Tue, Jul 31, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Capitulation emboldens bullies

By Ben Goren

Taiwan has made huge strides in improving and raising its image internationally. It has done this, for example, via smart branding and marketing investments, higher production values in film and the quality of products and services exported, and making Taiwan more visible and accessible to foreign tourists.

Having a president who will not self-censor herself from saying the word Taiwan on the international stage emboldens Taiwanese to likewise stand tall as Taiwanese with dignified, modest pride in global events and exchanges.

Athletes Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇) and Tseng Chun-hsin (曾俊欣) excelled at Wimbledon, and a Taiwanese company was responsible for producing the environmentally friendly yarn for kits that half of the 32 teams wore at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

These developments are positive in terms of Taiwan’s “soft power” and visibility globally.

However, there remains no doubt that, at the same time, Taiwan’s international space and visibility are being severely attacked and degraded by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which has been blackmailing and bribing foreign governments and global corporations into de facto annexing Taiwan into a subset of “China.”

The craven capitulation of 44 international airlines into changing their Web sites, finally ending with the farce of the US Department of State all but ordering US airlines to amend their sites’ listing of Taiwan to appease Beijing illustrates the global reach of China’s “hard power.”

China has successfully used its economic weight and the greed of foreign corporations and weak yuan-indebted governments that serve them to force others to conform to its hegemonic agenda.

Sadly, when asked about kowtowing to Chinese bullying, the airlines’ responses were illogical and contradictory, highlighting how the perceived economic benefits of “toeing the line” outweigh the reality of Taiwan’s existence and the feelings of 23 million potential customers.

“Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate,” American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said.

Likewise, when I first asked Air France-KLM for a comment on why they had changed their site listing Taiwan as “Taiwan, China,” the response was: “We’re aware of this and will amend it again to use more neutral wording.”

When that promise did not materialize I was told that “KLM and Air France are complying with the requirements of the CAAC [Civil Aviation Administration of China] and Chinese authorities regarding Taiwan and Hong Kong.”

This is an absurd answer on several levels, but it is also deeply concerning.

First, the CAAC does not administer nor have any control over the Taipei flight area or sovereign airspace over or around Taiwan. That is the sole remit of Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Air France-KLM here is equating Taiwan with Hong Kong, as if Taiwan were a special administrative region of the PRC.

It is also de facto recognizing that the CAAC has authority in Taiwan, which no doubt will confuse Air France-KLM pilots flying into Taiwanese airspace only to find that it is the CAA and its regulations they have to abide by.

Of course, KLM and its pilots know no substantive change has been made other than to placate China by letting it think “Taiwan, China” on a Web site means it agrees Taiwan is part of China — except that KLM and the other airlines have not placated China, but played themselves right into a corner — exactly where Beijing wants them.

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