Why Do Articles About Taiwan Use So Many Scare Quotes?

January 1, 2022

Scare quotes — aka sneer quotes or quibble marks — are quotation marks surrounding words of phrases to indicate non-standard word usage. Writers use the marks to signpost irony, doubt, skepticism, or disagreement. They allow writers to express distance between the word or phrase and the author of the text.

Chinese media use scare quotes to minimize and invalidate Taiwan’s democratic government. Scare quotes regularly enclose the names of Taiwan government agencies, as well as the titles of government officials. They also enclose any concepts deemed supportive of Taiwan as a sovereign country. In fact, the PRC government mandates scare quotes around some words or phrases, in particular ones that reference territory, sovereignty, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.