Take a look at the letter China’s aviation authority sent to 36 foreign airlines that the White House called ‘nonsense’

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Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

  • The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of China sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines on April 25 demanding changes to the way Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are referenced.
  • The Washington Post obtained a copy of the letter sent to United Airlines.
  • The letter requests the airline turns in a “self-rectification report,” and The Post’s translation describes a potential credit score being developed to rank airlines.
  • The White House has called the letter “Orwellian nonsense,” but Beijing stands by its claim that these regions are inalienable territories of China.

China’s Civil Aviation Authority sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines last month, pressuring them to remove references to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as countries on their websites and marketing materials.

The White House called China’s demands “Orwellian nonsense” and China’s foreign ministry responded, saying that “whatever the US said will never change the objective fact that there is only one China.” American Airlines and Qantas both confirmed to Business Insider they received the letter, but the nature of the CAA’s demands remained largely unknown.

But The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin appears to have obtained a version of the letter sent to United Airlines, which operates one-fifth of all US-China flights:

Copy of what appears to be the first page of a letter sent by China's CAA to United Airlines.

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Copy of what appears to be the first page of a letter sent by China’s CAA to United Airlines.
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Screenshot/ Washington Post

Copy of what appears to be the second page of a letter sent by China's CAA to United Airlines.

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Copy of what appears to be the second page of a letter sent by China’s CAA to United Airlines.
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Screenshot/ Washington Post

The letter, which United Airlines did not deny receiving when questioned by Business Insider, says the airline must complete a “self-rectification” report once the issue is resolved.

If United doesn’t stop listing Taiwan as a country, leaving Taiwan off maps of China and listing Taiwan under Chinese destinations, The Washington Post translated a number of punishments including the involvement of law enforcement, administrative penalties, and invoking “credit management trial measures” which appears to be a credit score for aviation companies.

While the CAA’s letter may seem overreaching, the country’s pressure has worked well so far.

Delta Air Lines was censured by China’s CAA earlier this year for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website and the air carrier apologized and updated the site.

China then ordered all foreign airlines to review their websites. Lufthansa changed its website, British Airways repeatedly changed its site back and forth, and Qantas said it corrected an “error” it found on its site.

Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of China. But Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as it is a self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing considers to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified – by force, if necessary.

Read The Washington Post’s original version of the letter here »