China says four US airlines have missed a deadline to change their naming of Taiwan 

Key Points
  • American, Delta, Hawaiian and United have changed how they refer to self-governed Taiwan on their websites to avoid Chinese penalties ahead of a Wednesday deadline.
  • However the Chinese Aviation authority says the changes are incomplete, although does not specify why.
  • China has previously asked that airlines in particular do not refer to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites.
A sign indicates the departure area for flights leaving Beijing airport on July 25, 2018. 
GREG BAKER | AFP | Getty Images

Four U.S. airlines have failed to satisfy China's aviation regulator over their website descriptions of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

China is asking foreign companies to avoid referring to Taiwan in particular as a country in its own right. Beijing policy dictates that China will refuse diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes the island as a sovereign state.

At present most sovereign states only hold official diplomatic recognition with the mainland People's Republic of China (PRC), designating it, with some ambiguity, as the sole representative of China. Just 17 of 163 United Nations formally hold diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also referred to as the Republic of China (ROC). 

In May, Washington described the Chinese demands over Taiwan naming as "Orwellian nonsense" and requested talks on the matter. China refused to engage and set a deadline of July 25 for firms, especially airlines, to make the changes.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said Thursday that 40 of 44 international carriers had satisfactorily amended their website references to Taiwan, as well as the former British colony of Hong Kong and the former Portuguese colony of Macau.

CAAC identifies the four outstanding airlines as United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines. As of Thursday, all four websites for the airlines now only list Taipei's airport code but do not reference Taiwan.

The Chinese aviation body said that the remaining four airlines had submitted a two-week extension to audit their website, as full "rectification" had not been completed.

CAAC did not make clear what more is expected before it is fully satisfied with the change but said it would pay close attention before deciding to take action.

United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines were not immediately available for comment.