The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a think tank linked to the Communist government, issued a report this month declaring that many of the world’s largest companies are using “incorrect labels” for Taiwan and Hong Kong, by which CASS means describing them as anything but territories of China.
The Taiwanese government vowed on Thursday to continue resisting Chinese pressure to compromise the independence of the island nation.
According to Reuters, CASS looked at the 500 largest countries in the world and deemed 66 of them have incorrectly referred to Taiwan, 53 had “errors” in their references to Hong Kong, and 45 have described both territories improperly. Companies criticized in the report spanned a number of industries, including Apple, Amazon, Nike, Siemens, and Subaru.
Fortune contacted Apple and Amazon for comment on the report, but neither company responded. The question Fortune presumably wished to ask would be whether they felt intimidated or threatened by the CASS publication, given China’s demonstrated willingness to use economic power to force foreign companies to obey its speech codes, especially on the subjects of independent and semi-autonomous regions and Chinese territorial claims.
The Taiwanese government vowed to resist Chinese pressure and urged foreign companies to follow suit, as reported by the Taipei Times on Thursday:
“As for China’s related out-of-control actions, we need to remind the international community to face this squarely and to unite efforts to reduce and contain such actions,” Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang told reporters in Taipei.
“Brutal behaviors” such as forcing the “one country, two systems” model on Taiwan, using politics to affect other nations’ economies or threatening foreign enterprises to alter references to Taiwan are all efforts by Beijing to interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations, he said.
Such actions not only risk destabilizing the international community, but could also cause the world to lose faith in and respect for China, and constitute a “blatant disruption” to the positive development of cross-strait relations, he added.
Taiwan is undoubtedly closely linked to the international community, Huang said, adding that changing its name online would not erase it from the world.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) condemned the CASS report as “outrageous” on Thursday, noting the new report is not the first time China has implicitly or directly threatened foreign companies for refusing to identify Taiwan as part of China:
These firms – which were among the world’s top 500 companies in 2017 including Apple, Nike, Amazon and Siemens – were named in The Blue Book on the Cyber Rule of Law in China 2018 as having identified Taiwan as such rather than by “Taiwan, China,” and were threatened with penalty in accordance with the law. The book was published recently by the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Internet Development Research Institution of Peking University.
Following its coercion on airlines and multinational companies in early 2018, this is a new request from China to change companies’ references to Taiwan on their websites.
MOFA strongly condemns China for its outrageous demands and urges China to refrain from further actions to avoid harming the feelings of the Taiwanese people and the amicable development of cross-strait relations.
China’s moves to impose its executive and judicial jurisdiction as well as political ideology on foreign companies not only expose its malicious intent in using political tactics to interfere with private enterprises, but also violate the spirit of free international commerce.
MOFA once again calls on the international community not to remain silent and accommodating in order to prevent the Chinese government from intensifying its intimidations. MOFA also calls on related countries to take stock of China’s bullying measures and take necessary steps to assist these companies refuse China’s unreasonable demands.
No details were provided of precisely how CASS thinks each of the listed companies referred to Taiwan or Hong Kong “incorrectly.” As the Taipei Times pointed out, the report has not been formally published yet and CASS refused to give Reuters a copy. Coverage of the CASS report is based entirely on an article in the Legal Daily, a paper run by the Chinese government. Needless to say, there would be no leaks about the work of a state-linked think tank in a state-run newspaper unless Beijing wanted those details publicized.
CASS is not merely the recipient of some grants from the Chinese Communist government. The South China Morning Post described it as “a ministerial-level research institution that covers issues from border disputes to international trade policy” and “advises top leadership” in a September 2017 report about a new branch office of the organization opening in Hong Kong.
“CASS can play a significant role in policymaking if it is authorized by the government to take on special research projects. Every mainland Chinese province and municipality, as well as some big cities, has a CASS branch,” the SCMP noted.