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China has told US airlines there will be “no room for negotiation” on its demands that the carriers list the island of Taiwan as a Chinese territory on their websites. The mandate’s deadline, which was extended at the request of the all three US legacy carriers, is Wednesday.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China demanded that United, Delta and American Airlines change online references to self-ruled Taiwan to “Taiwan, China.” The three carriers said at the end of June that they were each considering the requests and working with the White House to come to a resolution on the issue.
Beijing also made the request of at least 36 airlines around the world, sending them letters in April pushing them to list Taiwan (along with Hong Kong and Macau) as part of China. Taiwan separated from mainland China in 1949, but Beijing claims the island as its territory.
Of the airlines that received letters, Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines and Philippine Airlines have changed the way they refer to Taiwan to reflect that it’s part of China, according to the Associated Press. SAS, Swiss, Malaysia Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Aeroflot, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Etihad Airways, Iberia, EL AL, MIAT Mongolian Airlines and Russia’s S7 Airlines also show Taiwan as part of China, but it wasn’t clear if they had made the changes after receiving the letter from Beijing.
Two Japanese airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines, skirted the issue by making the changes only to the Chinese versions of their websites. It is unclear if this might also be an option for the US carriers.
The White House has called the demands “Orwellian nonsense.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in May the push from Beijing was “part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.”
The fallout for airlines could be severe. China is a huge aviation market for airlines around the world — and is only growing. China is predicted to displace the US as the largest aviation market by 2022, according to analysis from the International Air Transport Association.
China has not yet specified how it will punish carriers that might buck the request. Previously, Beijing had vaguely threatened legal sanctions and other consequences for their business.
Featured image of Taipei by Han Lin/Getty Images.
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