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Monday, January 29, 2007

New textbooks put space between Taiwan and China

TAIPEI (Reuters) - New high school textbooks that drop phrases linking China and Taiwan as one country have reached Taiwan's classrooms, the publisher said on Monday.

The changes could spark a strong reaction from Beijing, which has viewed self-ruled Taiwan as sovereign territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

In one change, Sun Yat-sen, father of the revolution that toppled China's last emperor in 1911, is no longer referred to as "father of the nation."

Sun founded the Nationalist Party, which ran China until 1949 and is now Taiwan's major opposition party.

"There were some phrases that have been found objectionable and we wanted to make them more neutral," said Lan Shun-teh, director-general of the National Institute of Compilation and Translation, which publishes texts for the government.

Other changes included substituting "China" for "my country," "this country" or "the mainland."

Taiwan citizens and political groups remain divided on the island's identity, with some considering it a nation and others pushing for its reunification with China once it embraces democracy.

Xu Shiquan, vice president of the National Society of Taiwan Studies in Beijing, described the latest revisions as "part of Taiwan's move to erase China, to separate sovereignty."

"But to do that is not useful," he said. "History isn't something you can change."

A spokesman for Taiwan's People First Party, a minor party known for its close China ties, called for the education minister to resign because of the textbook changes.

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