Planet China

Getting carried away

Should the naming of government ships be left to the general public? Not in the UK, it seems, where an online campaign asked citizens to propose the name of a £200 million polar research vessel. It didn’t seem like such a good idea when ‘Boaty McBoatface’ was the runaway winner (in fourth place was ‘It’s Bloody Cold Here’). The campaign organisers called for calm, choosing the more respectable fifth-ranked choice ‘Sir David Attenborough’ instead.

There’s a similar situation developing in China this month involving the country’s first self-developed aircraft carrier. Speculation is rife the carrier will be launched in Dalian on Tuesday (not an outlandish guess as it is Chinese Navy Day and images have leaked of a special commemorative postage stamp with that date). Amid the patriotic mood the launch has prompted, an online poll held by which asked netizens to choose their preferred name for the vessel. The choices were a bit more serious than Boaty McBoatface. But the winning choice was highly political – 111,160 votes for ‘Taiwan’ earned 38% of the online ballots.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade province (many on the self-governing island take a different view) and the call from netizens touches on the sovereignty question. Irritated Taiwanese scoffed at the proposed name for the vessel, however, with one posting: “We are precisely the aircraft carrier that cannot sink – Taiwan, one and only, no one else.”

In fact, the name for the carrier looks likely to be less jingoistic than the voters would like, with ‘Shandong’ seen as a favourite. China’s first carrier – purchased from Ukraine and then refitted – is called the ‘Liaoning’.

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