TAIWAN President Ma Ying-jeou has vowed to promote traditional Chinese characters, which are threatened by the increasingly popular simplified system launched by Beijing over 50 years ago.
China was awarded a seat at the United Nations in 1971 and, since then, the simplified Chinese-character system has been used by the New York-headquartered body.
Mr Ma said he was afraid that the traditional system, which he said was a "beautiful language" that has documented China's history for more than 3,000 years, was giving way to the simplified one.
"Only about 40 million people in the world, mostly in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are using traditional Chinese characters," Mr Ma said while addressing hundreds of Chinese-language experts at a seminar in Taipei last Saturday, according to a statement published on the presidential-office website.
"The number accounts for a marginal one-33rd of the number of people using the simplified system," he said.
Mr Ma added that he had ordered the government to set up a special committee to press the UN to place the traditional Chinese characters on its world cultural-heritage list.
The Chinese communist government launched the simplified system in 1956, hoping that the reduced strokes of the Chinese characters would help boost literacy, especially in rural areas.
But some Sinologists have criticised it, saying that people taught with the system cannot read books written with traditional characters, cutting mainland Chinese off from thousands of years of cultural heritage.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.