Tara Francis Chan, Business Insider, 2 May 2018
China is pressuring airlines around the world to toe its political line.
- China has sent letters to Qantas, American Airlines, and reportedly United Airlines to warn them against referring to Taiwan as a country.
- The letter from China’s Civil Aviation Authority says the companies will be referred to “the relevant cyber-security authorities” if they do not comply.
- Taiwan is a self-ruled democratic island that China considers one of its provinces.
- Zara and Marriott experienced the same issues earlier this year, with the hotel chain forced to shut down its app and website for a week as financial punishment.
Qantas and American Airlines have confirmed they recently received a letter from China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) warning them to follow China’s laws and change references to Taiwan as a country to a province of China. Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as the democratic island is self-ruled, but Beijing considers it to be a province of China.
The letter, according to Foreign Policy, was also received by United Airlines and said the companies would be referred to “the relevant cyber-security authorities” if they did not undertake the change.
Qantas confirmed to Business Insider it also received the CAA letter.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the correspondence was sent last month and requested changes to mentions of Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau which are both Special Administrative Regions of China.
Business Insider reviewed Qantas’ webpage at 10.30pm on Wednesday and found Taiwan was indeed listed as a country.
Earlier this year, the CAA demanded Delta Air Lines issue a public apology for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The airline responded and said it had made a “grave mistake”.
Around the same time during a regular review of its site, Qantas found a similar “oversight” that listed some Chinese territories as countries.
“We are correcting this error,” a Qantas spokesperson told Business Insider.
It is currently unknown whether Qantas ever corrected this “error”, if it was only changed on some areas of its site, or if the regions were changed to territories of China and then back again.
But not complying with China’s laws concerning its territories can have huge financial repercussions.
Marriott was ordered to shut down its app and website for a week in January for sending an email that listed Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as countries.
Part of China’s motive is to ensure international recognition for Taiwan doesn’t grow. Because as more companies and countries officially recognise the democratic island as its own country, China’s claim to rule diminishes.
Just yesterday China snapped up one of Taiwan’s largest diplomatic allies. The Dominican Republic cut ties to Taiwan in favour of establishing a formal relationship with China.
Taipei warned that the move was another example of China’s “dollar diplomacy”, luring the island’s allies with promises of billions in aid and loans. Only 19 countries now hold diplomatic relations with Taiwan.