US Airlines give in to Chinese demands over Taiwan

EVA Air is one of Taiwan’s premier airlines

In 1949 the Chinese communists routed the republican nationalist Chinese forces which fled to the formerly Japanese occupied island of Formosa, now called Taiwan.

Without a naval capacity, China was never able to invade the island and it fell under US protection. It remained as the official recognised government of China at the UN until President Nixon upturned the status quo in 1972, recognised the Chinese in Beijing and withdrew diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

China considers it a rebel province and slowly managed to persuade all but 14 countries so far, to stop recognising its independence.

The campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically is one China has worked on relentlessly for 80 years and 2018 has been a peak. The latest offensive has been against airlines who refer in any way to Taiwan as independent.

Airlines have been told in no uncertain terms than unless they refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” they will face the withdrawal of flying rights to the mainland.

Some airlines bristled at this but most quickly agreed, modifying their ticketing and websites. Except the Americans who didn’t like the implications nor being told what to do.

The US is legally obligated to defend Taiwan under a 1979 law, passed by Congress, and any move seen as acquiescence to Chinese demands is viewed as weakening that commitment- which is exactly what the Chinese want to see.

US airlines were faced with an ultimatum in effect that would see their rights to fly to mainland China curtailed over a website wording. So a fudge has been agreed with Taiwan, and the State Department.

US airlines will name destinations in Taiwan by the city, not saying which country it’s in. Taipei, Taiwan will become simply Taipei, not as the Chinese would prefer it, Taipei, China or Taipei, Taiwan, CN.

It all sounds ridiculously petty – but in the current climate of pointless trade wars and tariffs it’s just another way China demonstrates its power and control have grown significantly, and there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

Once again, airlines and politics mix – often over innocuous but never the less important symbolic issues that piece by piece change the power of one nation over another.

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