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Taiwan Irked at Google's Version of Earth 571

frank_adrian314159 writes "As reported in The Register, Taiwan wants Google Earth to stop calling it a province of China. Although Google has yet to comment on this issue, it will be interesting to see the brightest minds that money can buy trying to solve what decades of diplomats have unsuccessfully wrestled with - how to balance the nationalistic pride of the inhabitants of Taiwan against the nationalistic pride of the inhabitants of mainland China." From the article: "Foreign ministry spokesman, Michel Lu, explained: 'It is incorrect to call Taiwan a province of China because we are not. We have contacted Google to express our position and asked them to correct the description.' Google has maintained a stony silence on the matter, presumably while it tries to work out a solution which will please both the Taiwanese and the hosts of the (lucrative, burgeoning, inviting) Chinese internet search business opportunity market."
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Taiwan Irked at Google's Version of Earth

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  • by nokilli ( 759129 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:17PM (#13714660)
    Instead of choosing between pissing off the Chinese or pissing off the Taiwanese you piss both the Chinese and Taiwanese off at the same time. So instead of saying it is or isn't a province of China, you just call it West Hawaii.

    Problem solved.
    You didn't know. []
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:26PM (#13714762)
      "Taiwan, province of China" -- obvious bullshit, but it's required if you want to conduct business in the very biggest country of the world, one that happens to have one of most evil governments.
      "Chinese Taipei" -- obvious bullshit, Taipei is the capital of the country, not the country itself.
      "Republic of China" -- obvious bullshit, they were the Republic of China before the communist rebellion, but they can't claim to be the whole of China anymore.
      "Taiwan" -- the geographic name. Perfectly neutral.

      So... we nearly say "Germany" instead of "Federal Republic of Germany", its real name. We use "Poland" instead of "Republic of Poland". We say "China" instead of "People's Republic of China". So, why won't we just call Taiwan... "Taiwan"?
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Stargoat ( 658863 )
        Because it will upset the Chinese. Taiwan is an island. Alcatraz is the United States, it is not Alcatraz the island. Hawaii, on a map, is usually listed as "Hawaii (US)". The Chinese mainland government has been an imperialist government for quite some time. They have fought wars with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Nepal, and Tibet. They financed the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. They openly supplied and comforted the Khmer Rouge. The Korean War, which as any tourist to
        • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *
          > The inclusion of Taiwan with an aggressive power such as China is not exactly good.

          Yup, Google has violated their policy here, but they can join the long list of moral weasels on this issue. Fact: Taiwan is a soverign nation entitled to all the privledges and respect that status brings. Fact: For craven reasons mostly related to fear of upsetting trade relations with China almost no nation fully recognizes that fact. Fact: While being part craven in not extending full recognition to Taiwan and not
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stienman ( 51024 ) <.adavis. .at.> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:43PM (#13714977) Homepage Journal

        "Taiwan" -- the geographic name. Perfectly neutral.

        When you have the political boundary layer on, it should show the political names, not the geographic names.

        If there is a dispute of some sort (tiawan, tibet, etc) then the program should be clear that they use a specific set of political names (ie, "As recognized by the UN") and stay out of political rumbling. Tiawan is simply trying to bring this issue up in the "court of world opinion" again, and Google is a convenient talking point.

      • What's in a name? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HermanAB ( 661181 )
        Germany is actually Deutchland. Greece is actually Hellas. The Sea of Gallilee is actualy the Kinneret. ... Yet, we all know who/what people are talking of.
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pxtl ( 151020 )
        I think the problem is that even the Taiwanese government considers Taiwan a province of China. The point is that they believe that the Taiwanese government thinks itself the rightful rulers of China, just as the PRC governing party thinks of itself as the rightful ruler of China (including Taiwan).

        Groups who want China and Taiwan to suck it up and make politics reflect reality unfortunately don't have control of the Taiwanese government.
        • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Informative)

          by Mercaptan ( 257186 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @03:19PM (#13715397) Homepage
          It's actually a little more complicated than that.

          On the one hand, you have the Nationalists (the Kuomingtang, KMT), who led by Chiang Kei-shek brought a lot of Mainland Chinese Nationalists over to Taiwan back in the 50's after the Chinese Communists drove them out. The KMT settled in Taiwan and plotted their return to China to assert their democratic government there (both they and the Communists asserted that theirs was the legitimate government for the whole of China). This return, of course, has not quite happened although the KMT has claimed that Taiwan is part of China, in as much as they are the legitimate government of China as a whole. For a long time, the largely Mainlander KMT has remained (despite their minority status among the "native" Taiwanese, who are also ethnically Chinese, but have lived on Taiwan for several hundred years) have maintained a one-party system and martial law up until the mid-80's.

          In that time there has been a liberalization of political life, leading to the rise of a large opposition party (the Democratic People's Party, DPP), consisting largely of "native" Taiwanese, as well as a change in the KMT's own membership as more "native" Taiwanese rise to positions of power within that party. The DPP could be described supporting Taiwanese interests over the KMT's party-line of reunifying with China under a Nationalist flag. This is intertwined with resentment over the KMT's repressive and corrupt policies over the years and a genuine need to address domestic issues within Taiwan.

          Thus the reality of of whether or not the Taiwanese or their government favor reunification or independence can be well summarized by this paragraph from Wikipedia:

          "The KMT supports the status quo for the indefinite future because unification under the Communist Party is unacceptable to its members and the public. The Democratic Progressive Party, which supports an independent Taiwan, supports the status quo because the risk of declaring independence and provoking mainland China is unacceptable to its members. However, both parties support taking active steps to advocate Taiwan's participation in international organizations. The numbers who answer favorably toward any particular resolution often changes depending on the particular wording of the question, illustrating the complexity of public opinion on the topic."

          It is also important to note that a DPP president is currently in office, although the legislature is still fairly divided. So what's meant by "the government" is rather unclear at the moment.

          ("Native" is written in quotes to distinguish those Taiwanese who are ethnically Chinese, but have resided in Taiwan for the last few hundred years from the actual aborigineal tribes in Taiwan, who, like many native people, have suffered under a variety of hands.)

        • You are not entirely correct. The Kuomintang party (the old nationalist party that Chiang Kai-shek led) holds the position that Taiwan is a part of China, and claims to be the legitimate government over the Mainland. The Democratic People's Party (currently in power) believes no such thing, and would likely press for outright independence, if it thought it could get away with it.
      • "[...] they were the Republic of China before the communist rebellion, but they can't claim to be the whole of China anymore."

        No, but they are part of China and, therefore, have as much claim to the name as the people on the mainland.

        By the way, perhaps you've heard of the Republic of Korea (eg, "South Korea") and the People's Republic of Korea (eg, "North Korea")?
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Informative)

        by Arker ( 91948 )
        Funny thing, the the official name of the State currently controlling Taiwan is indeed 'the Republic of China' and their Constitution does indeed claim Taiwan as a province of China. It just happens to the only province that wasn't lost to the Communists.
    • Considering how much US Govt. debt is currently financed by China, maybe it'd be more appropriate to call Hawaii East China. . .

      (btw, thank you George W Bush, *true* Conservative!)
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by macgeek ( 22429 ) <slash@computerb[ ]com ['oy.' in gap]> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:52PM (#13715087) Homepage Journal
      And here I was thinking that they'd just check the referrer and make the map say whatever the referrer was hoping for - so if they came from a link in China, it would say that it was a province of China, and if it came from Tawain, it would say it was it's own country.

      Personally, I'm in favor of just putting the borders on the map and leaving it blank. Or they could just let the user decide and then set a cookie....
  • Butter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kryzx ( 178628 ) * on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:19PM (#13714677) Homepage Journal
    Maybe they already figured out which side their bread was buttered on. After all, they are pretty sharp. They don't have to solve anything. They made the smart move in trying to get cozy with the next economic superpower. Now they can just ignore the complaining until it goes away.
    • Re:Butter (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Surt ( 22457 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:32PM (#13714842) Homepage Journal
      Of course, in doing that, they probably ought to think about revising their 'do no evil' motto, to something along the lines of 'do evil whenever it is economically convenient'.
  • by ihatewinXP ( 638000 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:19PM (#13714678)
    Question: Who does Google stand to make more money off of?

    Google already knows the answer to this and that is why "Taiwan" is listed as such.

    End of story. (For Taiwan at least)

  • PROC and ROC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Moby Cock ( 771358 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:20PM (#13714693) Homepage
    It is pretty much well established in the west to refer to to China (the big one) as the People's Republic of China and Taiwan as the Republic of China. This may be offensive to China or Taiwan, I can not attest to that, but it does seem to be the norm.
    • You forgot one step: When talking to either side you don't bring up the validity of either side's claim. This means when talking to the People's Republic of China (for instance) you don't list provinces (officially), so the povince of Taiwan isn't conspicous by being or not being on the list.

      Google is in a bad position: They have a nuetral product, easily accessable, which shows political divisions. Taiwan shows up on the product, so it needs to be inside or outside a boundry. A diplomat's words can leav
      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:58PM (#13715173)
        Google is in a bad position: They have a nuetral product, easily accessable, which shows political divisions. Taiwan shows up on the product, so it needs to be inside or outside a boundry. A diplomat's words can leave it's status undefined, a map cannot.
        Bah, diplomacy, that's old fashioned. Google has their own high-tech criticism avoidance mechanism, which should be quick to implement: just label the map "BETA"!
  • by Fiver- ( 169605 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:21PM (#13714704)
    How does "We Love Katamari" refer to Taiwan in the global level? I assume the King of All Cosmos is the ultimate authority.
  • It is sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:21PM (#13714714)
    that our country decided to hang the Taiwanese out to dry by engaging with China. Taiwan should be our real aly and we shouldn't be trading with China at all. If we had pursued that policy, I think that the PRC goverment would have fallen when the rest of the communist block fell and China would be free by now.

    Thanks, Nixon (for nothing).
    • Re:It is sad (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nimey ( 114278 )
      Kind of how it worked for Cuba, huh?
    • Re:It is sad (Score:3, Interesting)

      Engaging China was a bipartisan strategy. Relations were opened by Nixon-Kissinger, and normalized by Carter-Brzezinski. It wasn't so simple as, Taiwan=Democracy and is therefore our ally to the exclusion of China=Totalitarian. That's the kind of logic that gets Bush Jr. and the neocons in trouble, quite frankly.

      China was never, and is still not, a *real* strategic threat to the United States. It has vast potential, but it's still decades from being able to utilize any of it. It was even further away

  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:22PM (#13714719)
    a province of China
    It's not a province, it's a Republic of China. That's why the labels on manufactured goods say "Made in Taiwan ROC".
    • by avdp ( 22065 ) * on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:48PM (#13715036)
      Actually, "ROC" doesn't stand for A Republic of China, but rather THE Republic of China. As in the "real government of China in exile, the PRC (People's Republic of China) being illegitimate" (which is basically what really did happen, the "old" government of China fled to Taiwan and the communists took over). So no, the ROC terminology is just as offensive to mainland Chinese.
  • Ditto Tibet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n1ywb ( 555767 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:22PM (#13714722) Homepage Journal
    It's interesting to note that Tibet also does not show up as an independent country in Google Earth. Apparently Google doesn't consider supporting an evil communist regime to be "evil".
    • Re:Ditto Tibet (Score:4, Insightful)

      by amerinese ( 685318 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:32PM (#13714829)
      but Tibet doesn't actually exercise de facto indepedence, i.e. where is there elected or legitimate government and their army/police? it's not that the PRC can roll into Tibet any time--it's that they're already there and the ones really in charge. as to the PRC's legitimacy--that's a separate question entirely.

      Taiwan is both a democratic country and it maintains de facto rule--it has its own military that prevents China from walking over, and it maintains order within the island as well. As to its constitutional legitimacy... that is a separate question (if you're talking about from a historical perspective... but of course from a self-determination perspective they are legitimately independent).

    • Surely it can't be evil to support an evil oppressive regime if it makes you a lot of money? I believe IBM did pretty well by the holocaust, and no one called that evil, right?
  • Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JazMuadDib ( 600258 )
    a "/" I.e. Taiwan (ROC/Province of PRC)

    Or call it just plain ol' Taiwan.

    Or hey, even better, give it a name based on originating IP.
  • EBay it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by IceSabre ( 602857 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:23PM (#13714734)
    Highest bidder wins the ownership of Taiwan on google map!
    • Mod parent up! If mainland China really is a "bigger market", they should put up or shut up. It's kind of a bad precedent though... I mean... does Redmond really want to be Microsoftville? Does Atlanta want to be Coketown? Maybe they could just restrict it to teritories that are under dispute by organized armies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:24PM (#13714736)
    Google could always say they are using the ISO country names (and I think they are) and they will be happy to change it when ISO updates the name in their data.
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:24PM (#13714745)
    ("Kowtows to China" -- sometimes I crack myself up...)

    So much for the "do no evil" schtick, huh?

    Hey, once upon a time Gates was the clever, driven College drop-out sticking it to the Man, too, right? Eventually, they all embrace their inner Gekko.

    Mebbe one of their two billionaire founders will sleep with his sister by mistake and the whole modern Greek Tragedy can be complete.


    what's for lunch... haven't eaten lunch... starving...

    • You beat me to it, brother.

      This just shows once again that ANY corporation is a sociopath.

      It's all about the money- never give your loyalty to a corporation- they have no conscience- they have no guilt.
  • by matr0x_x ( 919985 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:25PM (#13714751) Homepage
    Does it really take the brightest minds to fix this problem?

    if (IP == Taiwan){
      Label as independent
    else {
      Label as province of China

    • if ip == 'US':
            for c in countries:
                    if ip not 'redstate':
                          label('USA Free Market')
                          don't show country
  • ...can they sort out the whole India / Pakistan / Kashmir thing too? That'd be great. Thanks.
    • Coming soon from Google: Google International Diplomacy!

      Are you tired of endless, bureaucratic discussions with international diplomats? Well worry no more! Google will sort out all your petty squabbles for you, with no interference and just a few text based ads appended to your country's constitution.

      Google International Diplomacy integrates fully with existing Google packages. Connect that red "President Phone" to Google Talk! Search for the name of a country's Prime Minister with Google Google!

  • Just search for taiwan: []

    The text next to the map says "Taiwan, Province of China" ... the maps themselves don't actually imply it is part of China (as far as I could notice). This means it is a very easy change for Google to implement, no edit of the maps or code needed. They just need to decide what to do politically.

    A note, Taiwan is not asking for "Taiwan, Province of China" to become "Taiwan, an independant nation" ... perhaps all provinces of all nations shoul

  • Who else thinks that Google didn't actually make these kinds of decisions? There's probably some body or convention that they're following--I just don't know which one.
  • I say google will... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CDPatten ( 907182 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:29PM (#13714805) Homepage
    Bow to the communist china's wishes, just like msn did with the "democracy" ban. The real question is will you anti-ms people be just as outraged as you were with MS?
  • by squirrelist ( 412181 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:30PM (#13714810)
    Most countries, including America, do not see Taiwan as independent. Because of this, the UN does not either. If this is good enough for the UN, this should be good enough for Google (an American company).
  • Phase 1: Help China harden it's information rights policy by catering to it's search restrictions, then, give them political leverage by legitimizing the Chinese claim to Taiwan (and collect underpants). Phase 2: Wait on them to acheive true superpower status. Phase 3: Profit!

  • Google does business in China. China exerts extraordinary control over any company "priviledged" to operate inside china.

    Therefore, Google Earth will reflect China's beliefs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:30PM (#13714819)
    Google is probably adhering to ISO 3166 as found here: /10faq/frequently-asked-questions.html#QS03 []

    03: Why is Taiwan named Taiwan Province of China in ISO 3166-1?
    A: The names in ISO 3166-1 - and thus on our Webpage - are taken from United Nations sources. These sources are authoritative inputs to the international country code standard. They are:

    * The United Nations Bulletin Country Names and the
    * Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use of the United Nations Statistics Division

    Since Taiwan is not a UN member it does not figure in the UN bulletin on country names. The printed edition of the publication Country and region codes for statistical use gives the name we use in ISO 3166-1. By adhering to UN sources the ISO 3166/MA stays politically neutral.
  • That's the one Google will suck.

    Kinda hard to "do no evil" when different people have different definitions.

    Google needs to grow a pair and stand up on this issue rather than silently ignoring it and hoping it will go away.
  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:34PM (#13714869) Journal
    A good test for that ever-famous item 6 on the ten things [] (part of the official corporate philosophy).

    6. You can make money without doing evil.

    Do they follow Yahoo's lead, [] and cater to the very oppressive Chinese gov? Or do they support a democracy that has been around just as long as China really, having been created in more or less the same instance. China, after all, has no less claim to being the authority over Taiwan than Taiwan has to being the authority over China.

    How about it Google...gona "do no evil" here?
  • by FrontalLobe ( 897758 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:36PM (#13714884)
    All Google needs to say is it will be fixed in the final release, once its out of beta... Problem solved indefinately
  • Article in Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by FreshFunk510 ( 526493 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:37PM (#13714889)
    I read an article in Time about one of the top people in Google (was there back in '99) and it said that whenever she came across an issue similar to this she usually just referenced the CIA world fact book and went with whatever they had to avoid these kind of issues.

    Managing Google's Idea Factory /b3953093.htm []

    "Google shouldn't be the arbiter on languages. Just include anything considered legitimate by a third-party source, such as the CIA World Fact Book, she says. "We don't want to make a large geopolitical statement by accident."
  • history (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:38PM (#13714908) Homepage
    Taiwan *IS* a province of China, actually. But the exact situation is complicated.

    You folks may remember when the Taiwanese legislature was planning to declare independence, and mainland threats made them back down? Well, if there weren't any ties to the mainland, why would they need to declare independence at all?

    The reason is that, when Mao Tse-Tung's army took over the Chinese mainland and China's original rulers relocated to Taiwan, the old government maintained a claim to being the government of the mainland. In their eyes they were a province of China as a whole, despite the rest of the country being controlled by interlopers.

    Now, over time, they realized the Communist regime, while it's gotten a bit more flexible, wasn't going away. Their own government changed in the meantime, too. And while they've gotten to the point where they no longer consider themselves to be the same country as the mainland, by having laid claim to being the only legitimate part of the original government they're still tied together.
  • So Los Angeles should be Googled as:
    El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula


  • Call mainland China a province of Taiwan. It's not entirely without basis. he government in Taiwan is the older one, once was the government of all China. The mainland just happens to be under the control of communist rebels at the moment.
  • by ( 913902 ) <kickers&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:51PM (#13715080) Homepage
    Just take Taiwan off the maps and pretend it doesn't exist.
  • Republic of Taiwan?? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jdunlevy ( 187745 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:58PM (#13715170) Homepage
    TFA says they want to be called the Republic of Taiwan on Google Earth. My understanding is they aren't even called that at home -- that's what they would be called if the declared independence. Right now, I thought the government of Taiwan was the Republic of China -- which also claims to be the rightful government of the mainland (territory under the control of the People's Republic of China); meanwhile the PROC claims to be the rightful government of Taiwan (territory under control of the ROC). I hadn't been under the impression that there was any official disagreement over whether or not Taiwan was part of China, just over which Chinese government was legitimate had what legitimacy/international standing and where.
  • Tickbox (Score:3, Funny)

    by FrankDrebin ( 238464 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @02:58PM (#13715177) Homepage

    Google should make it a tick box, so the user can choose whether the map should show independent or not.

    Here is a partial list of others:

    • Chechnya
    • Tibet
    • Sri Lanka
    • Quebec
    • New Hampshire
  • by jlin ( 920277 ) <> on Tuesday October 04, 2005 @03:31PM (#13715508)
    Amtrak made the same mistake, but then corrected themselves, despite ISO 3166-1. After the matter was looked into, Amtrak sent an official letter of apology. 05/09/02/2003270053 []

    Why can't Google?
  • The Taiwanese culture is quite different from the Mainland Chinese culture. The people of Taiwan deserve credit for their achievement. They should not have their freedom and self-determination taken away by a Chinese government that just wants to be bigger, when it does not manage perfectly what it has already.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle