Wed, Feb 27, 2019 - Page 8 News List

China sends message to Wellington

By Lucian Hsu 徐子軒

While the public was venting its anger at striking China Airlines pilots earlier this month, an extraordinary incident was unfolding at another airline more than 800km away that has gone largely unnoticed in Taiwan.

Air New Zealand Flight NZ289 from Auckland to Shanghai was forced to turn back mid-flight after Chinese authorities informed the pilot that the airplane would not be granted permission to land in Shanghai.

There are conflicting views on the reason the airplane was forced to turn back. Some news reports have said that the airline’s operating permit for the Shanghai aviation route had expired, while other reports cited an administrative error by the airline, which meant that the aircraft registration filed with the Chinese authorities was different from the registration number of the aircraft.

These reasons are unconvincing. Air New Zealand’s operational efficiency is there for all to see: The airline has for many years been consistently rated as one of the world’s top 10 airlines and it was awarded second place in this year’s rankings.

Furthermore, operating an aviation route to China requires a large amount of forward planning. As such, it is difficult to imagine that the airline would fluff the paperwork or make such a basic administrative error.

Others have provided an alternative explanation: Air New Zealand’s Web Site is not able to incorporate Taiwan as a province of China, as it lists destinations only by city names. This means the airline has so far been able to avoid getting sucked into international disputes.

In contrast, Qantas Airways and Jetstar Airways in Australia adhere to Beijing’s “one China” principle by listing Taiwan as a province of China.

Given its previously forceful stance, it appears that Beijing is punishing foreign companies that have not amended Taiwan’s status on their Web sites.

The Air New Zealand incident therefore seems to be politically motivated mischief-making by Beijing. China’s leaders probably decided to give the airline a taste of what it can do, while also whipping up nationalist sentiment for its home audience and firing a shot across the bow to foreign companies that are not yet on board with the “one China” principle.

Beijing does not see any need to pussyfoot.

However, while the Chinese government is clearly annoyed with Air New Zealand’s approach toward Taiwan’s national status, there are probably other factors at play behind the scenes.

One reason that runs much deeper is a secret tug-of-war being fought between China and New Zealand.

Over the past few years, the New Zealand government has adopted an increasingly vigilant attitude against China. For instance, it last year cited national security concerns to ban domestic telecoms from using equipment made by Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies in their 5G mobile networks.

Additionally, a defense policy report published by the New Zealand government in July last year said that Chinese influence in the Pacific Ocean has damaged regional stability.

The report also implied that China’s island-building in the South China Sea has increased tensions and that New Zealand would be aligning itself closely with the US.

This has all added up, and so a planned trip to China early this year by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was canceled, and Beijing has postponed the China-New Zealand year of tourism.

This story has been viewed 3106 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top