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A recent ABC article quotes National Taiwan University political scientist Shimin Chen as saying

"If Taiwan's diplomatic relations reach single digits or even zero, it represents that the international community does not recognise Republic of China, and the result may not be what Beijing wants," he told the ABC. "Taiwan may give up the 'Republic of China' name and the Constitution of the Republic of China, and then what will happen? A 'Republic of Taiwan' or some other name? Probably not what Beijing wants to get."

This raised a relatively simple idea I've never heard floated before: Taiwan, officially the "Republic of China" could change its name. This is essentially the solution taken between Greece and the former Republic of Macedonia, now North Macedonia. Has the People's Republic of China ever given any indication that their longtime dispute with Taiwan would be solved if Taiwan changed its official name and its constitution?

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    China actually claims the island of Taiwan; this is not just a dispute about the name. – Fizz Sep 18 at 10:37
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    @Fizz I know. And the ROC claims all the mainland. But a compromise could improve China's international reputation, which is under pressure currently. – curiousdannii Sep 18 at 10:38
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    When has China ever cared about anyone's assessment of their reputation, other than their own? – PoloHoleSet Sep 18 at 17:58
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    @PoloHoleSet They're all about soft power. Otherwise why would they send $500M USD to the Solomon Islands? International reputation's a part of all of this. – curiousdannii Sep 18 at 22:52
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    Not seeing how bribing the Solomon Islands makes them look softer and fuzzier in the eyes of the world. Does that improve their reputation in any way in areas where they are criticized by other nations? I'm not saying they don't care about prestige and "face," but they tend to look at pleasing others and addressing concerns of other nations as showing weakness and subservience to others. Which is poor for their own self-assessment of what they want their image to be. Compromise and how others view their reputation? Not so much. – PoloHoleSet Sep 19 at 0:14
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No, dropping the ROC name makes the situation worse as the PRC claims that China is indivisible and that the island of Taiwan is part of China. Hence, the usual threat is that they will launch an invasion immediately if Taiwan claims independence. By sticking to the ROC name, both sides can pretend they are working towards reconciliation and reunification.

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    Right, it's not like any other parts of mainland China have successfully seceded. – curiousdannii Sep 18 at 12:30
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    @curiousdannii When discussing Taiwan with the mainland Chinese, I always ask why they accept that Mongolia is an independent country. It's funny to see how they try to find all sorts of excuses. – michau Sep 19 at 6:40
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    @michau Well, the situation with Taiwan and with Mongolia are fairly distinct, and I think the formation of modern Taiwan has a lot of cultural and emotional significance in a particular way that Mongolia does not. – Santana Afton Sep 21 at 4:54
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    @SantanaAfton China doesn't base its claim to Taiwan on its emotional significance (ie "we really, really want to invade it"), but on China's supposed indivisibility. Anyway, if Taiwan had really had emotional significance for the Chinese, they wouldn't have given it to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. They'd have claimed it was an integral part of China even if annexed by Japan. But they did agree to give it to Japan, which means they didn't care too much. Up to that point Taiwan had been nothing more than backwaters of the Chinese Empire; it hadn't even been a province until 1887. – michau Sep 21 at 15:41
  • @michau I’m referencing the sentiment that Taiwan is a part of China due to the establishment of the Republic of China in Taiwan by Jiang Jieshi in the mid-1900’s — far after succession of Taiwan to Japan. – Santana Afton Sep 22 at 20:28
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Interestingly, the name that China and Taiwan compromised on, for the Olympics at least, is "Chinese Taipei". In that context, China rejected the Republic of China (henceforth ROC) name, which Taiwan wanted to keep on using.

I don't know if that mini-settlement on the Olympic name for Taiwan has any implications for the naming of Taiwan in other contexts.

Another answer states that China wants Taiwan to keep using the ROC name, but offers no source in support... China also does object to the island just calling itself "Taiwan" as well though... but apparently in narrow official contexts... like the Olympics. Xinhua (the Chinese state-run news agency) routinely refers to the island just as "Taiwan", at least in their English news.

And of course, as I first commented, China does claim the territory of the island, so even if Taiwan called itself "Chinese Taipei" in every (official) context, China would still not be satisfied without having some actual clout in Taiwan. What China wants/proposes is a system of government for Taiwan modelled after Hong Kong, i.e. "one country, two systems", which is something that Taiwan rejects.

Finally, the question in the last line of the OP's post is actually

Has the People's Republic of China ever given any indication that their longtime dispute with Taiwan would be solved if Taiwan changed its official name and its constitution?

(Emphasis mine.) Well, it depends on the constitution. If it were along the lines that China wants (as mentioned above)... yes, otherwise no. (Hong Kong also has a constitution.) What China absolutely rejects and has threatened military action in case it happens is a declaration of independence of Taiwan. So if Taiwan's putative (new) constitution amounted to a declaration of independence (instead of accepting Beijing's rule)... it would have the opposite effect, i.e. it would escalate the conflict.

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    I think the logic of PRC opposing the use of ROC is that the R clearly indicates soveirgnity, and if ROC is accepting that, it may simply be because, during the past 20-30 years, we have seen Taiwan's bargaining power getting weaker, since [maybe due to general globalization + PRC [only] economically opening up], the hurdle of e.g. US and Japanese companies going "directly to China" instead of going "via Taiwan" [due to the need or the sense of need for using Taiwanese as "West & Japan Friendly consultants"] has decreased. Plus that PRC tourists nowadays bring more money than the Taiwanese. – Tuomo Sep 18 at 14:21
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No, the real reason of the animosity from the People's Republic of China towards Taiwan does not involve the name or really even the practical consequences of an independent Taiwan. The real reason depends on the idea of One China.

During the Civil War, and in practice up until 1972 both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China claimed to be the only legitimate government of One China. After that date, the Republic of China (i.e. Taiwan) realized that it could never regain the control of the mainland and resigned itself to rule just Taiwan.

The People's Republic instead still maintains the policy of claiming that there is One China and it has the right to rule on all of it. This is a position that it holds for reasons of prestige and legitimacy:

  • There is a long-standing tradition of reuniting China after a period of divisions. Having all of what is traditionally considered China under its control would increase its legitimacy.
  • It wants to recover the whole of the country that was lost during the Century of humilation.

In theory the People's Republic of China could make an exception:

  • Taiwan was never an important part of China, since it was first colonized by Europeans (there were natives, but there were not Chinese). It entered the Chinese sphere only as part of the fallout from the fall of the Ming dynasty.
  • China already allowed the independence of Mongolia, which was part of China before.

So a strong Chinese leader could very well argue that allowing Taiwan to get independent, with a policy of Finlandization, would be beneficial to China. For instance, because it would reduce the USA influence in the region.

However, this is not happening at the moment, so China is against the independence of Taiwan. While the One China policy remains in place it is not possible for Taiwan to easily gain independence.

In short, the People's Republic of China claims the island of Taiwan itself, but more crucially it essentially claims the heritage of the government of Taiwan. That's why they do not want to let Taiwan go.

  • How independent Taiwan can REDUCE U.S. influence in region? It is a US satellite now, and it will stay satellite after 'independence' gaining – user2501323 Sep 18 at 14:43
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    @user2501323 a policy of Finlandization means that Taiwan would essentially renounce to have a foreign policy. Thus it would not work with the USA or support its policies. This way the USA could not use Taiwan as a base to support its navy operations – gabriele Sep 18 at 14:50
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    Thank you for detalizing, understand your term. It is a great idea, but I don't think, that it is possible. Who will gain bonuses from finlandized Taiwan? China would "lose face", if it just leave it claims. US would lose an ally in the region. – user2501323 Sep 18 at 14:53
  • A Finlandization of Taiwan would mean that Taiwan must distance themselves from the US. That requires some sort of credible chinese guarantee that they won't use the absence of the US to invade Taiwan. China has no good track record in credibility of promises – Martin Sep 20 at 21:02
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No, it is not only about symbol politics.

The strategic location of Taiwan is too important for China to give it up. Taiwan forms the most critical link of the First island chain, a series of islands that could be used to keep the PLA Navy out of the Pacific ocean.

Additions:

  1. As @RonJohn commented: The barrier also works in the other direction, it would a be a great asset on preventing foreign navies from reaching the mainland.
  2. Controlling Taiwan would allow China to obstruct maritime traffic to Japan and South Korea, something unacceptable to them as both nations depend on access to foreign resources and markets.
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    "used to keep the PLA Navy out of the Pacific" and the USN away from Southern China. – RonJohn Sep 19 at 16:03
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It likely would have been, but in the present tense, it would not.

First, a couple of historical notes, Taiwan is considered part of 'Historical China' only under a very recent view of Chinese history. Until very near the end of the Qing, when the island was initially handed over to Japan, it was considered a backwater, and largely left to govern itself. This is one of the reasons Japan's takeover of the island in 1895 enjoyed significant international support at the time--pirates based in Taiwan and the Pescadores (modern day Penghu) were a constant threat in East Asian trade.

Additionally, while the significant Chinese population was largely happy to have a Chinese government back in power after the end of WW2, there was at best a shaky legal basis for the ROC to claim the island (one would need at minimum to consider its initial handover to Japan to be unlawful, to accept the ROC as a successor state, and accept Japan's territory of the entire island as being equivalent to the contained colonies of the Qing) and rule it, and local favor quickly turned against the incoming Nationalists, especially around events like 228.

As the ROC on Taiwan spent its first few decades as a dictatorship under Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT, it was devoted to reclaiming the mainland. Even as this became a pipe dream and western nations began to accept the PRC as the legal representative of China, CKS and the KMT were so strongly opposed that they held on to their claim even as the PRC replaced them in the UN. Had they accepted pleas at this time to declare Taiwan an independent nation, it's quite plausible that the CCP would have accepted it as part of the rise of the People's Republic. CKS would not accept this.

As Taiwan democratized, pro-Chinese sentiment began to fade, and support of Taiwanese sovereignty rose, China's power likewise grew, and it has increasingly used a series of carrot-and-stick tactics to try to keep the possibility of reunification open, and prevent pro-independence forces from becoming too popular in Taiwan. As already mentioned by others, China has threatened (legally and politically) to attack if Taiwan changes its constitution--this has led to concerns not just of changing the name, but even smaller (and more apparently 'obvious') changes such as "acknowledging Mongolia as an independent country" or "formally abolishing Sun Yat-sen's five branch constitutional government".

It's also worth noting that even some Taiwanese Nationalists find the Republic of China name if not desirable, certainly convenient. The Republic of China, like the People's republic, claims significant parts of the South China Sea, as well as other territories that might not fit within a "Republic of Taiwan" such as Kinmen and Matsu, and there is support for this among those who want to see their nation as a strong sovereign, even if it otherwise seems hypocritical.

What the professor is referring to is a bit more nuanced than the idea it sparks: He believes that a complete lack of diplomatic support for the Republic of China while countries continue to acknowledge Taiwan separately from the PRC would strongly encourage the view of Taiwan as an already independent, sovereign nation. What the PRC wants instead is to be seen as the 'rightful China' with the superficial image of Taiwan as a false Chinese Government ruling a very much really-Chinese territory. I've previously heard reports that China has discouraged/declined certain Latin American countries changing their diplomatic recognition in the interest of preserving the status quo (and not hurting relations with a then-friendly Taiwanese government); I do not know the veracity of that, but it would not be unreasonable for them to do so.

In essence, his remarks could be rephrased as "Scant diplomatic relations for the Republic of China may increase, rather than decrease, the People's Republics claims of legitimacy. A Republic of China without any diplomatic acknowledgement may do more to undermine the One China position as a whole than it does to strengthen the PRC's claim to Taiwan".

TLDR: There are many people on both sides who do not want the name changed, even if they don't have serious problems with Taiwan's status quo. Changing the name would, under the PRC's laws (and the corner CCP politicians have painted themselves into), be tantamount to a declaration of war, and would be viewed as provocative even by Taiwan's allies. China does not care about the ROC's claims to its territory or name--it wants them, both to encourage the view of Taiwan as part of China and the 'Taiwan Problem' as an internal dispute, and to generally strengthen the perceived validity of Chinese claims to other territories. Likewise, many of those in Taiwan, even those who do not want reunification or a revival of a Republic of China, do not want to give up certain "Chinese" territories, much less to spark conflict with China.

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No it would change literally nothing. If anything, it would make things worse for Taiwan.

Ever since the First Emperor, the long term "goal" of any Chinese government historically is to unify the country.

By giving up on the name "ROC", Taiwan would tacitly admit that it is a break away province, and they don't believe that they are.

  • Beijing already considers Taiwan just that, i.e. a breakaway province. So I'm not sure what you mean by the last sentence, i.e. in the eyes of whom... – Fizz Sep 18 at 14:14
  • @Fizz: Yes. But if TAIWAN itself gives up the name of "Republic of China" then Taiwan would be tacitly acknowledging that it is not China but a province that has a different government. It makes some difference in the linguistic/diplomatic circle. Makes no difference at all in the real world, as Taiwan is really protected by its military, financial strength, its place in the global supply chain, its alliance with Japan and the USA. – dolphin_of_france Sep 18 at 14:16
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    @Tuomo: I assure you I did read it properly. If Taiwan declared itself a country under some other name it would not be a "break away province" in its own view. It would give up on its territorial claim for mainland China though. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Fizz Sep 18 at 15:03
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    @Fizz I tried to verify your answer was not too political. Please consider my separate comment of the diminished bargaining power of Taiwan. Although the countries around the Japan/China/South Japan seas are not known as "huge gurus in REALPOLITIK en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realpolitik, the Taiwanese voters are well educated, and I am pretty sure they think "a bit of realpolitik" and would give up their "territorial claims for mainland China" if PRC would recognize them as an independent nation, set up an embassy in Taipei, and similarly welcome Taiwan to set up their embassy in Beijing. – Tuomo Sep 18 at 15:30
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    @Fizz: the point you are missing is, I tried to answer the OP's question. Would the dispute be solved. No. It would not be solved. China wants to take over Taiwan. The best "offer" they are willing to entertain is the "Hong Kong" model, which is clearly a hard sell given what's happening in Hong Kong. So if Taiwan says hey we are chaning our name, we are going our separate way. It would be a declaration of independence, or THE RED LINE for china. Such a move could have been pulled 30, 40 years ago. All too late now. – dolphin_of_france Sep 18 at 18:01

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