United Airlines Creative Way To Fool The Chinese About “One China Policy” Has Failed

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Aug 30 2018
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As mainland China becomes richer and more powerful, the nation demands recognition to be known as the only country of China, hence the “One China Policy”. They would get pretty mad when being pointed out that there’s another China – the Republic of China (Taiwan). They want the world to finally recognise there’s only one China, and it’s People’s Republic of China.


The PRC (China) and ROC (Taiwan) have been fighting tooth and nail to use the official name of China. Most often than not, China would use its financial muscle to persuade countries to switch recognition. About a week ago on Aug 21, El Salvador severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established ties with China.


With only 17 nations officially recognize the Taiwanese government, the support for Taiwan has been eroding ever since. Prior to losing El Salvador’s support, Panama broke ties with Taiwan’s government in 2017, and the Dominican Republic did the same in May 2018. Taiwan has condemned Beijing’s tactic of using project financing to gain allies.

One Taiwan One China Demonstrators

It was clearly a deliberate attempt to humiliate Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, as she wrapped up a high-profile trip to Latin America, including stops in the United States. Since Tsai came to office in 2016, El Salvador is the fifth country Taiwan will lose as a diplomatic ally. The other 4 countries that had switched sides include Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe and Panama.


Even the United States was worried about the rate China is throwing money to isolate Taiwan. The U.S. ambassador in El Salvador, Jean Manes, unleashes a tweet saying the U.S. was analysing El Salvador’s “worrisome” decision to break ties with Taiwan. China’s hostility to Taiwan has grown since Tsai’s election as Beijing fears she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence.


But Beijing’s strong-arm tactics to buy new recognition from foreign countries is just half of the story. If China could use money to swing a country, they certainly could force a foreign corporation to drop Taiwan from being recognized as an independent country. In May, the Chinese had done exactly that – demanding up to 36 foreign air carriers to comply with China’s wish.

United Airlines in China

The foreign air carrier, including U.S. carriers, were slapped with letters of demand from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) – ordering them to stop publishing or referring Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as different countries but instead mark them as part of China on their website. One of the affected U.S. carriers – United Airlines – had actually complained to President Trump.


The White House wasn’t amused for obvious reason. Calling it “Orwellian nonsense”, the Trump administration criticised the Chinese government. The White House said that President Donald Trump “will stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens.”


China’s foreign ministry retaliated, saying that overseas companies operating in China should respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, follow Chinese law and “respect the national feelings of the Chinese people”. Otherwise, they would risk losing lucrative business if Beijing decides to disallow them from operating in mainland China.

China and Taiwan Flags

U.S. carriers were trapped. On one hand, they refused to obey Chinese Communist Party’s instruction. But on the other hand, they cannot afford to lose the huge market. Ultimately, American carriers had no choice but to drop Taiwan as the country name for destinations. Most airlines have updated their websites – referring Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” or the “China Taiwan region.”


United Airlines has apparently found a new creative to satisfy both China and Taiwan. To differentiate Taiwan from mainland China, the American airline is using currency instead. Travellers trying to make their booking are presented with a list of selection – Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), New Taiwan Dollar (NTD) or Chinese Yuan (CNY) – as destinations.


Listing Taiwan and Hong Kong by their respective currencies to get around Beijing’s demand to identify them as part of China is quite awesome and brilliant. The Taiwanese government was extremely happy with United Airlines’ creativity. However, the Chinese wasn’t impressed with the “attempt to fool them.”

Nationalist tabloid International Instances printed an article – headlined “United Airways, don’t think about outsmarting China on this” – criticising the American carrier for its “unwillingness” to make the change demanded and accusing the company of playing word games. So, nice try United Airlines but the Chinese felt it was an insult to their intelligence.


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