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Major U.S. airlines aren't heeding China's warning to refer to Taiwan as a part of the country

Major U.S. airlines aren't heeding China's warning to refer to Taiwan as a part of the country
Travelers at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan City, northern Taiwan. China has put pressure on airlines flying to China as well as to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to order airlines to change Taiwan destinations as part of China. (DAVID CHANG/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutters)

A demand by China that all air carriers worldwide refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau on online maps and drop-down menus as Chinese territories — not as independent regions — is being ignored by the U.S.’s biggest airlines.

At least for now.

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The order from Beijing came in May, and dozens of foreign-based carriers have already fallen in line.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press confirmed that 20 carriers, including Air Canada, British Airways and Lufthansa, were referring to Taiwan as a part of China on their global websites. China claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, but the two have been ruled separately since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “Foreign enterprises operating in China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s law and respect the national sentiment of the Chinese people.”

The White House, however, blasted the order, calling it “Orwellian nonsense.”

Among those carriers that continue to include the name “Taiwan” on their maps or list of destinations are American, Delta, United and Hawaiian Airlines.

American Airlines requested a 60-day extension — until July 25 — from the Chinese order. An American Airlines spokesman declined to discuss the matter except to say: “We are consulting with the U.S. government on the matter."

In a statement, Delta said: “We are reviewing the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s request and will remain in close consultation with the U.S. Government throughout this process.”

China has yet to say what punishment it may impose on airlines that defy its order. But a financial penalty or other punishment could create complications for China because the biggest U.S. airlines that fly to Taiwan and other Chinese destinations often do so through partnerships with China-based carriers such as Shanghai Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

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