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Asia Minute: The Naming Game: Taiwan and China

Nicky Boogaard

A long-running dispute involving mainland China and Taiwan has been settled. It doesn’t have to do with territory, but with how airlines refer to Taiwan.

Several U.S. airlines are changing their websites when it comes to Taiwan. Back in April, the Beijing government insisted all airlines in the world refer to Taiwan as part of China.

Several European airlines, along with Singapore Airlines now list Taipei as being in “Taiwan, China.” American, United, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines have not gone quite so far—although they have adjusted their language.

If you go to Hawaiian Airlines’ website and ask for a flight to “Taiwan” you’ll find “no results.” Make it “Taipei,” and you’ll have multiple options.

The White House has called the wording issue “Orwellian nonsense,” but in this case business has trumped politics.

China’s state-run People’s Daily says all 44 airlines have now complied with its demands.

But the cross-strait rivalry continues.

Credit Furfur / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The day the airlines announced their changes, Taiwan’s state-owned Central News Agency ran a headline “Taiwan Thanks U.S. for Congressional Support.” The story: the defense authorization act, which it says “includes provisions to help Taiwan strengthen its defense capabilities.”

And in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post quoted sources who say that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will go through Houston and Los Angeles on her way to the inauguration of the president of Paraguay next month. Another incident certain to be unpopular in Beijing.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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