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Our company outsources a lot of ODM and some OEM design with companies in China (and sometimes Taiwan). The views of China's recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state is different than many Western countries including mine (the United States). We also have an office in Taiwan that goes to China from time to time as a "diplomat" and they discuss our goals in the manufacturing process.

Is there a way to mention the name of "Taiwan" without sounding insensitive to what the Chinese believe? The Chinese call Taiwan as the "Republic of China" or "Taiwan, China" but we simply call them "Taiwan", implying that they have independence from mainland China.

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    As far as I know the USA do not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, therefore it might be better to edit the question to reflect that it's your personal viewpoint. – Chris Apr 3 at 18:39
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    Voting to close as this is a question that solicits opinion-based answers. – BryanH Apr 3 at 18:58
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    @BryanH Um, no. This is diplomacy, and very easily answered. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Apr 3 at 19:42
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    Just to hammer in how loaded with confusion this is - Taiwan actually calls itself The Republic of China. With China being the People's Republic of China. – Grimm The Opiner Apr 4 at 11:36
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    Thank you for the response everyone. One of my goals for asking this was for reference on how I should communicate with other people of different views on such topics. We've done business with China for a very long time. However, our Taipei office is actually our most recent member of my company. I just wanted to make sure I was saying the right stuff :) True, I can agree why question is put on hold. However, I didn't mean for it to sound like I'm delegating with the Chinese government. – KingDuken Apr 4 at 15:13
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As you've found, Taiwan is a VERY sensitive subject for China. The situation is both political and ethnic for the Chinese mainland, and very complicated.

If you want to avoid the situation entirely, refer to your office in Taiwan by the name of the location within Taiwan, and don't refer to the nation at all. That way, you avoid offending both the Chinese and the Taiwanese.

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    So i.e. "Our office in Taipei"? – KingDuken Apr 3 at 15:45
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    "Taipei Office". With the companies I've worked at, it's usual to refer to the offices by their city name. This is especially important when there are multiple offices per country. – Gregory Currie Apr 3 at 15:54
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    @KingDuken exactly, The Chinese will not be offended because you are not calling them "Taiwan", and the Taiwanese will not be offended, because you are not acknowledging China's claim. Everybody gets to save face. While saving face isn't AS much of an issue in China as it is in Japan, in this case, it is. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Apr 3 at 16:02
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    @GregoryCurrie exactly, none of the multinationals I've worked for have ever said, "London, UK" or "Tokyo, Japan", or "New York, USA", et cet, just the city name. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Apr 3 at 16:04
  • @RetiredCodger I don't fully agree with your answer. Check my answer. – Qiulang May 28 at 10:36
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Dissenting opinion to the top voted answer from Richard U

I have never found this to be a problem at all.

Many of the larger Chinese Manufacturing companies such as Foxconn are actually headquartered in Taiwan and a lot the engineering and senior management staff is from Taiwan and travels back and forth a lot.

So if you sit in a meeting room and ask "hey, what are you doing on the weekend", it's perfectly normal to get the answer "I'm going home to Taiwan".

Taiwan is talked about frequently and I have never heard anyone (Chinese or otherwise) refer to it other than simply "Taiwan".

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    I think the question sort of implies that you're dealing with someone who does have a problem. Obviously if there's no problem, there's no problem. But if there is a problem, well Richard has a solution. – corsiKa Apr 4 at 4:21
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I've worked, and work, constantly with Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese. It's not a problem unless you, or they, want to make it a problem.

Calling it Taiwan is absolutely fine since they'll take it however they wanted it. Maybe Taiwan (as a country), or Taiwan (as People's Republic of China, Taiwan Province). No one refers to them as "name province".

6

Noteworthy is that, in my experiences dealing with Chinese-nationals (in Canada, my locale), most of them do not care if I say "Taiwan", and usually they will themselves refer to Taiwan as "Taiwan" when speaking in English (I don't know what they say in Chinese to each other because I don't speak Chinese). If you are dealing with Chinese individuals and not the Chinese government, it's probably not an issue to refer to Taiwan as "Taiwan"; as with most dictatorships or dictatorship-esque countries (of which China is one), the opinions of the populace tend to be very opposite the official positions of the leadership.

There's nothing wrong with saying "Taipei" as suggested in Richard U's answer; I'm simply making note that this might not be nearly as big of an issue as you're making it out to be.

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    There's a bit more involved when actually doing business in China, because the Chinese government is directly involved, and they will tend to flex their muscles over things like this. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Apr 3 at 20:18
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TL;DR: Just refer to it as "Taiwan" and never user the term "Republic of China"

Is there a way to mention the name of "Taiwan" without sounding insensitive to what the Chinese believe? The Chinese call Taiwan as the "Republic of China" or "Taiwan, China" but we simply call them "Taiwan", implying that they have independence from mainland China.

I think you got this wrong. "Taiwan" is the name of the Island and informally refers to the modern day "Republic of China" because of the territory the RoC controls. Officially the RoC claims the Chinese mainland which is controlled by the People's Republic of China (or just 'China' for most people).

There is nothing controversial about saying that Taipei belongs to Taiwan, neither for mainland Chinese nor for Taiwanese. This is just a geographic truth and doesn't imply independence.

Chinese people usually don't refer to Taiwan as "Republic of China" and it would probably be seen as offensive to use it outside of a historical context.

-1

Checking from names who answered this question I think I should answer it b/c I am Mainland Chinese. I am from a province that speaks the same dialect as Taiwanese and I can easily tell from their accents whether they are Taiwanese or mainland Chinese.

From my experience I feel Taiwanese is much more sensitive than Mainland Chinese. They don't like it when you say "Taiwan, China" (as if you say "Taiwan, part of China" and emphasize the latter part), they prefer just "Taiwan". Most of my friends don't mind at all whether you call it "China Taiwan" or "Taiwan China" or "Taipei” or just "Taiwan". We just call it Taiwan.

So I don't agree with the accepted answer from Retired Codger saying "Taiwan is a VERY sensitive subject for China". I assume he meant Mainland China there and I would correct that statement by it is very sensitive subject for the governments of both sides, for the party of mainland China and the party controlled media. But ordinary people on the mainland, I dare to say no many care! I do not care. OK I will agree that "wumao" cares if you know what that means.

I think @Malisbad's answer is more accurate and relevant " It's not a problem unless you, or they, want to make it a problem... Just call Taiwan"

One more thing, when you refer to the people, like "Chinese" or "Taiwanese" (especially say it in Chinese) it could be sensitive sometime. I know some "Taiwanese" don't like to be called "Chinese" while for our mainland Chinese, even though we don't mind just call the place "Taiwan" but if you don't think you are "Chinese" we will be angry.

I consider myself quite open minded regarding this issue. But I am quite angry when I see Taiwanese (and Hong kong people sometime) think they are "superior" to us. I just don't understand where does that sense of superiority come from.

------- update -------

For the downvoter if you rather trust the answer from outsiders instead of the native, fine. I don't mind either.

From the comments I got I did realize that because you can not tell whether people are from Taiwan or Mainland and you can not tell whether they care or not you better err on the side of caution. Almost like you should not discuss about religion if you don't know people well.

But no matter what it is safe to just call it "Taiwan". If you still want to be extremely cautious about mentioning Taiwan and Mainland China together, you can say Great China Region

Again, from my own experience when you mention Great China Region, people know you are fully aware of the situation and they know you already take cautious action, they will appreciate it.

  • Did you ever see any online service available in China where ROC is listed as Taiwan? No and you won't ever see. It's now more and more common to AVOID listing Taiwan, Macao and Honk Kong. Regardless what you may feel it's an EXTREMELY sensible topic for Chinese government (and more than a few Chinese) then you MUST not ignore it if you want to have any business or professional relationships in China. – Adriano Repetti May 28 at 18:23
  • Did you even read my full answer ? – Qiulang May 29 at 0:46
  • I did, that's why my comment. Let me say that I have encountered this topic both professionally (when it's not about "feelings" but rules set by government) and personally (my wife is Taiwanese and I have more than a few very good Chinese friends). People care, at different degrees, about this. You can't dismiss it because you will for sure insult someone, even your (almost, this isn't the place to discuss personal opinions) neutral post isn't appropriate for a business relationship: saying Taiwan and Mainland China, for example... – Adriano Repetti May 29 at 7:05
  • ...Best we foreigners can do? Follow the accepted answer when talking to a mixed group of people. It's not the best for everyone but it is a safe compromise for most, at least when speaking. – Adriano Repetti May 29 at 7:05
  • Then I will say you miss my points (I did edit my answer to make it more clear). I have several points and I did not dismiss the question at all: 1. it is a sensitive topic for the governments of both sides, not just the mainland. 2. my own experience is that Taiwanese is more sensitive than mainland Chinese. 3. It is safe to call it "Taiwan". And "Best we foreigners can do" ? B/c you can not tell whether they are from mainland or Taiwan and whether those "Chinese" will care or not, you are err on the side of caution. No problem. I will add that to my answer. – Qiulang May 29 at 7:37
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Is there a way to mention the name of "Taiwan" without sounding insensitive to what the Chinese believe?

Taiwan is an independent country, with it's own army and president. It's not part of China. It's as ridiculous as saying the independent Hong Kong is part of China.

People who are offended for the obvious facts are not very intelligent, you need to be professional and avoid as much contact with them as possible. Don't ask for troubles, but please also don't back down from the history.

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    Definitely not true. Very few countries recognize Taiwan as a country (not even the U.S does so). Taiwan is also not a member of the U.N. – dan-klasson Apr 30 at 20:55
  • Hong Kong isn't independent. Legally it was leased by China to the UK for 99 years, and then returned. It is formally part of China, but has some special governance provisions. – Peter Taylor May 30 at 8:48

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