By Cailey Rizzo
July 25, 2018

It’s no longer possible to book a ticket from the U.S. to Taiwan — depending on whom you ask.

In order to avoid punitive sanctions from China, three major U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United) removed the word “Taiwan” from their websites on Wednesday. The airlines will continue to fly to the capital Taipei airport.

Earlier this year, China’s Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to more than 40 foreign airlines demanding they remove all mentions of Taiwan from their websites or be subject to sanctions, The Washington Post reported. Hours before the Wednesday deadline, U.S. airlines were among the last to continue referring to Taiwan as a country separate from China.

Ever since a civil war in 1949, Taiwan and mainland China have governed as separate entities. While the Taiwanese view themselves as independent, Beijing considers the self-governed, democratic island a breakaway province under “one China.”

“United abides by and respects local laws and regulations in all markets and jurisdictions where we operate and conduct business,” a spokesperson told The Washington Post. “United flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will continue to operate normally.”

China is one of the world’s largest travel markets and has the fastest growing airports in the world. It can benefit businesses to remain on China’s good side. “Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Reuters.

Earlier this year, the White House referred to China’s mandates as “Orwellian nonsense” and said the administration would “stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens.”

“China is willing to share China’s development opportunities with foreign companies and welcomes them to invest in and operate in China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press conference in Beijing. “Of course we hope that when they operate in China they respect China’s laws and rules, China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the feelings of the Chinese people.”

Earlier this year, China blocked all Marriott websites and apps for one week because the hotel chain referred to Taiwan, Tibet, Macau, and Hong Kong as separate countries in an email. Marriott issued an apology and a review of its practices.