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Four U.S. Airlines Face August 8 Deadline to Comply with China’s Demands on Taiwan

Beijing hailed 'positive steps' as major US airlines and Hong Kong's flag carrier moved to comply on July 25 with its demand to list Taiwan as part of China, sparking anger on the island.
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images
KRISTINA WONG

Four U.S. airline companies that partially caved to Beijing’s demands on identifying Taiwan on their websites have requested an extension as they consider further bowing to pressure.

Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines have requested an extension of a deadline given to them by China to change their descriptions of Taiwan on their websites to August 8.

China’s civil aviation regulator demanded earlier this year that 44 international airlines change the way they reference Taiwan on their websites, arguing that Taiwan is not a separate country, but a breakaway province of China and should be described as such.

Forty airlines complied by the July 25 deadline, while the four U.S. airlines only partially complied by changing Taipei, Taiwan to only “Taipei” with no country listed.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said the four airlines submitted “rectification reports” and sought a two-week extension for website audits, according to Reuters.

At least two of the four airlines have indicated they will fully comply with China’s demands.

“United Airlines has begun to roll out changes to its systems to address China’s requirements. United abides by and respects local laws and regulations in all markets and jurisdictions where we operate and conduct business. United flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will continue to operate normally,” said a United Airlines spokesman.

Delta said in a statement, “U.S. carriers including Delta are in the process of implementing website changes in response to the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s request, and we will remain in close consultation with the U.S. Government throughout this process.”

The White House has slammed China’s request as “Orweillian nonsense.” Taiwanese leaders praised that response, saying they have never heard that terminology from the White House.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) warned that American companies should not give in to Chinese bullying: “It will only whet Beijing’s appetite and threaten the peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

China has stepped up its efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and internationally, since the election of Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in May 2016. The DPP believes Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country. China, meanwhile, has a goal of reunification by 2049.

Earlier this year, China successfully pressured Burkina Faso to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and last year pressured five countries to change the name of their unofficial Taiwanese embassies in their countries and move them outside of their capitals.

China also successfully pressured the World Health Organization to block Taiwan from attending a yearly conference in Geneva on improving global health, despite Taiwan being a major transit hub in East Asia.

China’s military has also started to conduct regular exercises encircling Taiwan, against Taiwanese and U.S. opposition.

And China has pressured American firms such as Marriott, Zara, and Gap to delete references to Taiwan as a country. Gap even pulled a t-shirt from its stores that had a map of China without Taiwan, issuing an apology for offending Beijing.

Gap said it was “extremely sorry” for the shirt’s “erroneous” design, according to the New York Times. Gap opened its first store in China in 2010.

The U.S. acknowledges China’s position on Taiwan, but does not take a stance on Taiwan’s status. It does, however, maintain a large unofficial embassy in Taiwan, and provides it with defense equipment.

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