This week, Air Canada became the latest airline to kowtow to the Chinese government and begin listing Taiwan as part of China.
Those searching on the carrier’s website for a flight to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport will now find that the airport is listed as being located in “Taipei, CN.”As you’d expect, the Taiwanese government isn’t pleased with this change. Earlier today, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had lodged a protest against the airline through its economic and cultural office, asking for an immediate correction to be made to address this issue — but we wouldn’t suggest that they hold their breath.
Here’s what MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee had to say about Air Canada’s decision and the forces behind it:
As a sovereign state, Taiwan has reached remarkable achievements in democracy, liberty, human rights, and legal governance, and has been widely recognized by international society. Any means taken by Chinese government to threaten and intimidate foreign companies to honor its absurd request will not alter the objective fact that Taiwan is acting as a sovereign state, but even worse will arouse Taiwanese people’s resentment of Chinese government.
The way that Taiwan is referred to on corporate websites suddenly became a major international issue in January after the global hotel chain Marriott was found to have listed Taiwan, along with Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau, as separate “countries” on a customer survey, resulting in the brand being forced to suspend its website and app in China for one week and issue a groveling apology for hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.
Soon, a number of other international companies, including Delta and Qantas, were also exposed for having listed Taiwan as a separate “country” on their websites, attracting the attention and anger of China’s army of internet warriors.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China sent out a notice last month to 36 international airlines demanding that they remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials that suggest that Taiwan is a country separate from China.
Last week, the White House responded to this request by calling it “Orwellian nonsense,” however, a number of airlines have already acceded to China’s demands, “nonsensical” or not. While Lufthansa used to refer to Taiwan as simply “Taiwan,” in March that was changed to “Taiwan, China.”
And it’s not only foreign airlines that have been bending over to pressure applied by China. This week, American retailer Gap issued an apology over a t-shirt design which featured a map of China that did not include Taiwan. The shirt had been spotted by an outraged shopper in Canada before making its way to the Chinese internet.
At around the same time, an Australian mayor revealed that a Chinese vice consul was behind a local regional council’s decision to erase some Taiwanese flag artwork that had been painted by a pair of high-school kids on a public statue of a bull ahead of a major beef expo.
In fact, oddly enough, the only entity that has garnered a reputation recently for standing up to Chinese pressure and censorship is Eurovision, which cut ties with a popular Chinese online streaming platform last week after the channel censored a performance which featured a pair of male dancers acting out a gay love story.
This might seem trite, might seem semantics. Gap clothing, Mercedes, United, Air Canada (per @nvanderklippe) – all caving to China on Taiwan. And the ONLY organization that has stood up against China in the past few weeks has been EUROVISION?! What madness is this.
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) May 15, 2018