“Taipei, Taoyuan International Airport, TPE, Chinese Taipei” — this is how the Air India website now refers to Taiwan, more than two months after a diktat by the Civil Aviation Authority of China.
The move comes after several other airlines including Delta Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Air Canada also changed the name to avoid any tussle.
While Air India did not comment on the matter Wednesday, sources said that China had not raised the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs.
On April 25, just two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan as part of reset of bilateral ties, the Civil Aviation Authority of China issued orders to Air India along with other international airlines flying into China to refer to Taiwan only as Chinese Taipei.
The diktat had impacted many US airlines and the US State Department had told Business Insider that it had raised “strong concerns” with Chinese authorities in Beijing about the order. New Delhi has not officially responded to the order.
“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,” a State Department official had told Business Insider. The State Department also said it “will consider taking appropriate action if necessary in response to unfair Chinese actions.”
India has always treaded warily when it comes to Chinese sensitivities on Taiwan. While Taiwan says it is a democratic, self-ruled country in East Asia, China does not agree. According to the “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province of China. India accepts the One China policy, though it has not explicitly stated the fact in bilateral joint statements in recent years.
Chinese insistence that it should be called “Chinese Taipei” is to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country. Since Beijing is unhappy with other countries maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Indian government maintains an office as the India-Taipei Association. In fact, Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale has served at this office in Taiwan in the past.
In recent decades, succumbing to Chinese pressure, both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei, and Taiwan does not appear on the member countries list of either organisation. It has also participated as an invited member in the World Health Organization (WHO) under the name Chinese Taipei.
The same holds true even for beauty pageants, and at the Miss World 1998, the Chinese government pressured the Miss World Organisation to rename Miss Republic of China 1998 to Miss Chinese Taipei; it has been competing ever since under that designation.
Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week and fast-fashion retailer, Zara, was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report for listing certain areas as countries.
In January this year, Delta Air Lines was censured by China’s Civil Aviation Administration for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The agency demanded an “immediate and public apology.” The airline responded by saying it had made a “grave mistake”.
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