It’s all over the news, so go see it for yourself: Taiwan has become the first nation to ever refuse the Olympic Torch:

Within hours of Beijing’s announcement Thursday of what would be the longest torch relay in Olympic history — a 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile), 130-day route that would cross five continents and scale Mount Everest — Taiwan rejected being included.

“It is something that the government and people cannot accept,” Tsai Chen-wei, the head of Taiwan’s Olympic Committee, said in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

The episode underscores the deep mistrust between Beijing and Taipei, antagonists in an unresolved civil war, and how entwined the Olympics become with politics.

Aside from Taiwan, the torch is also supposed to pass through another political hotspot, the Himalayan region of Tibet which China has controlled for 57 years, often with heavy-handed rule. Four American activists were detained by Chinese authorities Wednesday on Mount Everest after they unfurled a banner calling for Tibet’s independence.

So what’s interesting? Well, everyone knows that China seeks to annex Taiwan, so naturally, they sent the torch through Taiwan and thence to Hong Kong and into China, a “domestic” route. More interesting than that, though, are the two stops prior to that, Vietnam and North Korea. The Taiwan News reported yesterday:

Wu Ching-kuo (吳經國), Taiwan’s sole IOC member, urged the public not to link the torch to politics, stressing that the torch relay should be a purely athletic event.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Wu said that he thought the route proposed by Beijing was reasonable. He said that because the land of North Korea and the land of Vietnam are both connected to mainland China, Wu said, Beijing decided that the torch should pass through Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh City before entering Taipei.


Korea and Vietnam are both places that China has traditionally viewed as culturally subordinate to China. In recent years China and Vietnam have been adjudicating a new boundary, one that activists in Hanoi claim gives too much land to China. There was also a flap a couple of years ago about Chinese claims to Korea via slanted claims about Korea history.

It is clear that Beijing considers this route between Taiwan and Hong Kong a domestic one. The question is, what other parts of the route are seen as domestic in Beijing?