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Taiwan is looking at ways to hit back at foreign airlines that recently caved in to pressure from Beijing to refer to the island as part of China.
The transportation ministry is studying countermeasures, according to an official who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly. Taipei-based United Daily News reported earlier Monday the measures could include banning offending airlines from using boarding bridges and changing takeoff and landing slots. Authorities are also considering offering incentives for carriers that switch to a more neutral wording for Taiwan, such as reducing or eliminating landing fees and facility charges.
Retaliation from Taipei would be its first official response to increasing pressure from the mainland. Beijing has successfully pressured 44 international airlines to refer to Taiwan as a part of China on their websites. The White House in May criticized China’s efforts to impose its political views on U.S. citizens and private companies as “Orwellian nonsense.”
The Taipei-based Civil Aeronautics Administration has asked the airlines to change their websites, saying defining the island as part of China damages Taiwan’s sovereignty, deputy transportation minister Wang Kwo-tsai said via telephone. He said authorities were still considering what measures to take and they would take passengers’ interests into account before implementing them.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China sent a letter to more than 40 foreign carriers in April, ordering them not to place China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on an equal footing. The letter stipulated that Taiwan must be referred to as “China Taiwan” or the “China Taiwan region” and maps must display Taiwan in the same color as mainland China.
A search for Taiwanese destinations on the websites of Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. shows Taiwanese cities without a country name or code, unlike say London or Tokyo.
China has declared those changes “incomplete” and has given the carriers until Thursday to fully implement its directive.
While Taiwan has been ruled separately from China for much of the past 120 years, Beijing claims the island as part of its territory to be taken by force if necessary.
(Updated with deputy minister’s comments in 4th paragraph.)
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.