China is dragging international airlines into the dispute over Taiwan’s sovereignty

time of writing, Delta’s website offers flights to ‘Taipei,’ but includes no country name – as this screenshot of its website shows. Image: author provided.

Taiwanese citizens have been travelling to airports with feelings of nervous trepidation recently. The question preying on their minds: will their passports be accepted as valid travel documents?

Concerns were first aroused by a message that appeared on several social media platforms. It claimed that a Taiwanese national was unable to board an Air Canada flight because the airline would not accept his passport in accordance with new Chinese regulations.

“Due to China’s request,” the post read, “Taiwan is no longer listed as an individual country, passports are invalid, and another ID must be used. Please remember your IDs.”

Although this message was later dismissed by the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as misinformation, the wave of panic that it unleashed is not without reason or precedent. Since the Chinese civil war of 1949, the people of Taiwan have argued that they belong to a sovereign state that is clearly distinct from the Chinese mainland. But China refutes this notion, viewing the island as little more than a wayward province that must be brought back under its authority.

These competing geopolitical visions have resulted in numerous efforts by Beijing to delegitimise Taiwanese claims to independence, such as attempts to stop the flying of the Taiwanese flag and filing protests against national military drills. In recent months, however, China has struck upon an alternative approach: questioning how international airlines refer to Taiwan, and indeed if they should even refer to it at all.

What’s in a name?

On 25 April, a letter from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) landed on the desks of 36 international air carriers. In it, the CAAC reminded readers that on 27 February he Chinese government had instructed airlines to review their websites, and remove any material that “mistakenly” identified Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as independent regions.

The letter also instructed that Taiwan should henceforth be referred to as “Chinese Taiwan” or “Taiwan: province/region of China”. Failure to implement these changes, it went on to state, would result in “disciplinary actions” by the CAAC.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, these demands were not warmly received. Leading the cries of protest was the US president, Donald Trump. In a strongly worded statement released on 5 May, the Trump administration lambasted the CAAC’s letter as a blatant attempt to enforce “Chinese political correctness” as a global standard. The statement said:

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. China’s internal Internet repression is world famous. China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.

The message from the White House was abundantly clear – the affected airlines should stand firm.

At time of writing, Delta’s website offers flights to ‘Taipei’, but includes no country name as it does for other destinations such as ‘London-Heathrow, United Kingdom’ (see below example) – as this screenshot of its website shows. Image: author provided.

London-Heathrow listed as a destination in ‘United Kingdom’ for comparison. Image: author provided.

Yet the vast majority of air carriers have chosen to bow to Chinese pressure rather than heed the US president’s words. In early June, the chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce, announced that the airline would be altering how it referred to Taiwanese airports as soon as possible. And after Beijing set a final deadline of 25 July and rejected pleas for further negotiations, the three largest US air carriers – Delta, United and American Airlines – also elected to meet the CAAC’s demands.

The US State Department later expressed its concern about this decision, while the Taiwanese government responded with a press release condemning China’s “crude attempts to coerce foreign airlines to downgrade Taiwan’s status”.


Consequences

The long-term ramifications of international airlines choosing to comply with the CAAC’s requirements remain to be seen. It is clear, however, that this episode marks a significant defeat for advocates of Taiwanese independence. When next booking a flight to the island, users of some airlines will not be able to select a destination name that reflects Taiwan’s self-ruled status. Instead, they must choose one that places it firmly within China’s geopolitical orbit.

The events of recent months have also provided Chinese authorities with an effective way to challenge Taiwan’s sovereignty without incurring the wrath of the international community. For all its early rhetoric, the Trump administration has been forced to watch helplessly as American carriers are arguably drafted as foot soldiers in support of China’s territorial ambitions.

There are signs that this strategy is also already being deployed outside the airline industry. Earlier this year, the hotel chain, Marriot, was reprimanded by China after an email questionnaire listed Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau as separate “countries”. Japanese retailer Muji, meanwhile, had to pay a fine of 200,000 yuan (£23,400) for using packaging that identified Taiwan as the “country of origin”.

The ConversationThe dispute over Taiwan’s territorial standing, then, has long since spread beyond a small area of the South China Sea – and it is likely to reach even greater heights in the future.

Ed Bryan, PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

This election is our chance to treat housing as a right – but only if we listen to tenants

The Churchill Gardens Estate, Westminster, London. Image: Getty.

“You’re joking, not another one... there’s too much politics going on at the moment..!”

Brenda of Bristol’s televised comments in 2017, when told that another election was to take place, could just as well have been uttered when MPs voted to call a general election for 12 December this year. 

Almost immediately the politicking began. “A chance to transform our country”. “An opportunity to stop Brexit/get Brexit done”. ‘We can end austerity and inequality.” “A new revitalised parliament.” “Another referendum.”

Yet dig behind the language of electioneering and, for the first time that I can recall, there is mention of solving the housing crisis by all the major parties. I can welcome another election, if the result is a determination to build enough homes to meet everyone’s needs and everyone’s pocket.

That will require those who come to power to recognise that our housing system has never been fit for purpose. It has never matched the needs of the nation. It is not an accident that homelessness is increasing; not an accident that families are living in overcrowded accommodation or temporary accommodation, sometimes for years; not an accident that rents are going up and the opportunities to buy property are going down. It is not an accident that social housing stock continues to be sold off. These are the direct result of policy decisions by successive governments.

So with all the major parties stating their good intentions to build more homes, how do we ensure their determination results in enough homes of quality where people want to live, work and play? By insisting that current and prospective tenants are involved in the planning and decision making process from the start.

“Involved” is the key word. When we build new homes and alter the environment we must engage with the local community and prospective tenants. It is their homes and their communities we are impacting – they need to be involved in shaping their lived space. That means involvement before the bull-dozer moves in; involvement at thinking and solution finding stages, and with architects and contractors. It is not enough to ask tenants and community members for their views on plans and proposals which have already been agreed by the board or the development committee of some distant housing provider.


As more homes for social and affordable rent become a reality, we need tenants to be partners at the table deciding on where, how and why they should be built there, from that material, and with those facilities. We need them to have an effective voice in decision making. This means working together with tenants and community members to create good quality homes in inclusive and imaginatively designed environments.

I am a tenant of Phoenix Community Housing, a social housing provider. I am also the current Chair and one of six residents on the board of twelve. Phoenix is resident led with tenants embedded throughout the organisation as active members of committees and onto policy writing and scrutiny.

Tenants are part of the decision making process as we build to meet the needs of the community. Our recently completed award-winning extra care scheme has helped older people downsize and released larger under-occupied properties for families.

By being resident led, we can be community driven. Our venture into building is small scale at the moment, but we are building quality homes that residents want and are appropriate to their needs. Our newest development is being built to Passivhaus standard, meaning they are not only more affordable but they are sustainable for future generations.

There are a few resident led organisations throughout the country. We don’t have all the answers to the housing situation, nor do we get everything right first time. We do know how to listen, learn and act.

The shocking events after the last election, when disaster came to Grenfell Tower, should remind us that tenants have the knowledge and ability to work with housing providers for the benefit of all in the community – if we listen to them and involve them and act on their input.

This election is an opportunity for those of us who see appropriate housing as a right; housing as a lived space in which to thrive and build community; housing as home not commodity – to hold our MPs to account and challenge them to outline their proposals and guarantee good quality housing, not only for the most vulnerable but for people generally, and with tenants fully involved from the start.

Anne McGurk is a tenant and chair of Phoenix Community Housing, London’s only major resident-led housing association.