Taiwan unveils new passport cover design to differentiate from China

It is more recognisable and emphasises Taiwanese elements, says President Tsai

Photocopies of the covers of the new Taiwan passport (left) and the current one, at the unveiling in Taipei yesterday. Passports issued starting from January next year will sport the new look. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Photocopies of the covers of the new Taiwan passport (left) and the current one, at the unveiling in Taipei yesterday. Passports issued starting from January next year will sport the new look. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Taiwan has unveiled the island's new passport cover, which enlarges the letters spelling out "Taiwan" and shrinks the name "Republic of China" to barely visible print, thus setting the travel document apart from a Chinese passport.

While Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China (ROC), the idea was to give more attention to the word "Taiwan", according to the Foreign Ministry.

The words "Republic of China" have been worked into the design of the national emblem, and are wrapped around it in much smaller lettering, so much so that they escape notice at first glance.

President Tsai Ing-wen said: "The new passport is more recognisable and emphasises the Taiwanese elements. In fact, it clearly (conveys) that we are Taiwanese people when we have the passport."

Passports issued starting from January next year will sport the new look. The design change follows the legislature's approval of proposals for a new passport cover as well as a change in name for the island's flagship carrier, China Airlines.

"The new cover keeps all the same elements... but we've highlighted 'Taiwan' in English and moved it closer to the word 'passport', so as to make it clearer that this is a Taiwanese passport," said Foreign Minister Joseph Wu at a press conference yesterday to unveil the new look.

In response to questions about the new passport design, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was "playing little tricks".

"Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, this is a truth that will not change," Ms Hua said.

Taiwanese welcomed the change, especially those who have experienced airport delays because of the confusion over "Republic of China" and "People's Republic of China", which is China's official name.

Ms Wu Hsin-yen, 29, recalled her experience flying to Spain's Malaga from Vienna on Irish budget airline Ryanair, which requires passengers to check in for flights in person.

Ms Wu and her friends spent a lot of time arguing with the ground crew that Taiwanese citizens did not need visas for European Union countries due to the Schengen visa waiver programme.

JUST ENOUGH TO APPEASE

They do enough to appease domestic demand but do not go so far as to warrant serious condemnation or further damage cross-strait relations.

MR LEV NACHMAN, a Fulbright Research Fellow who focuses on Taiwanese politics at the University of California, Irvine.

"The ground crew saw our passports and insisted 'Chinese citizens need visas', to which I kept explaining we were the 'Republic of China', not China," said Ms Wu, who works at a nutrition supplement company.

Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), however, dismissed any confusion arising from the ROC name. Criticising the DPP for being narrow-minded, the KMT said: "This won't help in terms of travel convenience, nor would it help Taiwan's place in the world."

Mr Lev Nachman, a Fulbright Research Fellow who focuses on Taiwanese politics at the University of California, Irvine, said the changes, pushed for by smaller political parties, are minimal.

"They do enough to appease domestic demand but do not go so far as to warrant serious condemnation or further damage cross-strait relations," said Mr Nachman, who added that retaining the word "China" in both English and Chinese means the DPP can "still deny culpability if accused of trying to erase its connection to the ROC".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2020, with the headline 'Taiwan unveils new passport cover design to differentiate from China'. Subscribe