A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page a picture of the embassy of the Republic of China to the Vatican (Holy See), which got more likes and viewers than I'd expected. So I decided to write a short blog post about this, in which I will show you the location of the embassy and briefly talk about the history of the relations between the Vatican and the Republic of China.
The Vatican is the only state in Europe that still recognises the Republic of China and not the People's Republic of China. As a consequence, Rome is the only city in the world where you can walk from the embassy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the embassy of the Republic of China (ROC). The first is in Italian territory (Italy recognises the PRC but not the ROC), while the latter is in Vatican territory (the Vatican recognises the ROC, but not the PRC). Rome is the only place on earth where the ambassador of the ROC and the ambassador of the PRC could bump into each other on the street, dine in the same restaurant, or have a drink in the same club or cafe'. I was thinking that perhaps they might even make friends with each other without knowing who they really are; but given the East Asian habit of showing each other visit cards, I doubt whether this would ever happen.
The Vatican is a unique case among the world's states. It is an enclave within Rome, with no borders and no own currency (the Vatican uses the Euro). Therefore, despite having its own administration, passports, and police force, the Vatican is in all respects a piece of Rome.
Since I am in Rome now, I decided to go and take a look at the embassy of the ROC. Before going to Taiwan, I had never paid attention to it. But after living in Taiwan for a while, I was glad to see the flag of the ROC publicly displayed in my own country and in Europe. In most other cities, using the ROC flag would undoubtedly trigger official protests from Beijing.
Rome is also the only place in Europe where the President of the ROC enjoys the status of a world leader. For instance, on March 20, 2013, ROC President Ma Yingjiu (馬英九) and his wife Zhou Meiqing (周美青) attended the inauguration ceremony of Pope Francis (note). Judging by his smiles, Ma must have found pleasure in such a rare occasion, when he could be a statesman among equals and sit next to Angela Merkel or Joe Biden.
The ROC Embassy to the Holy See
Since I have got used to seeing the ROC belittled and neglected, I thought that the ROC embassy would be in some small alley, hidden from the sight of passers-by. But in fact, it is located in the very heart of Rome, in Via della Conciliazione. This monumental boulevard, built between the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1950s, is a prestigious thoroughfare that leads from the Tiber river directly to St. Peter's Square.