After holding out until almost literally the 11th hour, the big three U.S. airlines capitulated on Wednesday to China’s demand that they change website references to Hong Kong, Macau, and especially Taiwan to portray them as part of China.
Beijing is not satisfied, however, as the Civil Aviation Administration of China deemed compliance by American, Delta, United, and smaller Hawaiian Airlines “incomplete.”
Reuters reports that the CAAC received both “rectification reports” and requests from the four U.S. carriers for a two-week extension to the deadline, which came down on Wednesday after being delayed several times.
“The aviation regulator did not say in what way the amendments by the four airlines were incomplete,” Reuters observed.
It is not hard to guess, based on reports from Wednesday morning when the media noticed changes to the airline websites. In some cases, the Chinese versions of the websites differed slightly from the English versions. More likely to irk the Chinese regulators is the way some of the airlines changed their listings to Taiwan’s capital of Taipei so that it appeared to be a city without a country, rather than saying something like “Taipei, China” as most foreign airlines have started doing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry initially seemed to accept the changes made by U.S. carriers, prompting American Airlines CEO Doug Parker to boast his company had come up with a “nice solution” to the problem. The Chinese aviation regulator seems to have decided it was not such a nice solution after all.
“We will remain in close consultation with the U.S. Government throughout this process,” Delta said on Thursday in response to Beijing’s warning about incomplete compliance.
According to the CAAC, the four American carriers are the only international carriers that have not made satisfactory changes to their websites.
Taiwanese media on Thursday quoted several U.S. senators and congressional representatives denouncing China’s bullying and worrying about the precedent that would be set by capitulation.
“It’s disappointing that American Airlines, Delta, and United complied with this ultimatum, but the Chinese Communist Party’s obsession with Taiwan—the only democracy on Chinese soil—is pathetic,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR).
“U.S. airlines caving to China’s pressure on Taiwan is another bad precedent that will only encourage more bullying, undermining of liberal values, and attempts to mold the world in Beijing’s malignant image. We must all stand up to China, stop caving, and protect our way of life,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
“An edit to a website won’t change the fact that Taiwan exists and is an important U.S. ally. We must continue to stand up to China and their bullying tactics,” said Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA).
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said it was “unacceptable that China is forcing U.S. business to become Communist Party mouthpieces.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said United, Delta, and American Airlines are “bowing to China” by erasing references to Taiwan from their websites.