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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte mistakes Taiwan for China

Taiwan, not China, is officially called the Republic of China (ROC).

Jun 4, 2019



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President Rodrigo Duterte mistook the Republic of China or Taiwan for mainland China during a speech in front of the international community in Tokyo, Japan.


In a keynote address May 31 during the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia, an international gathering for global leaders from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss regional issues, Duterte said:

“China is a standing partner. That China Sea is part of the Republic of China. And so we give it. Why? Because they are there. And a lot of lousy politicians in my country would like to push me to arbitral ruling because we won. And China said ‘this is our land, this is our sea. Anyone who goes in there will just have to contend with us verbally and maybe with arms.’”

Source: PCOO website, Keynote Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future Of Asia, May 31, 2019, watch from 20:10 to 20:47


Taiwan, not China, is officially called the Republic of China (ROC).

The ROC government was founded in 1912 in China. At the time, Taiwan was still colonized by Japan. At the end of World War II in 1945, Japan surrendered and the ROC government started to exercise jurisdiction over Taiwan.

In 1949, a civil war erupted between Chiang Kai-Shek’s ROC government and the Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong. After a series of defeats on the mainland, Chiang and the Kuomintang-led ROC fled to Taiwan. Since then, China and Taiwan have been ruled by different governments.

China, the second largest country in Asia by area, was officially named as the People’s Republic of China (PROC) on April 12,1988.

PROC has a “one-China policy” which considers Taiwan its breakaway province, not a separate nation. Countries that want to establish diplomatic relations with China need to recognize the “one-China policy.”

Only 17 countries have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, according to its government website.

Both China and Taiwan have multiple competing territorial claims on almost the entire South China Sea.

Southeast Asian nations Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines also have claims on parts of the South China Sea, including features in the Spratly Islands and Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough shoal.

In 2017, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, to ensure tensions due to overlapping claims do not escalate to open hostilities.

Taiwan issued a statement soon after, saying ROC “must be included in any talks on a dispute resolution mechanism.”



Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) website, Keynote Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future Of Asia, May 31, 2019

Official website of the Republic of China, ABOUT TAIWAN

Official website of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, Constitution

World Atlas, World Facts: The Largest Countries in Asia by Area, President Tsai attends exhibition commemorating 70th anniversary of recovery of South China Sea Islands, December 9, 2016

The West Philippine Sea: A Territorial and Maritime Jurisdiction Disputes from a Filipino Perspective


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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