Press Releases

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a bipartisan group of senators in reaffirming their support for U.S. airlines who are facing attempts by the Chinese government to exert sovereignty over their internal business practices and the content of their websites, specifically as it relates to Taiwan. The letter comes after China’s Civil Aviation Administration demanded that American Airlines and United Airlines, list Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” or “The Taiwan Region, China,” and that their websites’ maps mark Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan “by the same color as the Mainland China region,” among other demands. The letter was signed by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The full text of the letter to American Airlines and United Airlines is below:

We recently learned the Chinese government’s Comprehensive Department of the Civil Aviation Administration sent letters demanding that your company and other American air carriers change your website content related to Taiwan and threatening punishments if your airline fails to comply.  The U.S. Congress stands ready to defend the integrity of your airline and other American companies against attempts by foreign governments to exert sovereignty over your internal business practices and the content of your website.

The Chinese government and Communist Party are aggressively seeking to marginalize and isolate Taiwan, a democracy and important partner to the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, by bullying American companies and foreign countries to sever official ties with Taiwan.  Toward those ends, we understand that China’s Civil Aviation Administration has demanded, among other things, that your website list Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” or “The Taiwan Region, China,” and that your website’s maps mark Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan “by the same color as the Mainland China region.”

The Chinese government’s ultimatums are not being made in a vacuum.  Last June, China pressured Panama to cut long-standing diplomatic ties with Taiwan after it promised to assist with “Panama’s economic and social development”.  This month, the Dominican Republic announced its decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan after the Chinese government reportedly offered them a $3.1 billion package of investment and loans. China also has blocked Taiwan from participating in the World Health Organization’s annual assembly this year as well as in 2017.

We also regret to see that several companies—some of which are household names—have recently bent under inappropriate pressure and threats from the Chinese government.  The Chinese government has only become emboldened as a result.

We therefore support the White House’s recent decision to issue a strong statement that describes the Chinese government’s efforts targeting your airline as “Orwellian nonsense.”  As the White House added: “The United States strongly objects to China’s attempts to compel private firms to use specific language of a political nature in their publicly available content.”

You should know that Taiwan enjoys strong support not only in the White House, but also in the U.S. Congress, as evidenced by the recent enactment of the bipartisan Taiwan Travel Act, a new American law to strengthen our high-level government ties with Taiwan.  Indeed, U.S. lawmakers are gravely concerned about the “long arm” of the Chinese government and its many manifestations, including efforts to leverage the size of China’s market and the desire of multi-national companies to maintain or gain access to it and to pressure corporations to hew to Beijing’s political line—whatever it may be.

While we recognize that your company is weighing many complex factors, including the interests of your shareholders, we believe this is a critical moment.  As you weigh your response options, you should know that your government stands with you, and will strongly oppose attempts by China or any other foreign government to unilaterally dictate terms to an American company and exert sovereignty over your internal business practices and the content of your website.  We stand ready to assist and look forward to engaging with you in the days ahead.

Sincerely,