- China has granted a number of airlines, including United Airlines and Qantas, an extension to mid-2018 to change references to Taiwan on their websites.
- Last month, China sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines demanding they stop listing Taiwan as a country by May 25.
- On the same day as the deadline, Business Insider noticed Air France became the latest airline to change its reference of Taiwan from a country to a province of China, which is China’s preferred description.
- China has ramped up its territorial claim in 2018 by targeting how Taiwan is described by foreign companies including airlines.
- Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, British Airways, Malaysian Airlines, and Air Canada have all changed references to Taiwan this year.
Air France has become the latest major airline to change how it refers to Taiwan as a Friday deadline imposed by China was extended until mid-2018.
Last month, China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines demanding they stop referring to Taiwan as a country on their websites by May 25. The US State Department told Business Insider it raised “strong concerns” with Beijing over the letter, and the White House deemed the situation “Orwellian nonsense.”
But with China being a crucial market in Asia, the US government’s position didn’t stop a number of airlines acquiescing to China’s demands. Business Insider discovered Malaysian Airlines changed its reference to Taiwan last week, as did Air Canada, Finnair, and a number of smaller airlines.
And on Friday, the initial deadline given by China’s CAA, Business Insider noticed Air France had also changed it’s listing from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan – China,” one of China’s preferred descriptions.
It’s a surprising move from Air France, which flew its first code-share flight between Taipei and Paris with Taiwan’s China Airlines on April 16.
And earlier this month French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking alongside Australia’s prime minister, said it was important for the Asia Pacific to “not have any hegemony in the region,” a not-so-subtle hint towards China’s recent overtures.
The timing of Air France’s change is particularly interesting as a number of airlines have received an extension to update their websites until mid-year.
United Airlines, a major player on the US-China route, confirmed to Business Insider on Friday it has received an extension.
Qantas, which received the CAA letter in April, was also granted more time.
“We made adjustments to our websites earlier this year and, along with various other airlines worldwide, have been given additional time to further clarify how we refer to Chinese territories,” the spokesperson said.
It is likely a number of other airlines received an extension, but American Airlines, which received the initial CAA letter, declined to comment.
Taiwan is a self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing considers to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified – by force, if necessary. China frequently seeks to assert its claim to Taiwan on the global stage.
This year has seen China ramp up its political efforts against foreign companies’ descriptions of China.
For omitting China’s claim over Taiwan, hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week, fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report, and retailer Gap apologised for selling a T-shirt with an “incorrect” map of China. Just yesterday it emerged that Japanese retailer Muji was fined $US31,000 for importing hangers that listed Taiwan as the country of origin.
But airlines have received the brunt of China’s attention.
In January, Delta Air Lines was censured the CAA for listing Taiwan as a country on its website.
Lufthansa since changed its website to list “Taiwan, China” telling Business Insider it takes “customs of the international clientele into consideration.” British Airways also made a switch, settling on “Taiwan – China,” though the airline did not rule out further changes in comments made to Business Insider.