War of the Romanizations

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Taiwan is pushing forward with its own system of romanized Mandarin Chinese–a move seen by many as another attempt to distance itself from mainland China. By the end of this year, the romanized spelling of places in Taiwan must be changed to Taiwan’s Tongyong Pinyin (通用拼音), instead of Hanyu Pinyin (汉语拼音), the mainland Chinese system which was recognized by the United Nations in 1977 as the standard phonetic system for Mandarin Chinese. Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officially approved Tongyong in 2002, but did not strictly enforce its use due to resistance from many leaders such as Ma Ying-jeou, former mayor of Taipei, who said Tongyong would “marginalize” Taiwan. International visitors and residents of Taiwan have long been confused by spellings such as Chunghsiao (Wade-Giles), Zhongxiao (Hanyu Pinyin) and Jhongsiao (Tongyong Pinyin), which all refer to the same place. Comparing Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin, you’ll find that not much has changed, but there are certain key differences, such as Qi (Pinyin) verses Ci (Tongyong), Zha verses Jha and Xu verses Syu. As if Chinese wasn’t hard enough to learn!