his week, Air India became the latest international airline to kowtow to the Chinese government, changing the name of Taiwan on its website to “Chinese Taipei.”
Back in April, the Civil Aviation Authority of China sent out a notice to 44 foreign 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. In the two months since that notice was distributed, dozens of airlines have complied with China’s order.
Last month, Tridivesh Singh Maini, an Indian researcher at O. P. Jindal Global University, told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that Air India would not be one of the airlines to cave in, explaining that unless China recognizes the “one India policy” — or, in other words, renounces its claims to disputed border territory already claimed by India — then Air India would have no reason to pay heed to the “one China policy.”
Turns out, he was wrong.
An Air India representative said that the company had updated Taiwan’s name on its website after being advised by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). “Air India’s decision to rename the destination of Taiwan as Chinese Taipei is entirely consistent with international norms, and our own position on Taiwan since 1949,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Indeed, India was one of the first nations to recognize the People’s Republic of China, establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing on January 1st, 1950, becoming the first non-communist country to do so.
News of Air India’s betrayal has been met with outrage and disappointment by Taiwanese officials. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (TECC), Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in India, denounced the airline for “succumbing to the unreasonable and absurd pressure from China.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has apparently had enough of being pushed around by China, blowing off some serious steam in a Twitter barrage directed at the state-run People’s Daily.
Shame @PDChina! Authoritarian #China bullies @airindiain into changing #Taiwan’s designation & you use Twitter to trumpet the "victory." How ironic Twitter is behind the #GreatFirewall, but privilege allows you full access. Don't fear freedom & democracy. TEAR DOWN THIS WALL! https://t.co/sP7scAA0Ni
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) July 5, 2018
On the other side of the strait, China’s foreign ministry welcomed Air India’s move. “Respecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abiding by Chinese laws and respecting the feelings of the Chinese people are basic rules to follow for any foreign company operating in China,” said ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
In its April notice to the 44 foreign airlines, China’s aviation authority gave the companies until May 25th to comply with the order. In May, it announced that 18 airlines had “corrected” their websites, while the other 26 had asked for extensions.
Airlines that have kowtowed under pressure from Beijing include Lufthansa, Air Canada, and Qantas. Most of the airlines that still fly to “Taiwan” are based in the United States, the White House has labeled China’s request “Orwellian nonsense.”