WH: China Trying to Impose ‘Political Correctness’ on American Companies

By Patrick Goodenough | May 7, 2018 | 4:21 AM EDT

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (Photo: Screen capture/YouTube)

(CNSNews.com) – China’s foreign ministry and state media rejected a sharply worded pushback from the White House over China’s demands that U.S. companies fall in line with Beijing’s views on the status of Taiwan.

The foreign ministry, in its response to the White House criticism, said it was an “objective” fact that “there is only one China” with Taiwan an “inalienable” part of it – “regardless of what the U.S. says.”

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said foreign companies operating in China should respect China’s sovereignty, observe its laws, and respect the feelings of the Chinese people.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must return to the mainland fold – by force if necessary.

Last month, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) ordered foreign airlines flying to China to ensure their client information does not breach China’s law by suggesting that China and Taiwan are separate.

Rather than refer to “Taipei, Taiwan” as a destination, for instance, it wants airlines’ websites to identify it as “Taipei, Taiwan, China” or something similar.

In her statement Saturday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called China’s pressure on U.S. airlines over Taiwan terminology ‘Orwellian nonsense.’ (Photo: CNSNews.com)

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders at the weekend called China’s demands an attempt to “impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens.”

“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,” she said.

“The United States strongly objects to China’s attempts to compel private firms to use specific language of a political nature in their publicly available content,” Sanders said.

“We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens.”

Her statement also referred to China’s restrictions on online freedom at home, and said its “efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.”

Taiwan’s government welcomed the unequivocal support from the White House.

Foreign ministry spokesman Andrew Lee called China’s campaign “arbitrary and ill-intentioned,” and urged the international community to have the courage to defy its demands.

Sydney Lin, spokesman for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, said Taiwan would continue to strive for regional stability despite Beijing’s continuous efforts to suppress its international space.

China has for years wielded its diplomatic and economic clout in a bid to compel international organizations, foreign governments and businesses to comply with its view that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy of 23 million people, is not a separate country.

Those refusing to submit, such as the small handful of countries that retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, are in turn denied recognition by Beijing.

Last January China blocked the Chinese website of the Marriott hotel chain for a week after a survey sent to guests listed Taiwan, as well as Tibet, Hong Kong and Macao, separately from China.

The following month, the CAAC demanded an “immediate correction and public apology” from Delta Airlines after it listed Tibet and Taiwan as countries on its website.

“CAAC will require all foreign airlines operating flights to China to immediately carry out comprehensive investigation of their websites, apps and other customer-related information channels, and to strictly comply with China's laws and regulations, so as to prevent occurrence of similar events,” the agency said at the time. It then sent a letter to three dozen carriers in late April.


‘Cold War mentality ‘

Reacting to Sanders’ intervention, Beijing’s state-run China Daily said in an editorial the matter has nothing to do with the White House, which was “simply trying to sensationalize the matter and putting its inflammatory two cents into something that does not concern it.”

The paper took issue with Sanders’ accusation of compulsion.

“China did not and will never threaten and coerce U.S. carriers and citizens as the White House claimed,” it said, adding that “the CAAC just informed the carriers that they got it wrong when they refer to China’s regions as a country.”

The Communist Party-affiliated Global Times, however, said there would be a “price” to pay for companies that don’t comply.

“Any attempt by any government to encourage Taiwan independence will offend Chinese society and any company that disrespects the issue will have to pay a price,” it said. “We hope all sides can understand this before making decisions.”

Global Times disputed that notion that China was pushing “political correctness,” saying “nearly the whole world” acknowledges China’s position on the matter.

“The White House’s harsh rhetoric against China will not scare Beijing. China will continue promoting international society to reach a consensus on the one-China policy in accordance with China’s pace.”

The paper added that the policies adopted by some Western companies merely “sustain the fantasy of independence forces” in Taiwan.

The problem will continue, it said, until Taiwan is reunified with “the motherland.”

Also in Global Times a Chinese academic, Prof. Li Haidong of the China Foreign Affairs University’s Institute of International Relations, said Sanders’ use of the term “Orwellian,” with its associations of Soviet-like authoritarianism, revealed a “Cold War mentality.”

Under the “one-China” policy adhered to by successive U.S. administrations Washington has full diplomatic relations with Beijing but only quasi-diplomatic ties with Taipei, whose sovereignty is not recognized by the international community.

Beijing’s stance is that Taiwan must return to the mainland fold, but the U.S. interpretation has been intentionally ambiguous, stressing the need for a peaceful solution and for neither side to unilaterally change the status quo.

China views Tsai as a dangerous “splittist” who is promoting formal independence for Taiwan. Even before he took office, then-President-elect Trump unnerved Beijing by holding a unprecedented, ten-minute phone conversation with her, and it remains leery about his overall stance regarding Taiwan.

Last March, Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows for U.S. officials “at all levels” of government to visit and meet with their Taiwan counterparts and vice-versa, marking a shift in decades-old policy.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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