PEKING – Tensions between Washington and Beijing have spilled into a new and unexpected battleground: the pull-down menus on airline websites where customers click on flights and destinations.
After the White House accused the Chinese government on Saturday of deleting "Orwellian Nonsense" for the 36 airlines to separate their websites from referrals to Macau, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as separate countries, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs struck back on Sunday.
In fact, the Ministry said foreign companies that obey official Chinese demands on how to relate to these areas would be the prices of business in China.
He added, "It has to be pointed out The fact that foreign companies do business in China should respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, comply with Chinese laws and respect the national sentiments of the Chinese."
The White House said Beijing sent a letter to airlines, including those based in the United States, telling them to delete their references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, which in the eyes of Chinese officials give the impression of these places did not belong to China.
"This is Orwellian nonsense and part of the growing trend of the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement
Efforts to export censorship and political correctness to the Americans and the rest of the free world will be rejected, "she said. Geng did not mention that Ms. Sanders knew about "Orwellian nonsense," nor did he say how China would enforce its wishes on the websites and advertising materials of foreign companies. But he said these companies should follow official Chinese orders.
After President Trump took office, he tried to maintain a cordial relationship with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, and Mr. Trump says he and Mr. Xi are friends. But relations between China and the United States are becoming increasingly curious about Mr. Trump's claims that trade and investment flows and regulations are heavily biased in favor of China.
Talks about these complaints, which ended in Beijing on Friday, seemed to make little progress
The flare-ups of airline websites showed that the Chinese government has its own acute sensitivities, especially in relation to territorial issues – even in the obscure lists of countries and regions found on airline websites.
Taiwan's status has been struggling since 1949, when national troops fleeing communists set up their government there. Tensions have risen in recent years as Beijing mistrusts Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. She is skeptical of closer links between authoritarian China and Taiwan, which has been a democracy since the 1990s.
Hong Kong has also become an increasingly sensitive issue for Beijing, which has sought to extend its influence over the former British colony to its distinct status as an administrative region with its own laws. A small group of activists in Hong Kong seeking independence have been particularly outraged by Chinese officials.
The letter to the airlines seemed to reinforce Chinese efforts to exert influence on foreign companies such as Taiwan and Hong Kong and others to take sensitive areas. In January, Delta Air Lines apologized for an "unintentional error" after the Chinese authorities claimed to have listed Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website.
In January, Chinese Officials Temporarily Postponed Marriott International's Chinese Website
Marriott promised that it would "not support any separatist organization that would undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity"