How China kicked Taiwan out of sport with assistance of USA

Mao Zedong and Nixon came to an agreement and circumvented the IOC and international federations

Russia is suspended from international competitions indefinitely. Amid this, the risk of a military conflict between China and Taiwan is growing. Realnoe Vremya’s journalist Jaudat Abdullin recalls how China already defeated Taiwan on the political stage with the assistance of the USA by excluding the opponent from international sport for eight years.

How Taiwan took our world championship gold away

The International Volleyball Federation took Russia’s right to host the FIVB World Volleyball Championship away. This is the FIVB’s first decision of the kind in its history, though this has happened in other sports. While we want to tell you about a blatant case when the FIVB took the right of two national teams of Taiwan to compete away in favour of China. And this happened in 1974.

To start with, hosts were taken away world championships, though such practice wasn’t widely spread. So in 1969, Canada lost the right to host the IIHF World Championship, which was due to celebrate the country’s 100th anniversary of hockey. After that, Canada withdrew itself from world hockey in 1969, and it turned out that nobody needed it. Here it contacted with the USSR NHL and WHA competing with each other and the ice hockey federation successfully took advantage of during those years. However, this rapprochement cannot be called a victory of Soviet diplomacy, including in sport. This occurred when the role of the USA in the world notably weakened because the Americans created a lot of different problems with the war in Vietnam, the oil crisis and the Watergate. But matches with Soviet national teams and squads seriously strengthened NHL and WHA, most of whose teams are located in the USA.

Switching to Taiwan, it is necessary to remind you that the participation of this national team in the world championship in 1959 took the USSR’s deserved gold and Bulgaria’s fourth place away, in the end Taiwan finished on this position. The case is that all the three teams were in the top 6, but Soviet and Bulgarian basketball players refused to play a match with Taiwan, and these teams were disqualified. Brazil became the world champion, the USA was second, Chile — third. Moreover, the presence of Taiwan could become our problem for many years to come, but fortunately this was Taiwan’s last appearance on the international stage. Later, local teams performed only at continental level. And the invisible work of the management of international organisations of that era is worthy of mentioning. For instance, before the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, Czechoslovakia and Egypt withdrew from the men’s basketball tournament, but they were replaced by Canada and South Korea, which finished third after Taiwan at the Asian Cup in 1963. But expecting mass refusals, countries of the socialist bloc Hungary, Poland, the USSR, Yugoslavia got to the Olympics in Tokyo, then president of the FIBA William Jones from the USA made the correct substitution. By the way, William Jones is the functionary who demanded to replay three second in the renowned Olympic final in Munich in 1972. Curiously, he died in Munich, 9 years later.

China quickly showed who is ‘daddy’ here

Protesting against the presence of Taiwan in the Olympic family, China excluded itself from the Games even since 1956 in Melbourne, after that it competed in international tournament from time to time. It sometimes helped to organise them like at the Anti-Imperialist Olympics in Indonesia in 1964.

But a political event occurred in 1972 that indirectly influenced the quick comeback of China to the world of sport. The so-called Shanghai agreement was signed between China (great governor Mao Zedong) and the USA (then president Richard Nixon), which read that in the interests of all countries, the signers would work to normalise the relationships and mutual interest in de-escalation was confirmed. Taiwan was spelt out separately in this document.

The Chinese side insisted that “Taiwan is China’s domestic issue no other country has the right to meddle in.” The USA didn’t agree in general but anyway acknowledged that “all the Chinese on both sides of Taiwan Strait think that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China,” and confirmed “their interest in the peaceful regulation of the Taiwan issue by the Chinese themselves.”

No matter how it looked on paper, this was presented as the fact that Taiwan is “ceded” to the USA. Then, almost all international sports organisations did the same.

Interestingly, the Shanghai agreement was signed in February 1972, and only then the USSR started to rename Chinese cities and settlements into the Russian language. They cited an armed conflict on Daman Island, but almost three years passed since then, and it was not renamed.

Everybody excluded Taiwan. Only FIFA tried to leave this country

Earlier, Taiwan competed in international competitions as the Chinese Republic. We cannot say it was successful — the country’s athletes had four medals at five Olympics and the fourth position of the men’s basketball team at the 1959 WC we wrote about. And these are the best accomplishments in 17 years.

But in 1974, the men and women’s volleyball teams managed to be among world championship competitors in Mexico. This was the first and last case when both WCs were held in one country. It was a tough luck that Taiwan was completely excluded and replaced by China. Moreover, team PRC that wasn’t found a substitution quickly refused to compete in the women’s tournament. The tournament included 23 teams, though Taiwan’s female volleyball players were ready but...

The Shanghai agreement got rid of Taiwan that irritated China only by the fact of its existence and name from international sport even in Asia. The volleyball players were back in continental competitions only in 1983, other sports did this later. All this resembles the recent fact of the total termination of relations between China and Lithuania after the embassy of Taiwan, not Taipei, opened there because in 1979 Taiwan was renamed as Taipei, which China was happy with and the country was allowed to return to the sports community of the Asian continent.

It is necessary to note that Taiwan started to host an international basketball tournament in 1977 calling it the William Jones Cup, who was alive then. Since the tournament itself wasn’t held under the aegis of the FIBA, the host could permit themselves to misbehave and used the name of the Chinese Republic in this competition, not Formosa or Taipei. Different national teams agreed with it and went there: Canada, Panama, France, Sweden and US university teams.

Also, Taiwan tried to find cooperation in football. And the local federation hosted its matches under the aegis of the Australia and Oceania confederation from 1980 to 1988. Indonesia and Iraq that didn’t want to meet with Israel, which as a part of the Asian confederation until 1982, were there too.

Comeback to sport only eight years later

It is interesting that at the peak of the opposition, China was a powerful but economically retarded state when its citizens had to often live in junks (local boats), while skyscrapers started to be erected in Taiwan. But what curious is that path China took where cities that would become special economic zones started to be built. For instance, the capital of the 2011 Universiade in Shenzhen started to be built in 1979, currently it is called “deep drain” as the border with Hong Kong. When Kazan was submitting its bid to host the Universiade in 2011, it seemed that Polish Poznań city would become the main rival, but it was Shenzhen that won the bid.

There was found a compromise in 1979, the Chinese Republic of Taiwan was renamed into Taipei, according to the capital of this country, which made China agree with its existence. Again, this was fixed in the signing of new agreements between China (Deng Xiaoping) and the USA (President Jim Carter) within the Law on Relations with Taiwan.

As a result, the exclusion lasted for a decade, from 1974 to 1982 when Taiwan named as Taipei not only became one of the competitors again in Asia but also held the first match with China by losing it 1-3 in the men’s volleyball tournament for the 1st-4th places.

Jaudat Abdullin

The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.