Why is it a big deal for Taiwan to be listed under China?

Unlike Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan has never formally declared independence from mainland China. Source: Shutterstock.

SEVERAL MAJOR AIRLINES have been listing Taiwan as a separate country and China is not happy.

In recent times, Beijing has been sending letters to airline companies, even those halfway across the world, demanding that any references to Taiwan as a country independent from China to be removed.

The self-ruled island of Taiwan is not alone, of course. The demands also include Hong Kong and Macau.

Airlines were required to remove the references on their website and in other material.

British Airways has since corrected the “error” on its website. Source: British Airways.

In a sharp criticism of China’s efforts to force foreign airline companies to make the changes, The White House slammed China’s “political correctness”, calling it “Orwellian nonsense”.

The White House confirmed China’s Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to 36 foreign air carriers, including a number of US carriers, demanding changes.

“China’s internal Internet repression is world-famous. China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted,” The White House wrote in a statement.

“We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens,” it added.

Some international airline companies have succumbed to the pressures of the Chinese government. Source: Shutterstock.

The airline companies that have fallen into the grip of Beijing’s mounting pressure include United Airlines, American Airlines, Qantas Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air Canada, just to name a few.

“The strongly worded letter demands that all public-facing content, across the world, must follow ‘Chinese law’,” Foreign Policy quoted a source as saying.

“It gives the airlines a set timeline to comply with the demands, threatening that if not obeyed, the matter will be referred to ‘the relevant cyber-security authorities’ for punishment.”

Why is it such a big deal to China?

It’s a complex political situation that dates back to the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

For the uninitiated, unlike Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan has never formally declared independence from the mainland.

Hence, China sees democratic Taiwan as a renegade part of its territory that needs to be brought back, even if it means doing everything in their power, including using brute force.

China believes that the breakaway province will eventually be a part of the mainland again, but the Taiwanese want a separate nation.

Despite China’s meddling and the countries’ complex political situation, Taiwan has become one of Asia’s big traders. Source: Shutterstock.

The mainland meddles with the official relations that Taiwan has with nations, insisting that they cannot have relations with both China and Taiwan. As such, Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with only a few countries.

“The US is Taiwan’s most important friend and protector,” BBC wrote.

Are airlines the only companies affected?

Not at all.

In January, the Marriott International hotel chain was made to apologize after China’s Cyberspace Administration, the internet watchdogs, shut down its website after the hotelier “seriously violated national laws and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”.

This was due to an online survey that had listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as separate countries.

The administration ordered Marriott’s website and booking applications to close for a week.

The “offending” Gap T-shirt was not even sold in China. Source: Gapfactory.com.

Other foreign firms that have recently stepped on China’s tail include US clothing retailer Gap for failing to show a “the correct map of China” on a T-shirt that was for sale in North America.

The map showed China without including Taiwan, “Southern Tibet”, and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. This drew the ire of some Chinese netizens.

Although the T-shirt was not for sale in China, Gap apologized anyway.

How has Taiwan responded?

Meanwhile, Taiwan has shown that it isn’t taking this sitting down.

Two weeks ago, the Taiwanese foreign ministry asked Air Canada to “speedy correction” following the airline’s decision to list Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, as a part of China on its booking website.

“We strongly object to China’s efforts to bully, coerce, and threaten their way to achieving their political objectives,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“We call on all countries around the world to stand together to uphold the freedom of speech and freedom to do business. We also call on private firms to collectively reject China’s unreasonable demands to change their designation of ‘Taiwan’ to ‘Taiwan, China.'”