China welcomes Taiwanese athletes at the Asian Games but they still can’t compete under their flag

SHAOXING, China (AP) — Taiwan’s baseball team took the field Tuesday sporting caps and jerseys not with “T” for Taiwan, but “CT,” for Chinese Taipei.

China claims the democratic self-governing island as its own, and a decades-old agreement between Taipei and Beijing means that Taiwanese teams can only compete internationally if they don’t use the name – or flag – of Taiwan.

Opposing them on the new field in Shaoxing was Hong Kong, representing what Beijing hopes is Taiwan’s future – a team playing under its own regional flag, with its own athletes, but still very much a part of China.

At the Asian Games, China has been going out of its way to be welcoming to the Taiwanese athletes, as it pursues a two-pronged strategy with the goal of taking over the island, which involves both wooing its people while threatening it militarily.

Other news
New York Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon waits to be removed during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)Mets and Yankees wrap up nightmare New York seasons and head into uncertain winterFILE - Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who played 23 years for the Baltimore Orioles, stands near a vintage jersey June 12, 2007, at his office in Ellicott City, Md. Robinson, whose deft glovework and folksy manner made him one of the most beloved and accomplished athletes in Baltimore history, has died. He was 86. The Orioles announced his death in a joint statement with Robinson's family Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023. The statement did not say how Robinson died. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)Brooks Robinson, Orioles third baseman with 16 Gold Gloves, has died. He was 86FILE - San Francisco Giants' Joc Pederson watches his two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Pederson is scared to fly and shortly after arriving in San Francisco he began working with the club's director of mental health and wellness Shana Alexander and human performance specialist Harvey Martin to cope with his flight anxiety. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)Some athletes with a fear of flying are leaning on greater resources than their predecessors

Unlike the Beijing Winter Olympics last year where Taiwan only sent four athletes, there are more than 500 here for the Asian Games, providing China a golden opportunity to put on a welcoming face not only for the competitors, but for their fans watching from home in Taiwan.

At the opening ceremony in Hangzhou, the Taiwanese delegation got one of the largest cheers from the crowd, with the local broadcaster making sure to cut to show Chinese President Xi Jinping clapping for the team as it was introduced.

In events where Taiwan wins, the broadcasts regular pan to Chinese fans in the stands cheering for them, while waving Chinese flags.

After Tuesday’s win against Hong Kong, many fans stayed behind to get Taiwanese players to sign baseballs and caps, and the players say they don’t worry too much about the wider political situation.

Read More:   Pakistan announces big crackdown on migrants in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans

“I came to join the games, and did not think too much” about it, said Lin Tzu-Wei, a Taiwanese left fielder who played with the Boston Red Sox and briefly with the Minnesota Twins before returning home.

“I come here for the games, that’s it,” he said.

The fact that they have to compete under the name “Chinese Taipei” is nothing new for the Taiwanese. Its team used the same name at the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, which it hosted along with Japan and the United States.

The issue of the name hasn’t featured in local reporting on the games, and Taiwanese officials with the delegation in Hangzhou refused to comment on it, saying their focus was on the performance of their athletes.

Still, it can’t be far from the minds of many Taiwanese, as China continues its aggressive external approach toward the island, which is only about 600 kilometers (375 miles) from Hangzhou, the primary host city for the Asian Games.

Taiwan and China split in a civil war that brought the Communist Party to power in China in 1949, with the rival Nationalists setting up their own government in Taipei. Chinese President Xi has repeatedly said he would not rule out the use of force to take the island of 24 million people.

Beijing has been conducting increasingly large military drills in the air and waters around Taiwan, as tensions have been rising between the rivals and Taiwan’s most important backer, the United States.

A few days before the two-week Asian Games began, China sent 103 warplanes flying toward Taiwan, which Taiwanese officials said was a new high for recent times.

On the more subtle side, China has strayed in recent years from the agreement to call Taiwan “Chinese Taipei” at international sporting events. Official Chinese media now call it “China Taipei” – suggesting it is part of China – instead of “Chinese Taipei,” which implies more of an ethnic or cultural similarity.

Read More:   Malaysians urged not to panic-buy local rice after import prices rise substantially

The issue came up last year, when Olympics officials in Taiwan announced they would skip the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Games. They cited travel issues and pandemic concerns, but their announcement came shortly after a Chinese official had called the Taiwanese team “China Taipei.”

Taiwan reversed the decision at the last minute, saying they were pressured to attend the ceremony by the International Olympic Committee.

Despite not ruling out force, China prefers to have Taiwan come under its control voluntarily, and has offered a “one country, two systems” framework similar to Hong Kong in which the former British colony became part of China in 1997 but was promised a degree of autonomy. The ruling Communist Party however has cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong and critics say the Western-style freedoms are disappearing.

Taiwan has firmly rejected that idea of a Hong Kong-style approach.

At the Asian Games, Hong Kong sends its own athletes who compete separately from China. Similarly, the former Portuguese colony of Macao, which is now also a part of China, sends its own athletes and competes under its regional flag.

Taiwan’s Tuesday afternoon game against Hong Kong followed a Monday night game against tough opponent South Korea, which Taiwan won 4-0, but the players showed little fatigue.

They put up two quick runs in the first and never looked back, eventually beating Hong Kong 15-0 while giving up only one hit.

For manager Wu Shih-Hsih, a former infielder who was part of the Taiwan team that won silver in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, the trip to mainland China is just about baseball, and he’s setting his sights on a gold medal for his team.

“Sports is sports, politics is politics,” he said after Sunday’s 12-1 win against Thailand.

“We are here for the sports.”


AP sports:

About The Author

Scroll to Top