Taiwan Plans to Push Back on Airlines for Saying It’s Part of China

Aug 6, 2018

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Aviation officials in Taiwan are examining ways to target international airlines that recently buckled to pressure from Beijing to call the self-ruled island a territory of China on their websites.

The island’s transportation ministry is brainstorming measures to push back at the 44 airlines around the world that now say Taiwan is part of China, in response to letters from Chinese officials that demanded the international carriers change the Taiwan references on their websites or face possible sanctions on their business in China’s booming aviation market. The White House called the mandate from Beijing “Orwellian nonsense” in May, but the four US airlines that were targeted have begun the process of changing the references.

Local media reports that Taiwan’s aviation officials are considering retaliatory measures for the airlines, such as not allowing them to use boarding bridges or changing their takeoff and landing slots. Officials could also potentially offer incentives — like lower landing fees and facility charges — for airlines that change online references to the island to more neutral language.

The countermeasures would be Taiwan’s first official response to Beijing’s demands, which damage the island’s sovereignty, Taiwan’s Deputy Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai told Bloomberg on Monday. The mandate sought to change all online references of Taiwan to “Taiwan, China” or something similar. The US carriers tried to skirt the request by only referring to cities within Taiwan without mentioning the country (i.e. “Taipei” instead of “Taipei, Taiwan”), but Chinese aviation officials say this is incomplete and wants to see the full changes by Thursday.

Taiwan broke away from China in a civil war in 1949, but Beijing has continuously laid a claim on the island.

Featured image by Nicholas Han, Getty Images.

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