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.

 
 
 
 

Everybody hates the Midlands, and other lessons from YouGov’s latest spurious polling

Dorset, which people like, for some reason. Image: Getty.

Just because you’re paranoid, the old joke runs, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. By the same token: just because I’m an egomaniac, doesn’t mean that YouGov isn’t commissioning polls of upwards of 50,000 people aimed at me, personally.

Seriously, that particular pollster has form for this: almost exactly a year ago, it published the results of a poll about London’s tube network that I’m about 98 per cent certain* was inspired by an argument Stephen Bush and I had been having on Twitter, at least partly on the grounds that it was the sort of thing that muggins here would almost certainly write up. 

And, I did write it up – or, to put it another way, I fell for it. So when, 364 days later, the same pollster produces not one but two polls, ranking Britain’s cities and counties respectively, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that CityMetric and YouGuv are now locked in a co-dependent and potentially abusive relationship.

But never mind that now. What do the polls tell us?

Let’s start with the counties

Everybody loves the West Country

YouGov invited 42,000 people to tell it whether or not they liked England’s 47 ceremonial counties for some reason. The top five, which got good reviews from between 86 and 92 per cent of respondents, were, in order: Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Somerset. That’s England’s four most south westerly counties. And North Yorkshire.

So: almost everyone likes the South West, though whether this is because they associate it with summer holidays or cider or what, the data doesn’t say. Perhaps, given the inclusion of North Yorkshire, people just like countryside. That would seem to be supported by the fact that...


Nobody really likes the metropolitan counties

Greater London was stitched together in 1965. Nine years later, more new counties were created to cover the metropolitan areas of Manchester, Liverpool (Merseyside), Birmingham (the West Midlands), Newcastle (Tyne&Wear), Leeds (West Yorkshire and Sheffield (South Yorkshire). Actually, there were also new counties covering Teesside (Cleveland) and Bristol/Bath (Avon), too, but those have since been scrapped, so let’s ignore them.

Not all of those seven counties still exist in any meaningful governmental sense – but they’re still there for ’ceremonial purposes’, whatever that means. And we now know, thanks to this poll, that – to the first approximation – nobody much likes any of them. The only one to make it into the top half of the ranking is West Yorkshire, which comes 12th (75 per cent approval); South Yorkshire (66 per cent) is next, at 27th. Both of those, it may be significant, have the name of a historic county in their name.

The ones without an ancient identity to fall back on are all clustered near the bottom. Tyne & Wear is 30th out of 47 (64 per cent), Greater London 38th (58 per cent), Merseyside 41st (55 per cent), Greater Manchester 42nd (53 per cent)... Not even half of people like the West Midlands (49 per cent, placing it 44th out of 47). Although it seems to suffer also from the fact that...

Everybody hates the Midlands

Honestly, look at that map:

 

Click to expand.

The three bottom rated counties, are all Midlands ones: Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire – which, hilariously, with just 40 per cent approval, is a full seven points behind its nearest rival, the single biggest drop on the entire table.

What the hell did Bedfordshire ever do to you, England? Honestly, it makes Essex’s 50 per cent approval rate look pretty cheery.

While we’re talking about irrational differences:

There’s trouble brewing in Sussex

West Sussex ranks 21st, with a 71 per cent approval rating. But East Sussex is 29th, at just 65 per cent.

Honestly, what the fuck? Does the existence of Brighton piss people off that much?

Actually, we know it doesn’t because thanks to YouGov we have polling.

No, Brighton does not piss people off that much

Click to expand.

A respectable 18th out of 57, with a 74 per cent approval rating. I guess it could be dragged up by how much everyone loves Hove, but it doesn’t seem that likely.

London is surprisingly popular

Considering how much of the national debate on these things is dedicated to slagging off the capital – and who can blame people, really, given the state of British politics – I’m a bit surprised that London is not only in the top half but the top third. It ranks 22nd, with an approval rating of 73 per cent, higher than any other major city except Edinburgh.

But what people really want is somewhere pretty with a castle or cathedral

Honestly, look at the top 10:

City % who like the city Rank
York 92% 1
Bath 89% 2
Edinburgh 88% 3
Chester 83% 4
Durham 81% 5
Salisbury 80% 6
Truro 80% 7
Canterbury 79% 8
Wells 79% 9
Cambridge 78% 10

These people don’t want cities, they want Christmas cards.

No really, everyone hates the Midlands

Birmingham is the worst-rated big city, coming 47th with an approval rating of just 40 per cent. Leicester, Coventry and Wolverhampton fare even worse.

What did the Midlands ever do to you, Britain?

The least popular city is Bradford, which shows that people are awful

An approval rating of just 23 per cent. Given that Bradford is lovely, and has the best curries in Britain, I’m going to assume that

a) a lot of people haven’t been there, and

b) a lot of people have dodgy views on race relations.

Official city status is stupid

This isn’t something I learned from the polls exactly, but... Ripon? Ely? St David’s? Wells? These aren’t cities, they’re villages with ideas above their station.

By the same token, some places that very obviously should be cities are nowhere to be seen. Reading and Huddersfield are conspicuous by their absence. Middlesbrough and Teesside are nowhere to be seen.

I’ve ranted about this before – honestly, I don’t care if it’s how the queen likes it, it’s stupid. But what really bugs me is that YouGov haven’t even ranked all the official cities. Where’s Chelmsford, the county town of Essex, which attained the dignity of official city status in 2012? Or Perth, which managed at the same time? Or St Asaph, a Welsh village of 3,355 people? Did St Asaph mean nothing to you, YouGov?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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*A YouGov employee I met in a pub later confirmed this, and I make a point of always believing things that people tell me in pubs.