As Marriott can already attest, tensions over China’s sovereignty can hurt business. Now U.S. airlines are under threat.
In one corner: China, stating that any business operating within its borders must respect its sovereignty. In the the other corner: The United States, dismissing Chinese concerns as “Orwellian”. That leaves airlines in the middle.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the AP:
Whatever the U.S. says will never change the objective fact that there is only one China in the world and the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan regions are an inalienable part of China’s territory. Foreign enterprises operating in China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s law and respect the national sentiment of the Chinese people.
For semi-autonomous Hong Kong and Macau, this may be easy enough to abide by, but what about self-ruled Taiwan?
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen wants airlines to resist pressure from China:
Delta has already apologized for labeling Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries, but American and United have ignored Chinese demands.
Now the White House has weighed in, with strict words from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:
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. … We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens.
Not surprisingly, this response has angered China. Shuang’s statement above was made in response to the White House statement.
Next Step: Will China Follow Through?
If American and United continue to ignore Chinese wishes, will they face a fate similar to Marriott, whose website in China was shut down for one week? It is now up to China to punish those who refuse to comply or find a “face saving” alternative that make the story go away.
Will you lose respect for American and United if they give into Mainland Chinese demands? Or is this simply, as China insists, the price of doing business in the Chinese market?