Airlines Bow to Beijing Pressure, Pretend Taiwan Doesn't Exist
By Don Feder
August 6, 2018
When is comes to Taiwan, China can only be described as delusional. Unfortunately, through threats and bribes, it often coerces others into affirming its delusions.
It regularly finds new and exotic ways to make foreigners pretend that Taiwan is part of China, instead of a sovereign state located across the Taiwan Strait from the Mainland.
Now it's forced some international airlines to change the designation of Taiwan on their websites to promote the fantasy. The airlines (steadfast only in demanding subsidies) fell in line, rather than incur unspecified penalties. As Big Brother said in the novel "1984" – "Good behavior will be rewarded. Bad behavior will be punished."
Last week, American Airlines, United and Delta deleted references to Taiwan which might lead the unsuspecting traveler to assume that he was going to a country, instead of a province of the People's Republic.
If you travel with one of these carriers – and others like British Airways and Lufthansa – you may go to "Taiwan, China" or the "Taiwan Region of China," (the PRC's preferred designations for the nation it claims to rule). You can't simply go to Taiwan, or the Republic of China or Taipei, which has morphed into "Taipei, China."
On April 25th, the Civil Aviation Administration of China demanded that 44 corporations stop referring to Taiwan as a country. They were given until July 25 to comply.
And comply they did, rather than risk being excluded from a huge and growing market.
Instead of acknowledging that it was kowtowing to Beijing, American tried to save face with a rationalization so flimsy that's it's almost transparent. A spokesman explained that it was "implementing changes at China's request," and "Air travel is a global business, and we abide by the rules of the countries where we operate" - which sounds a lot better than saying, "China tells us to jump, and we ask how high."
What if Arab states demanded that international airlines stopped using the name Israel? Most of them claim that Israel doesn't exist, and the area between the Mediterranean Sea and River Jordan is part of the Arab World. Would the airlines accede to that too?
Or, say Massachusetts suddenly decided that New Hampshire is part of the Bay State and demanded that airlines refer to our neighbor to the North as New Hampshire County, State of Massachusetts, as the price of using Boston's Logan Airport. Would that fly too?
With every victory, Beijing becomes more intoxicated with its ability to intimidate and manipulate. Only a handful of countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan – an economic powerhouse and democratic success story. China has managed to exclude Taiwan from the United Nations, World Health Organization and similar bodies, even as observers.
As far as the international community is concerned, Taiwan is the little country that isn't there. Willingly, they subscribe to the absurdity that Taiwan is part of China.
In reality, over the past 125 years, Taiwan was governed by the Mainland for roughly five years – from the end of World War II until the end of China's Civil War (1949).
It was never ruled by the communist regime known as the People's Republic of China – not for a single, solitary day. Taiwan's capital is Taipei, not Beijing. Its president and legislature are elected democratically, not appointed by the Chinese Communist Party. Its people are among the freest in Asia, not the subjects of a totalitarian state.
In April, the White House called Beijing's demand that the airlines follow party line "Orwellian nonsense."
George Orwell's "1984" – which came to symbolize the mind-control of totalitarian states – was first published on June 8, 1949. Four months later, on October 1, the People Republic of China was proclaimed.
"1984" gave us the word "newspeak" – self-contradictory slogans meant to control thought, like, "War is Peace," "Hate is Love, "Slavery is Freedom" – or "Taiwan is China."
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains a Facebook page.