Air India site renames Taiwan as Chinese Taipei

The Chinese government recently ‘approved’ the move by Air India to use the name ‘Chinese Taipei’ instead of ‘Taiwan’ on its website. “Air India is respecting the basic fact that there is one China and Taiwan is part of China. We approve of that,” it said.

Earlier, India’s national carrier Air India fell in line with China’s demand not to refer to Taiwan as a separate country but as Chinese Taipei, which is how Beijing wants it to be known officially. Several international airlines stopped referring to Taiwan as a separate country since the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) directed them on April 25 to change how Taiwan is described on their websites.

Under its “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province and opposes ties between Taipei and other capitals. As of Wednesday, Taiwan was referred to as “Chinese Taipei” on the drop-down booking list on Air India’s website. Air India has only one direct flight to Shanghai, besides flights to Hong Kong. An Air India spokesperson indicated the change was made with the approval of the external affairs ministry.

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 in respect of Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) of China, Macau SAR of China and Chinese Taipei.”

In a letter sent to dozens of foreign airlines, including to Air India’s office in Shanghai, CAAC sought changes to the way they referred to Taiwan on their websites and in promotional materials within 30 days.

After CAAC sent the letter to foreign airlines, the nationalistic Global Times tabloid warned that those who didn’t comply could be thrown out of China. “If foreign enterprises want to do business in China or their products are to enter the Chinese market, they must abide by Chinese laws,” the tabloid said in a report.

It added, “But if they refuse to make corrections when reminded, they are obviously supporting Taiwan independence and must face possible consequences or could even be thrown out of the Chinese market.”

The report also referred specifically to the Indian flag carrier, saying, “That Air India lists Taiwan as a country goes against India’s official stance. Recognizing that there is only one China in the world, that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory is the condition on which China establishes diplomatic ties with all countries,” it said.

“The Taiwan question is a matter of China’s domestic affairs…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.”

India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The de facto Indian embassy in Taipei is the India-Taipei Association and the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Centre in New Delhi.

Beijing opposes any official contact between Taiwan and New Delhi. In February 2017, China lodged a strong complaint with India over a rare visit by a Taiwanese parliamentary delegation, warning New Delhi to follow the “One China” policy and refrain from such contacts with Taipei.

Later in 2017, China’s state-run media lashed out at India for signing an industrial collaboration MoU with Taiwan, the fifth bilateral agreement since President Tsai Ing-wen took over as the first woman leader in May 2016.

What particularly irked China was that an official statement released by Taiwan stated the MoU was signed by “two countries”.

In recent months, New Delhi has faced tactical pressure from Beijing on several sensitive issues. Ahead of the informal summit in Wuhan, the Indian government advised officials not to attend any function involving the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama. Beijing describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist and blames him for inciting protests in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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