Last year some of the world’s biggest airlines changed their websites, one by one, to label Taiwan as anything but an independent country. When passengers opened country-specific pages or menus, they often found the Western Pacific island linked instead to China. Each change angered the Taiwanese, who have enjoyed de facto autonomy since the 1940s even though China says the island belongs under its flag.
Now China is pressuring 66 multinational companies to do the same. Each change, including many by companies dear to Taiwanese consumers, is expected to raise a new round of anger.
That cycle will worsen China-Taiwan relations that have sunk steadily since mid-2016 over a senior-level dispute about how to hold any negotiations. The more powerful China already floats an aircraft carrier near Taiwan periodically and picks off Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to flex its muscle.
“Taiwan’s public of course can’t accept saying that Taiwan must have its label changed to ‘China Taiwan,’” said Lee Chun-yee, a legislator in Taipei. “For China to do this, for the future of relations it has absolutely no use.”
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