Saturday, February 13, 2010

What's in a name?

Juliet said something to the effect when she found out that Romeo was the son of her father's enemy, inferring that names don't matter. However, she couldn't be further from the truth. For names DO matter, and it's important to understand why.

Take "China" for example. Now most people use it to refer to the People's Republic of China. However, one could also be referring to the Republic of China depending on when they grew up, because "China" was known to be short for the ROC. Moreover, the term itself infers a stable, unchanging country that simply isn't the case. Lastly, the term denotes a homogeneous state, which is not the case when referring to "China." You only need to look at the Uighurs, Tibetans, and Mongols to realize that "China" more or less is a story of the Han people.

The establishment of the People's Republic of China was a huge event for the world. The Chinese Communist Party founded a modern state with a large amount of emotional baggage. They saw "China's" past as one of humiliation under the Qing dynasty, giving into the demands of Western powers and Japan, and as such sought to lead a different "China," one that was strong and capable of being independent. Calling the PRC "China" glosses over the monumental shift that occurred when the CCP established the state.

Lately I've been in the habit of making the mental distinction between "China" and the PRC. I asked one of my professors why this is happening, and he said it's because I'm making the key distinction that exists between China and the PRC. The question is, how many other people recognize the difference?

On a personal note, sorry for absence in entries. I came down with a severe cold last Tuesday and am just now starting to feel like my normal self. You can rest assured the entries will continue on a more regular basis.