Taiwan’s parliament passed a proposal on Wednesday to rebrand the island’s largest airline to avoid confusion with carriers on the Chinese mainland.
China Airlines (CAL) is frequently mistaken for Air China – the mainland’s national carrier – and there have long been calls to rename it or make it more clearly Taiwanese.
The movement received fresh impetus during the coronavirus pandemic, which Taiwan has successfully tackled.
The island has sent medical aid overseas as a diplomatic gesture of goodwill, often on China Airlines aircraft, sparking some public confusion abroad over where the shipments had come from.
On Wednesday, lawmakers approved a proposal asking the transport ministry to come up with both short- and long-term rebranding plans for the carrier, which is partly government-owned.
“The ministry should make CAL more identifiable internationally with Taiwanese images to protect Taiwan’s national interests as overseas it is mistaken for a Chinese airline,” parliament speaker Yu Shyi-kun said while reading out the proposal.
The motion did not set a timeline for when the airline should be eventually renamed, saying it would require further discussion.
Some critics warn renaming the airline might provoke the mainland – especially if specific references to Taiwan are added.
Another proposal passed on Wednesday called for the island “to further enhance the visibility of ‘Taiwan’ on our passports”.
Taiwan’s passports currently say “Republic of China. Taiwan.”
A proposal from a minority party calling for the removal of the phrase “Republic of China” did not pass.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said the mainland had increased its sabre rattling, with jets entering the island’s air defence zone on an “almost daily” basis last month.
He warned that Beijing might use “outside conflicts to resolve its internal issues” such as recent flooding, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a slowing economy.
“We are very concerned Taiwan can be a very convenient scapegoat for China,” he said.
“Taiwan’s government is handling these issues very carefully … to avoid Taiwan becoming China’s excuse to declare a war or start a military conflict.” (AFP)