BEIJING – Under pressure from the Chinese government, American Airlines has changed the way it labels Taiwan on its website ̵
The move came about three months after Beijing ordered it as a Chinese territory or world second-largest aviation market.
By Wednesday morning, Chinese users could no longer see the name "Taiwan" on a map of Asia on the American Airlines website, while China, Japan and the Korea remain. The change is expected to reach all of the airline's online content, though updates may have lagged in some markets, a spokeswoman said.
"American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in a statement.
American Airlines tweaked its language just before Beijing's July 25 deadline. So far, United and Delta have not followed suit, listing the island online as its own country – not "China Taiwan" or a similar title, by the request of President Xi Jinping's government.
Beijing has been claimed as part of its territory under its "one-China policy." But driving US carriers to self-censorship is a symbolic victory for Chinese leaders and an example of the nation's business leverage.
Taiwan broke out of China after Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists. Taiwan and China's relationship remains fraught, despite a number of talks between the parties in recent years.
On Tuesday, Chinese officials called on American carriers to swiftly edit their language.
"We hope that the U.S. Government wants to be the same as possible, "Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.
The State Department, however, expressed that
"We have told China that the United States strongly objects to China's attempts to compel private firms to use specific words of a political nature in their publicly available content," a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Beijing said Tuesday.
Disobeying China, however, carries a steep economic risk for airlines in the rapidly expanding market. Roughly 549 million passengers in China took flights last year, compared with 184 million in 2007.
Analysts say Beijing can not get access to these fliers by ramping up regulations, crashing websites tourists who are allowed to travel to the United States.
The risk of noncompliance is a doozy, said Bob Mann, at airline industry in New York.
"They can not sell within China," Mann said.
The Trump administration has called Beijing's demand "Orwellian nonsense, "but industry groups suggested Wednesday that more US carriers may comply.
Chinese officials have called the matter nonnegotiable and have at least one request from the White House to discuss the issue.
"As with other sectors of the economy, the U.S." airline industry is a global business that must contend with a host of regulations and requirements, "Airlines for America, a lobbying group for the industry, said in a statement.
The United States kicked off a trade with China, imposing tariffs on $ 34 billion in Chinese imports. Beijing has been repaid with levies on an equal amount of American goods.
President Trump has slated to pay an additional $ 200 billion in Chinese products as early as September.
Yang Liu contributed from Beijing.