When Taiwanese Olympic athletes entered the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony last week, Chinese viewers on streaming platform Tencent were shocked to find a live broadcast of the proceedings halted and replaced with a stand-up comedy routine.
The censors needn’t have bothered, however, given that not only are the Taiwanese athletes at this year’s Olympic Games - and every Olympic Games for 30 years - forbidden from being classified Taiwanese, they are also forbidden from marching under the Taiwanese flag.
Instead, Taiwan appears as Chinese Taipei and has done since 1984, because the Peoples’ Republic of China considers the territory part of China. Taiwan broke away from China in 1948 as Mao Zedong’s Communists took control of China from Chang Kaishek’s government.
Kaishek and the Kuomintang retreated to the island and formed a government in exile, and ever since relations between Taipei and Beijing have been at best strained and at worst non-existent.
Ever since, China has exerted considerable pressure on other nations not to forge relations with Taiwan, to the extent that in most European states Taiwanese diplomatic presence cannot be referred to as an embassy. In recent weeks, Lithuania angered China by breaking this protocol.
China at the Olympics
After the Communist take-over of China, Beijing sent athletes from the PRC to the Olympic Games in Finland, but the small delegation failed to win a single medal after the team arrived in Helsinki way after the games had begun.
At the following games, both the PRC and Taiwan were invited, the latter to compete as the Republic of China. But Beijing refused to accept Taipei's use of 'China' and refused to take part.
China did not compete in the Olympics again until 1980, following the Olympics Committee's Nagoya Resolution, which dictated that Taiwan must be classified as Chinese Taipei.
There has been a growing movement in Taiwan to regularise its involvement in the games and compete under Taiwan rather than Chinese Taipei, but a referendum on the issue in 2018 failed as Taiwanese citizens feared that if they did so it could see them kicked out of the tournament completely.