The White House originally called the request "Orwellian nonsense," but the three biggest US airlines appear to have caved to a demand from China on references to Taiwan. Ahead of a Wednesday deadline imposed by Beijing, Delta, American, and United will alter the way they refer to Taiwan on their websites, as per China's mandate that Taiwan not be listed as an entity separate from China. Reuters checked the sites of those airlines Wednesday morning and found Taipei's airport code and city listed, but "Taiwan" now gone. Hawaiian Airlines is the fourth US airline affected by the mandate and is also set to comply, per Bloomberg. "Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate," an American Airlines rep tells CNNMoney.
Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since a break in 1949, but China has continued to claim Taiwan as its own territory. In April, the Civil Aviation Administration of China sent a letter to dozens of airlines across the globe mandating they modify their websites if they referred to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau as separate nations, per the New York Times. Most international airlines—including Lufthansa, Air Canada, British Airways, Qantas, and Air India—have since given in to the request. The Washington Post notes that while the US airlines' acquiescence doesn't actually affect Taiwan's status, the scrubbing of "Taiwan" is a "symbolic victory for Chinese leaders and an example of the nation's business leverage." (Read more airlines stories.)