The flag of the exceptionally short-lived, Qing Chinese ‘Republic of Formosa’.
A Taiwanese restaurant chain with several branches in Shanghai has come under fire from netizens and the authorities for using ‘Formosa’ in its name, according to the Shanghai Daily. The old Portuguese name for the island of Taiwan is forbidden for public use in Mainland China due to its perceived colonial trappings.
The staff of ‘Finding Formosa’ claimed ignorance of the meaning of the word when questioned by reporters, but promised to inform management of its unacceptability. Chinese trademark law stipulates that no word of “bad social influence” should be used in a trademark. Nine trademarks have previously been banned for containing the word ‘Formosa’. In 2001, a foreign-owned restaurant in Guangzhou was found to be using ‘Formosa’ in its name, for which the owner was fined.
Similarly, in March of this year, a Shanghai pizza restaurant was fined 47,500 yuan for using the term ‘French Concession’ in its address. It remains to be seen whether ‘Finding Formosa’ will be next in the long list of absurd punishments meted out for offending the Chinese governments’ ever so fragile self-confidence.
Sensitivity over the term ‘Formosa’ is especially strange. The name, meaning ‘beautiful island’ in Portuguese, was given to Taiwan Island by passing Portuguese mariners in 1544, and was a geographical term not a colonial rechristening. Though the name was adopted by short lived Dutch and Spanish settlements on the island in the 17th century, the true colonial invaders of Taiwan, the Chinese Qing Dynasty, did not call the area ‘Formosa’, nor did later imperial rulers Japan. The use of the term ‘Formosa’ for Taiwan is far closer to calling Beijing ‘Peking’, than, say, calling Zimbabwe ‘Rhodesia’.