China has struck back after the White House criticised its “Orwellian nonsense” for trying to police 36 international companies and change how they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as seperate countries.
- The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration issued a warning to 36 foreign airlines
- Airlines have 30 days to change references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau from April 25
- Qantas changed parts of its website after facing pressure from China
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has called for foreign companies operating in China to “respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, abide by Chinese laws and “respect the Chinese people’s national sentiments”.
“Whatever the US said cannot change the fact that there is only one China in the world and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are indispensable parts of Chinese territory,” Geng Shuang, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.
Bill Birtles tweet: ‘Orwellian nonsense’ – US on China’s latest demand to control language on websites of foreign companies. @Qantas among the airlines affected
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) last month issued a written warning to 36 foreign airlines, including a number of US carriers, demanding the companies change their references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau and declare the regions a part of China, the White House said.
The statement said 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”.
“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.
“We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs of its “overbearing use of political power” to coarsely interfere with the behaviour of private businesses and the operations of international corporations, ministry spokesperson Andrew Lee said last month.
He said no matter what measures Beijing took, threatening foreign businesses to submit to false claims would not only fail to change the objective fact, but also increase Taiwan people’s aversion towards the Chinese Government.
Qantas changes its website in response to warning
Qantas was among the airlines asked by the Chinese airline regulator to remove references to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as independent countries.
This is the second time this year Qantas has received such warning from the Chinese authority.
“We have received the letter and are reviewing it,” a Qantas spokesperson told the ABC this morning.
In January, under pressure, Qantas admitted “oversight” in listing some Chinese territories, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, as countries on parts of its website, and said it would correct the error.
The website has since changed the first question on the Frequent Flyers’ join now page from “What is your country of residence” to “What is your country/territory of residence”?
On Tuesday, Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar showed Taipei listed as a city of Taiwan — instead of China.
Jetstar still lists Hong Kong as a seperate country.
Airlines threatened to be listed as ‘severely untrustworthy’
According to a copy of the CAAC letter to airlines obtained by the Washington Post, the Chinese airline regulator ordered the airlines to change their references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau in 30 days since April 25.
Failing to do so would result in the airlines being listed as “severely untrustworthy”, and the matter being referred to “the relevant cybersecurity authorities” for punishment, the letter said.
The phrase is similar to China’s massive “dishonest personnel” blacklist, which is a pilot project of China’s social credit system that recently banned more than 7 million Chinese citizens deemed “untrustworthy” from boarding flights.
Australian Red Scarf, a popular website among young Chinese people in Australia, said “the CAAC’s warning to Australian airlines is only the epitome of how all attempts to seperate Chinese territory will be served a stern warning by today’s increasingly powerful China”.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry calls for foreign companies operating in China to abide by Chinese laws. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)
“Everyone knows that there have been tensions in China-Australia relations, but it was not expected that at such a critical moment, some Australian airlines are taking the lead when it comes to making trouble!
“Australia, would you just stop?” The website asked.
In January, Marriott International was among the companies ordered by Beijing to suspend its Chinese website and mobile app for one week in order to conduct a full review and audit, after it sent out an online customer questionnaire that listed Tibet and other regions as separate countries in a drop-down menu.
Chinese sensitivity to perceived Western insults
The Chinese Government’s push to pressure international companies against listing Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as separate countries are a form of “sovereign righteousness” that may actually come from a factual point of view, said Dr Merriden Varrall, Director of East Asia Programs at the Lowy Institute.
While the status of Taiwan is contentious, it is internationally accepted that Hong Kong and Macau are part of China.
However, the way the Chinese Government is pressuring companies to conform can be “a little bit heavy handed”, Dr Varrall said, as “the Chinese Government wants to make sure that the people of China see that they’re taking a tough line”.
“There has been a strong feeling in China that the West has been bullying and persecuting China for a very long time and the PRC is very sensitive to what they perceive as Western insults and territory territorial integrity.”
The feeling is common in China, both as a product of socialisation process, and a shared grassroot sentiment.
“Before they haven’t felt that they can push it, but now they have the power to change it, or that they have the choice to do what they think is right,” Dr Varrall said, adding that the 2008 global financial crisis was a turning point in the Chinese mainland psyche about how confident China can be in relation to the rest of the world.