If China’s Law Applies Everywhere Then Doesn’t Everywhere’s Law Apply In China?

This little fuss that China is making about where places are called has an interesting implication. If China’s decision of what Macao or Taipei must be called applies worldwide then that’s the insistence that Chinese law applies globally. But that then runs smack into a basic problem of sovereignty. That US law applies in the US. English in England and so on. Further, if Chinese law applies in the US then why doesn’t US law apply in China? You see the problem? Once we get to the extraterritorial application of law then everyone’s applies extraterritorially, right?

China aviation authorities are threatening to punish foreign airlines operating in China if they refuse to comply with their demands to refer to Taiwan as a part of China on their websites and other marketing materials.

U.S. airlines were among 36 international carriers told in late April to amend their websites to reflect China’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan, and to also accurately show the status of Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.

The airlines were given 30 days to comply or face potentially severe disruption to their operations in the world’s second busiest aviation market.

China can, of course, quite righteously demand people say whatever it likes inside China. Sure, we might think that human and civil rights come into it and so on but the basic idea that Chinese law applies in China isn’t something disputed by anyone.

China has dismissed White House criticism of its “Orwellian” demand that foreign airlines not refer to self-ruled Taiwan as a country, saying companies operating in China must respect its sovereignty.

“Whatever the U.S. says will never change the objective fact that there is only one China in the world and the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan regions are an inalienable part of China’s territory,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement Sunday posted online.

“Foreign enterprises operating in China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s law and respect the national sentiment of the Chinese people,” Geng said.

All of that is true. Inside China and inside China only. It doesn’t apply outside China. But that seems to be the claim that is being made and that’s the one that needs to be defended against. Sovereignty does indeed mean that Chinese law rules in China, but the very same concept insists that it doesn’t outside.

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