Last month, China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) sent a letter out to 36 airlines, asking them to stop referring to Taiwan as a country. Instead, China wanted the airlines to refer to Taiwan as part of China. For Trump’s White House, the letter was unacceptable. On Saturday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released an official statement, reported Breitbart.
“This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies. China’s internal Internet repression is world-famous. China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.”
Before the statement was released, several companies had already complied with China’s request. These companies include Marriott, Qantas, Zara, and Delta Air Lines. All of the companies no longer refer to Taiwan as their own country. Delta Air Lines apparently apologized for having listed Taiwan and Tibet as countries on their site, calling it “an inadvertent error.”
In response to the White House statement, China’s foreign ministry said that “foreign companies doing business in China must respect the ‘national feelings’ of the Chinese people.” Moreover, China stated that “No matter what the U.S. side says, nothing will alter the objective fact that there is only one China in the world, and that the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan regions are inseparable parts of Chinese territory.”
Taiwan, on the other hand, expressed their thanks to the White House “for standing up to the pressure on Taiwan.”
The divide between China and Taiwan can be traced back centuries. China sees Taiwan as part of its country, and that Taiwan will eventually be reunified with China, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Taiwan argues that it is a sovereign state.
For Taiwan, the United States is an incredibly important ally, since the U.S. is its only ally. The U.S. has agreed to give weapons to Taiwan and has said that it would oppose any sort of Chinese attack.
Additionally, it’s significant for the White House to call China out on its “world-famous” repression and censorship. The New York Times pointed out that the incident revealed the Chinese government’s “acute sensitivities, especially over territorial issues.”
Although there have been no current events that could be attributed to the sudden crackdown on airlines, the underlying motive appears to be China’s hope to increase their censorship efforts globally. By enforcing their political view on websites, they’re able to further assert their dominance over territories that are fighting to remain sovereign.
The airlines incident also echoes an incident with Marriott, when China temporarily blocked the Chinese side of the hotel chain’s website until it took down Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau from their list of countries. Marriot complied then, too, and the website was restored.
The squabble is also an indication of the relations between President Trump and President Xi Jinping amidst trade sanctions being initiated on both sides. Although Trump has indicated his interest in fostering a positive relationship, recent efforts to work together with China have been slow-moving.