What On Earth Is “Chinese Taipei”?

Skærmbillede 2016-08-05 kl. 23.32.40

This is the flag that always confuses everyone at the Olympics. It is usually not in any flag quizzes and it cannot be found in most flag books or atlases. It is supposed to represent a country by the name of “Chinese Taipei”. Here’s the explanation.

205 independant countries and dependent territories are represented at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the opening ceremony flags for all of them will be carried into the Maracanã Stadium by an athlete from every participating country.

However, not all countries in the world are generally recognized. Among such nations which only enjoy official recognition by a limited number of United Nations (UN) member states are the State of Israel, the State of Palestine, the Republic of Kosovo and the two Chinas.

Since 1949 China has been divided between two political and geographical entities: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the Republic of China (ROC) on the island of Taiwan. Beijing is the capital city of the PRC, Taipei is the capital city of the ROC.

During the Cold War period there were also two Koreas, two Vietnams and two Germanys. Unlike Vietnam and Germany, Korea and China still haven’t been reunited.

Being one of the world’s most powerful countries, both economically and militarily, the PRC has been able to successfully bar the ROC from membership of the UN and from having official diplomatic relations with almost all other countries in the world. All this said, Taiwan is an independant and democratic country with a population of nearly 24 million and with a fairly high nominal GDP per capita.

The shadow of mainland China on Taiwan’s place in the world has become especially visible in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and at the Olympic Games. In 1979 the IOC forced the ROC Olympic Committee to adopt another name and stop using the ROC national flag and anthem.

So, when the ROC won it’s first two Olympic gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece it wasn’t the national flag of the Republic of China that was raised at the medal ceremonies. Chu Mu-Yen won gold in the men’s Taekwondo flyweight competition and Chen Shih-Hsin won gold in the women’s Taekwondo flyweight competition.

Since 1979 the official IOC name for the national Olympic committee in Taiwan is the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee. Hence, the name Chinese Taipei and the IOC country code TPE refer to ROC athletes at the Olympic Games.

In 1981 the ROC adopted the Chinese Taipei Olympic Flag. It is used to represent the country and its athletes at the Olympic Games. Encircled in the five-petaled national flower are the five Olympic rings and the national emblem of the ROC, a blue sky with a white sun. The main colours of this flag, navy blue, red and white, are also the colours of the ROC national flag.


This is part 1 in a series about flags at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Read also:
Rowing Blade Flags
FLAG FAIL: An Open Letter to the IOC
Extracting the Essence of the Union Flag


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