Asia Life

Taiwan Wins International Recognition – In Sports

Recent victories in tennis and badminton bring some welcome positive attention to the island.

By Gary Sands for
Taiwan Wins International Recognition – In Sports

Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying plays a shot to China’s Chen Yufei during the women’s singles final match at Indonesia Open badminton championship in Jakarta, Indonesia (July 8, 2018).

Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

In one of the biggest upsets this year at Wimbledon, Taiwanese tennis player Hsieh Su-wei came back from 2-5 down in the third set to defeat the No. 1 seed, Simona Halep, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.  The 32-year old Hsieh, currently the 48th-ranked women’s singles player in the world, is a former world No. 1 in doubles, and the 2013 Wimbledon doubles champ.  She is the first Taiwanese player, male or female, to hold the top ranking in doubles and the first to feature in the top 25 in the singles rankings.

Hsieh’s unusual playing style, using a two-handed forehand and backhand to hit a mix of dropshots and slices, has long puzzled her opponents, including No. 3 Garbine Muguruza from the Australian Open this year, and No. 8 Joanna Konta at the French Open last June. Unfortunately for fans of “Giant Killer” Hsieh, she finally succumbed to Dominika Cibulková 4-6, 1-6 in her match on Monday.

The day before, Hsieh’s compatriot, Tai Tzu-ying, won the women’s singles badminton title on July 8 at the BLIBLI Indonesia Open in Jakarta, beating China’s No. 5 seed Chen Yufei 21-23, 21-15, 21-9. Tai currently holds the number one women’s singles ranking in badminton.

While both Hsieh and Tai have notably drawn recent international media attention to the skill and prowess of Taiwanese women’s tennis and badminton, geopolitics has inevitably crept into the discussion. For example, the country of both women is listed in the world rankings as “Chinese Taipei” beside an Olympic flag.

Beijing has continued its seemingly petty attempts in recent months to eliminate Taiwan’s international space, including a demand for airlines to list “Chinese Taipei” instead of “Taiwan” on their websites. On July 4, Air India became the latest to make the change, joining Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qantas, among others. As of May, Beijing reported 18 airlines had “corrected” their websites, while 26 had asked for an extension. The airlines have been notified they have until July 25 to make the change or will face consequences. In May, the White House called Beijing’s demand to international airlines “Orwellian nonsense.”  Other companies and brands, such as Gap, Marriott, and Zara, have also been pressured and issued apologies to Beijing over their representation of Taiwan on T-shirts and websites.

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Yet despite Beijing’s best efforts to diminish Taiwan’s international standing by pressuring companies and international organizations to change Taiwan’s designation, the success of Hsieh Su-wei and Tai Tzu-ying on the international stage is not subject to hijacking. Their victories will inevitably be linked to Taiwan and not “Chinese Taipei” (or the mainland) in the minds of most tennis and badminton fans.

Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He is based in Taipei, Taiwan.