Under the “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province of China that the country constantly seeks to reunify. China’s adamant stance and increasingly assertive claim to Taiwan has taken onto the global stage. To prevent international recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty, China has demanded countries to cut off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Now, China is exerting their influence over foreign airlines on how Taiwan should not be listed as a country.
On April 25, the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) of China ordered a number of international airlines, including several from the US, to change how Taiwan is described on their websites and promotional material. Most foreign airlines have received a private letter from the Chinese authorities in Beijing to amend their listing of Taiwan as a ‘country’.
Responses from the airlines have been rather polarised. Some of the airlines that have changed their listing of Taiwan as a region, include German airline Lufthansa, Malaysian Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.
A relatively higher count of airlines have retained their listing of Taiwan as a country, including Singapore airlines, Air France, Air Canada and Emirates. Some airlines have also more openly expressed their dissent on China’s assertions. The US State Department confirmed to Business Insider airlines received the letter from CAA and raised “strong concerns” with Chinese authorities in Beijing about the order.
“Regarding websites, we object to Beijing dictating how U.S. firms, including airlines, organize their websites for ease of consumer use. Chinese companies’ websites operate freely and without political interference in the United States,” a State Department official reportedly said.
The US agency also states that it will take “appropriate action if necessary in response to unfair Chinese actions.”
The aggressive territorial claims of China has became a confusing and diplomatically-fraught aspect of several foreign companies since before. International hotel chain Marriott being placed in a difficult position just earlier this year due to their listing of Taiwan and Hong Kong as a ‘country’ on their website. Other international companies such as Zara and Qantas was also publicly called out by the Chinese authorities. These companies have then fixed this ‘error’ in a routine website maintenance.
The most intriguing stance might be that of Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific, that has chosen to list Taiwan as a ‘country/region’ while maintaining a seemingly neutral stance on the matter. This highlights the degree of caution that companies have to thread on with China’s sensitivities on territorial claims.
Hopefully, this conflict will not carry over to problems with the airline flights.