The U.K.’s top representative in Taiwan has dropped the Chinese name he took in Beijing and switched to a new one closer to the local culture of the self-ruled island that is claimed by mainland China.
British Office Taipei Representative John Dennis used to use a Chinese name “Deng Qiang,” which meant “strong,” when he was stationed in Beijing. After several stints away from Greater China, he moved to Taiwan in January, taking a new name “Deng Yuan-han,” which has a given name more commonly used in Taiwan.
It is customary for foreigners working in Greater China to take a second name in Chinese as a sign of courtesy and which is more easily pronounced in introductions with non-English speakers. As is also customary, the new name was suggested by staff members of his office. He had asked them to think of a new name because he trusted them, he said.
Employees whose mother tongue was Chinese came up with 12 options, which were all related to his name or his role. When employees voted to pick the top three names, Dennis chose the one with the highest number of votes.
Deng Qiang did not sound related to his work in London and Africa after his tours in Beijing, and did not feel close to his character, so he had not been using it for years, Dennis said.
He wanted to use a name that was closer to Taiwan’s culture and would be liked by the island’s people, he said. He kept the surname Deng because it was close to his own in English, and Yuan-han sounded more like himself, he said.
Dennis joined the foreign office in 1981, and was Second Secretary (Political) in Beijing between 1985 and 1987, and Minister and Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing between 2003 and 2006. Before Taiwan, he was ambassador to Angola as well as São Tomé and Príncipe.
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