By Hu Young-sup
Immediately after the globe first appeared in March, however, it sparked conflicts between LSE students from China and Taiwan. Taiwan was painted pink while China was yellow. Of course, they were labeled "Rep. China (Taiwan)" and "China (People's Republic)," respectively, as they are called internationally. And the sculptor did not forget to put an asterisk beside Taiwan, meaning it is subject to a territorial dispute. Little had the school authorities thought the representation would cause quarrels among students until they unveiled it.
At first, Chinese students attending LSE took issue with the different colors of Taiwan and China. Their complaints were not about specific colors but the fact that their colors were different. The Chinese students claimed the two countries must be painted with the same color, as they are one nation under Beijing's "One country, two systems" principle.
As the school authorities showed signs of accepting the Chinese students' demand, Taiwanese students submitted a petition that the different colors were correct as the two countries are separate and sovereign. The school authorities would be to blame if they decided to change Taiwan's pink color to China's yellow. They demanded the original design of the globe be kept.
It seemed as if the students from China and Taiwan were staging a proxy war on behalf of their countries. Although it might have been a trivial issue to most other students, it was a crucial matter related to national identity for the two groups. One could even say the cross-strait conflict had changed its arena halfway across the world to the capital city of Great Britain.
The LSE leadership worried about how to resolve the problem. The school briefly considered changing the colors but eventually decided to keep its original condition. Then it posted its conclusion on a placard and put it beside the artwork.
"LSE is a place where people with different perspectives engage in respectful debate about major issues for the world," the placard says. That means problems may arise among individuals and countries in the world, but most of them can be settled with peaceful debate. More importantly, the placard emphasizes that universities must be sites for fostering the minds of intellectuals needed for world peace.
Coincidence or not, Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent Taiwanese president, is an LSE alumnus who earned a Ph.D. in law in 1993.
New visitors to LSE campus may or may not know about the brief conflict between Taiwanese and Chinese students when they see Mark Wallinger's globe.
International politics aside, I found different colors more natural because they represent the freedom of thought and expression, as well as the spirit of tolerance, telling students to accept others' ways of thinking not just within the campus but outside of it.
Hu Young-sup is a columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.