'Change Taiwan to Chinese Taipei,' Beijing tells Air India and the national carrier complies: Here's a look at why

India's national carrier Air India was forced to change 'Taiwan' to 'Chinese Taipei' after Chinese authorities demanded them to no longer refer to Taiwan as a separate region on their websites. Referred to as Taiwan, the Air India website now refers to the region as 'Taipei, Taoyuan International Airport, TPE, Chinese Taipei'.

The spokesperson at Air India told PTI that they followed the procedure as advised by the Ministry of External Affairs in updating the airline's website with respect to changing name of Taiwan.

The spokesperson said: "There was a mail to the regional manager in Hong Kong from China Registry, MEA, Government of India, wherein they have approved the nomenclatures to be used by Air India on its website with respect to Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China, Macau SAR of China and Chinese Taipei." The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) directed several international airlines on 25 April to stop referring to Taiwan as a separate country. In a letter, CAAC asked several foreign airlines, including Air India's office in Shanghai, to change the way they referred to Taiwan on their websites and in promotional materials within 30 days.

Air India operates flights to two destinations in China region — Shanghai and Hong Kong. While Air India does not have flights to Chinese Taipei, it has a code share with Air China. This is the reason that this destination is listed on Air India website. Code sharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

The Indian Express reported that China had not raised the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs. The CAAC had also warned of repercussions, starting with referring the websites to China's cyberspace administration, which could take the decision to block the airlines websites in China.

 Change Taiwan to Chinese Taipei, Beijing tells Air India and the national carrier complies: Heres a look at why

The diktat has not been received too well by western countries. The US State Department told Business Insider that the CAAC order had raised "strong concerns" with Chinese authorities in Beijing. "Regarding websites, we object to Beijing dictating how US firms, including airlines, organise their websites for ease of consumer use. Chinese companies' websites operate freely and without political interference in the United States," an official was quoted as saying by Business Insider.

This is not the first time that China has pulled up foreign companies. In January this year, Marriott International, the hotel chain, was forced to profusely apologise to China after a customer survey listed Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries. China alleged that the hotel chain and several other international companies, including, Zara, Qantas and Delta Air Lines are supporting separationist aspiration of Tibet. The companies apologised to China for listing Taiwan and Hong Kong as "countries" on their websites. The Chinese have insisted that western companies must fall in line and abide by its laws and policies.

Analysts told The Print that the uncertain international order led by the vagaries of US president Donald Trump have forced India to take a much softer line with Beijing. Clive Hamilton, a public-ethics professor, told Business Insider, "The People's Republic of China is engaging in economic blackmail, imposing acceptance of its geopolitical ambitions on corporations that want to operate in the country."

However, this is the first time that Chinese authorities have demanded something on these lines from India. The Indian Express claimed that it was a sensitive topic for India and New Delhi "always treaded warily when it comes to Chinese sensitivities on Taiwan."

Taiwan or Chinese Taipei - Explained

The 'One China' policy, that states that there is only one Chinese government and sees the island of Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day, is a key cornerstone of China-US relations. It also is the bedrock of Chinese foreign policy, internal policy-making and its diplomacy. "There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is part of China," China's foreign minister Wang Yi had said in 2017.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Taiwan government, however, disagrees with this decree. They claim Taiwan is an independent country officially called the "Republic of China" and any country which wants diplomatic ties with mainland China must break official ties with Taipei. And since the island has its own, democratically elected, president, its own laws and its own armed forces, it is hard to argue why Taiwan isn't a separate country. Taiwan has been administered separately with its own government since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Formulated in 1942, the One China policy can be traced back to the end of the Chinese civil war when defeated nationalist fighters retreated to Taiwan to seek refuge and made it their seat of government. Meanwhile, "victorious" Communists ruled mainland China.

India accepts the One China policy, though it has not explicitly stated the fact in bilateral joint statements in recent years. It would be a difficult position for New Delhi to unequivocally accept the terms of One China policy as it claims that even Tibet comes under the Republic of China. "Some Indian media outlets and scholars believe India has no reason to list Taiwan as part of China, unless China recognizes India's territorial claims. They argue that India's communiqués with China do not mention or support the one-China policy and Indian leaders did not speak explicitly about this policy; therefore, Indian companies do not have to abide by it," an oped published in the state-run Global Times said.

The article further added that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have been ruled apart for a long time and foreign companies probably do not have the intention to support Taiwan independence," but the article went on to warn that refusal to accept corrections when "reminded" might earn them "consequences or could even be thrown out of the Chinese market."

In the past, China only required foreign governments to adhere to its one-China policy while non-governmental organisations were excluded from the requirement. "But the Chinese government and society is now showing less and less tolerance toward activities that tend to split China and support Taiwan independence... The Taiwan question is a matter of China's domestic affairs. This issue and bilateral territorial disputes are different. China respects India's territorial integrity. It did not support the separatist movement in Assam province, and hence India should not support the demand for Taiwan independence." the article noted.

Even International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the United Nations refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei. It also participates in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei. According to reports, the Indian government maintains an office as the India-Taipei Association.

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Updated Date: Jul 05, 2018 15:32:34 IST