Jul 10, 2018

Go deeper: The list of airlines bending to China's will

A Japan airlines plane at the aiport in Haneda, Tokyo. Photo: Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Beijing first asked airlines around the world to remove references to Taiwan as an independent country from their destinations lists, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders slammed the move as "Orwellian nonsense." But a number of airline companies are buckling under Chinese pressure.

Why it matters: China is wielding its market leverage to advance its geopolitical goals — and it's working.

The stakes: In the past, China has shut down the Chinese versions of various companies’ websites, like Zara and Marriott, for refusing to wipe references to Taiwan. It threatened airlines with similar measures if they failed to comply, per Foreign Policy.

The list:

  • Air India, which is owned by the Indian government, was the latest to comply, wiping all references to Taiwan from its site and re-dubbing it "Chinese Taipei," according to Business Insider.
  • Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, both from Japan, changed "Taiwan" to "China Taiwan" on their Chinese language sites in June, though they kept "Taiwan" on other versions of their websites, reports the Japan Times.
  • Qantas Airways, Australia's largest airline by fleet size, is now referring to Taiwan as "Taiwan, China," AP reports.
  • Others: Per AP, Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines, and Philippine Airlines also made the change shortly after the Civil Aviation Authority of China ordered it in April.

What to watch: American airline companies have thus far refused to bend to Beijing's will. Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez wrote a letter of support to U.S. airline companies under pressure from China, urging them to oppose Beijing's demands.

Go deeper: China's push to erase Taiwan

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