TAIPEI (The China Post) — Thirty-six international airlines along with major retailers such as Zara and MUJI have deleted or modified content related to Taiwan on their websites and merchandise in recent months.
In all of these cases, Taiwan was referenced as a nation/region, contradicting the One-China policy promoted by Chinese authorities. Now, Taiwan is listed as “Taipei” or “Taipei, China.”
In the case of Marriott, the website was shut down for a week in order to correct the mistake, and GAP recalled and destroyed shirts that did not include Taiwan in a map of China. In most cases, official apologies were released with reaffirmation of the One-China policy.
These examples highlight China’s soft power and influence over other nations in the complicated relationship with Taiwan. Most notable was Panama, Burkina Faso, and the Dominican Republic’s recent retraction of Taiwanese recognition and formal relations. This means only 15 nations still recognise Taiwanese independence—none of which are major powers.
Furthermore, President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy that seeks to strengthen and expand relations in South and Southeast Asia was met with apprehension. Although all nations state that existing economic relations with Taiwan are lucrative and reliable, relations with China are more valuable.
Tu Lai, a Vietnamese research fellow at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, stated that Vietnam’s number one trading partner is China, and that there probably would not be any expansion with Taiwan if China expresses opposition.
In the opposite direction, Nyo Ohn Myint, former spokesperson for Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, declared that Myanmar’s interpretation of the One-China policy can be more flexible and economic relations with Taiwan can expand.
In addition, a John’s Hopkins interactive coronavirus map that originally listed “Taipei and environs” has since been changed to “Taiwan.” Furthermore, the United States government advised United and American Airlines not to comply with Chinese requests to remove Taiwan as a listed country/region.
These disputes and conflicts might seem minor, but can build up substantial effects. In the case of coronavirus, Taiwan’s statistics at the WHO are compiled with China’s meaning Taiwan’s successful handling of the virus is unnoticeable. This, along with airlines listing Taiwan under China, mean that people will not know that travel to Taiwan is safe and available.