KMT should ask itself if it dared to “uphold and safeguard the ROC in front of Chinese President Xi Jinping”. He said the ROC flag hanging outside the presidential office spoke volumes.
As Taiwan’s political parties trade barbs over the logo and the DPP’s intentions, analysts are closely watching for Beijing’s reaction.
“The DPP has shied away from using the name ROC in the national day celebration logos since 2016, when it formed government,” said Huang Kwei-bo, a professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
“Such a practice would naturally make Beijing believe that the DPP is trying to achieve creeping independence using the back door.”
He said if Lai was elected president in January, Beijing could be expected to respond with a stronger campaign against Taiwanese independence, given Lai’s long-time hardline position on the issue.
The United States, like most countries, does not recognise Taiwan as an independent state but it is opposed to any unilateral change to the cross-strait status quo.
“Lai’s pledge to [achieve] cross-strait peace on the one hand but insisting on pushing for military reforms and civil defence on the other is, in reality, a kind of ‘countering China to protect Taiwan’ concept,” she said.
If Lai did take office he would have to manage risks across the Taiwan Strait and avoid pushing the island to the brink of war, she added.