DHARAMSALA, 1 April: NASA has become the latest on the list to run afoul of politics and nationalist sentiment in China after it listed Taiwan as a separate country on its website.
The US space agency courted backlash from China after its website included Taiwan as a separate country on a drop-down box of locations for its users to sign up for a scheme that sends their name carved onto microchips to be sent to Mars during its next mission in 2026.
As Beijing got wind of it, it demanded NASA to “correct its mistake as soon as possible”.
Zhu Fengliang, the spokesperson for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office has stated that NASA had “violated its one-China principle” and hurt the “Chinese people’s feelings.”
“It is not only against the international consensus on the one-China principle, but also hurts Chinese people’s feelings,” she has said.
“We hold a clear and firm attitude that the island of Taiwan is part of China and It [NASA] has severely violated the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués,” she added.
The Chinese state-run media outlets went a step further declaring NASA’s decision to list Taiwan as a nation an “unforgivable act” and a “grave error.”
Responding to the criticism from China, Newsweek quoted NASA as saying in a statement that “the appropriate field on the submission form has been updated to say ‘Location’ with the drop-down menu options updated to say ‘Country/Region/Territory’ to better reflect the diversity of geographic location types listed.”
So far, more than 18 million people have registered for the project of which 73,000 of them are from Taiwan.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang troops fled to the island after losing China’s civil war to Mao’s Communist Party. Beijing considers Taiwan as an errant province and declared time and again that it won’t shy away from using force to bring it under its control.