U.S. Airlines Cave on China’s Demands to Rename Taiwan on Websites

Four U.S. airlines renamed “Taiwan” in compliance with China’s mandate to reflect its rule over the island or risk unpleasant repercussions.

The affected carriers reportedly include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

All four companies applied changes before July 25, the deadline set by Beijing, and now only list names of Taiwanese cities and/or their airport codes.

In April, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) sent letters to 36 foreign airlines with the request to follow its standard of describing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as Chinese territories. Deferral would reportedly be subject to punishments from “relevant cyber-security authorities.”

Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Air India are some carriers that already complied with China’s mandate.

The White House has since described the mandate as a move by the Communist Party to impose its views, slamming it as “Orwellian nonsense.”

“We would oppose a government’s demand on private corporations that private corporations label something the way that the government demands it to do that,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Taiwanese destinations on American Airlines’ website

Airlines in the U.S. initially sought to negotiate resolutions, but China rejected requests for such talks.

“Like other carriers, American [Airlines] is implementing changes to address China’s request,” said spokeswoman Shannon Gilson. “Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate.”

Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, shared the same sentiment to Bloomberg:

“We’re a business with significant international activities and we need to deal with regulations in all of those jurisdictions. And obviously sometimes that can put us in challenging positions in one jurisdiction versus another.”

Taiwanese destinations on Delta Air Lines’ website

China maintained that it welcomes foreign businesses as long as they comply with Chinese laws. Reuters quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang as saying:

“China is willing to share China’s development opportunities with foreign companies and welcomes them to invest in and operate in China.

“Of course we hope that when they operate in China they respect China’s laws and rules, China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the feelings of the Chinese people.”

Image via Flickr / Eric Salard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The developments have naturally displeased Taiwan, which claimed that the Chinese government is using its political power to “crudely and unreasonably interfere with private commercial activity and international companies’ operations.”

Lishan Chang, spokesperson for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, said in a statement via the Washington Post:

“Taiwan is Taiwan. It does not fall under the jurisdiction of China’s government. Taiwan is a democratic nation whose achievements in freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law have won international recognition and are the envy of the people of China, who have no political freedom.”

Feature Image (Left) (Cropped) via  Flickr / Alan Wilson (CC BY-SA 2.0), (Right) United Airlines

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