China Airlines Downplays China With New Livery

Filed Under: China Airlines

It looks like we’re seeing the first concrete step towards China Airlines rebranding, as the Taiwan-based airline tries to distance itself from mainland China.

New China Airlines Cargo 777 livery

China Airlines Cargo has just taken delivery of its first Boeing 777F, intended to start to replace the 18 Boeing 747-400Fs that the cargo airline currently operates. As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting part of this is the livery on the new plane, which points at some bigger changes we can expect at China Airlines.

Here’s the rendering of the China Airlines Cargo 777F from prior to this year:

Here’s the actual first China Airlines Cargo 777F:

You’ll notice two major difference:

  • “China Airlines” is written in much smaller font towards the back of the plane, rather than prominently towards the front of the plane
  • The “C” in “Cargo” is a map of Taiwan, subtle as it may be (I could see some people thinking to themselves that the plane simply has chipped paint)

Why is China Airlines rebranding?

As I’ve explained in the past, there are plans to rebrand China Airlines, and Taiwan’s Parliament has even voted in favor of such a proposal.

China Airlines is based in Taipei, and is the “flag” carrier of Taiwan. However, there has long been confusion and controversy surrounding the name. Confusion has been especially common among those who may not be familiar with the nuances of Taiwan vs. mainland China.

Many assume that China Airlines is based in mainland China, when in fact the airline is based in Taiwan (People’s Republic of China vs. Republic of China), which has a very different identity.

This has caused frustration, in particular in recent months given the coronavirus pandemic. For example, many thought that repatriation and aid flights operated by China Airlines were in connection with mainland China. Heck, during the US election cycle an attack ad against Joe Biden incorrectly showed a China Airlines plane when talking about the China travel ban.

In July Taiwan’s Parliament passed a proposal to rebrand China Airlines, leaving it up to the Transport Ministry to come up with both a short term and long term rebranding plan. It sure appears to me that this modified livery is part of a short term rebranding.

Bottom line

China Airlines’ rebranding seems to slowly be underway. The most recent plane to be delivered to China Airlines Cargo now has the carrier’s name written in a much less prominent way, with a map of Taiwan drawn in the “C” of the word “Cargo.” While not the most exciting livery on earth, I guess it’s an interim solution that accomplishes the primary goal of this rebranding.

I imagine this is only step one of a potential rebranding of the airline. I’ll be curious to see how this develops…

  1. Interesting observations, including the map of Taiwan inside the “C”. Will be even more fascinating to see what the final rebranded livery looks like.

  2. I’ve been a big fan of China Airlines for years! This is a step that’s long overdue. Most people on this side of the pond have no idea that the company is Taiwanese. Step two should go further.

  3. They should rename themselves to ‘REAL China Airlines’.

    Although that would likely mean that they can no longer fly to/over fake-China.

  4. A lot of people think they are the same thing as Air China. I’d love for them to change their name to Taiwan Airlines imho.

  5. I don’t think PRC is gonna take issue with it. It considers Taiwan as a province, so even “Taiwan Airlines” could be no difference from “Hainan Airlines”, “Shandong Airlines”, etc, whose names all come from a province in China

  6. How about “LuxStar Airlines”? No confusion there.

    “Free China Airlines” has a nice ring to it. I’m sure the thugs in Beijing will be fine with that.

  7. I totally disagree of taking the word china out from the airline! Yes, the country is called Taiwan. But the name china is not solely to mainland chinese only. Taiwanese are chinese too. It is their right to call themselves chinese without being compared to PRC mainlanders.
    PRC has to face the truth that ROC is an independent state and its citizens are free to be what they are. It is not a rogue province. The countries out there are just afraid to lose their trade with PRC so they try to maintain low key towards ROC.

  8. @Dick Bupkiss @Donnie – Oh don’t be silly. You clearly don’t know anyone from Taiwan do you? Modern Taiwanese hate to be associated with China. Claiming the legitimacy of being called China is a very KMT way of thinking, and it has been widely trashed ever since DPP gains power. (By the way if you don’t even know what KMT or DPP stands for then don’t pretend you know what is going on in Taiwan) That’s why they are trying so hard to rebrand CI or even take ROC away from their passport cover.

  9. Sounds like a couple of posters here are out of touch – more Taiwanese people identify as “Taiwanese” more than they do “real Chinese” or whatever.

  10. @MKLDH : it wasn’t even THAT trashed until you saw how the Korean Fish was licking CCP’s boots during last year’s campaign, or the 8-year administration by Nine Horse guy.

    but Tsai most definitively have to thank that Xith Lord with her re-election – his messages of bully and threats, delivered at the most opportune times, helped her first to barely survive the primary and just eeking out a tiny plurality, then helped her crack the 8mil ceiling.

    the fact that Korean Fish got recalled as mayor afterwards is just icing on the cake.

  11. You try for this to not be political, Lucky, then avoid posts like this. Posts like this have nothing to do with points and miles and have no affiliation with you or the blog. The rebrand does not affect whether people will use China Airlines Cargo or not. I do agree with the comment above though that there is often confusion with China Airlines and Air China. Even in Chinese it can be confusing.

  12. @MKLDH

    Reducing the politics of Taiwan down to “Modern Taiwanese hate to be associated with China” is like claiming that Americans reject the politics of Donald Trump because they voted Joe Biden into office, and leaving it at that.

    Meanwhile, the politics of referring to the territory as just “Taiwan” is more nuanced than, “It’s the name of a province.” There’re political implications. I’d argue that the PRC government will interpret this as an attempt to promote a Taiwanese national identity that deliberately rejects its Chinese-ness, and would in fact prefer that everyone continue to acknowledge the territory as innately China. From Beijing’s perspective, between an “illegitimate” government that wants independence versus and illegitimate government that still claims to be China, the latter is probably the lesser of two evils.

    All this is on top of the fact that China Airlines remains one of the most prominent legacy institutions of the ROC that hearkens back to an era where the idea of Taiwanese independence wasn’t even on the table. The airline moving on is symbolic of Taiwan moving on, like when Taipei became the official capital of the ROC rather than Nanking. That’s almost certainly something Beijing would consider insulting rather than a matter of practicality.

  13. Awesome story! Taiwan is my favorite Asian destination. Taiwan really has nothing to do with China. They speak with a different accent, and even has a different writing system. Can’t wait to try out Starlux!!!

  14. @henry LAX – That disconnection would happen nonetheless. “Korean Fish” and “Nine Horse” are merely examples of how corrupted and incapable KMT has been for the past century, and it’s natural for DPP to take the chance and show they are different from KMT in every perspective. But are Ms “Vegetable English” and her party really that different? I don’t know. Time will tell.

    @Asarious – First, I was simply saying how stupid it is for some Western commenters, who clearly know little about Taiwan issue, to suggest “Free China Airline” or Taiwanese should be real Chinese. They don’t care about Taiwan or Taiwanese people and they simply treat Taiwan as a weapon against CCP.

    Second, I agree with most of what you said, and Beijing is definitely more willing to deal with a “China” title competitor than a Taiwan independence advocator. But I’d like to remind you that this livery story actually came off at the end of November, and for some reason, it gets revisited by Taiwanese media recently. Beijing hasn’t said a word about this, and even the online community in China paid little attention to this. Why? They really don’t care. I’d argue it’s DPP that is trying to get more attention to this issue so that they can gain more popularity.

  15. Do what Taiwan’s other airline Eva Air did. EVA AIR has nothing to do with China, It was started by Evergreen Air Transport, a Taiwanese cargo airline.

  16. The Westerners here are probably extremely confused by what “Korean Fish”, “Nine horses” and “vegetable English” mean.

  17. Taiwan is not a country and is part of China. If it ever tries to become independent I bet China will invade it. And who is gonna defend them? Americans??? Are you all willing to die on a disputed territory?

  18. Simple name change: China Airlines of Taiwan

    Their Taiwan map within the letter C is not accurate. The airline is based in the Republic of China, not the Republic of Taiwan.

    Why confusion with the Republic of China and People’s Republic of China? Is there any confusion with the United States of America and the United States of Mexico? (actually some confusion…..”Who’s going to pay for the wall? United States!”)

  19. If ROC wanted independence or be the only china, perhaps win the god damn civil war. Only handful of countries are recognizing the government of Taiwan as sovereign states anyway. Let’s wait until we have airlines flying to state of palestine and the nato and usa will be yapping.

  20. @MKLDH
    I’m Taiwanese and I live in Taiwan. There are different opinions for sure, but please do not use the label “modern Taiwanese” to refer to people who share a similar opinion with you, suggesting that other Taiwanese are not “modern.” This is discrimination.

  21. Why not call it ‘Air Taiwan’ or ‘Taiwan Air Lines’?

    I wonder if the plan on a Winnie-The-Pooh special livery.

  22. @ernestnywang – I’m not Taiwanese and I don’t believe that Taiwan is completely seperate from China. In fact, I think both “Taiwan has nothing to do with China” and “Taiwan is the real China” mentality are pathetic. But that‘s just me. What I described in that comment, however, is what the mainstream Taiwanese people think. If you are indeed Taiwanese you know I’m not lying about that. And that phenomenon is an inevitable result of decades of de-Sinicization education started by DPP. So if you have a different belief, go ahead and fight with Vegetable English and her party. I wish you good luck.

  23. @John You are referring to traditional and simplified Chinese. Actually, both still originated from China. What they write in Taiwan still has roots to ancient China. Taiwan never developed a different writing system. That is why both are still referred to as written Chinese as both are from China. As for different accents, different cities and different provinces speak Chinese differently. How they pronounce Chinese words in Beijing would not be the same as opposed to from Chengdu. Even the dialects used in Taiwan has roots to China and most people in Taiwan came from Fujian province which is a part of China. No matter how they want to identify themselves or anything else, they have origins from China.

  24. The fact is a “simple” name change for an airline, especially flag carrier, isn’t as easy as submitting an application at the DMV. Mind you, “Taiwan” or “ROC”, however one wants to call it, remain a no longer recognised de facto state. Its association with ICAO, IATA, and multiple landing/overflight agreement with sovereign states would be in jeopardy when renegotiation is triggered by a name change due to pressure from the mainland.

    The political landscape in Taiwan has shifted to a more anti-China sentiment in recent years and it is no surprise the legislature passed a “non-binding resolution recommending enhancement of image of Taiwan” on CAL livery. Politicians know it will be a dead end for CAL with name change but done it anyway for political gains. Similar to its updated passport cover which is due for issuance in about a month featuring ENLARGED “Taiwan” and “artistically” erasing ‘Republic of China” from public eyes.

    Politics and sentiments aside, if a publicly listed company wants to commit business/marketing suicide by changing a 60-year-old brand name, who are we to stop it?

  25. First, by what reason Taiwan is “freer” than China, given ROC gov’s infamous reputation for promoting terrorist political oppression in both Mainland era or Taiwan era?
    Second, good move for them but constitutionally, ROC’s capital is still Nanjing and there are two provinces of current ROC – Taiwan and Fukien. Fukien Province still has County of Lienchiang and County of Kinmen even if other counties like Xiamen are “fallen”. Their postal system still has reserve for other “fallen provinces”. Therefore, I am not sure why a rebranding to the name “Taiwan” has any help to a state-run airline

  26. Taiwan is an independent nation and has been for some 63 years. Back then, it was last vestige of the former Chang Kai-shek’s rule of China – the one part that the Maoists couldn’t take over. For decades, it has considered itself the “real” China based on this history. However, time marches on and it’s clear that Taiwan is Taiwan and not the “real” China.

    As such, I would think that they should brand their national airline as such. Taiwan Airlines or something similar. And I don’t blame them for not wanting to be confused with Air China. I wouldn’t either.

    To those comments above stating otherwise, I’ve got news for you: Taiwan is a sovereign country by any definition. It’s not part of the PRC. The fact that it has little official diplomatic recognition is only because the PRC won’t have anything to do with any country that officially recognizes Taiwan. So, no sweet sweet CCP money for you if you want to hang out with them. This is like the muscle-bound future linebacker on the playground: don’t be friends with him or you’ll be an enemy of mine. Pure intimidation that does not make Taiwan part of China. It’s not and the PRC has never ruled over it. Any claim they have would require invasion and doing evil things, which the PRC has no problem doing.

  27. @MKLDH
    The mainstream view differs somewhat depending on which age group or which demography you ask, but that is not my main point. My main point is that, even with a majority view and a minority view (with somewhere around a 2:1 ratio across the entire Taiwanese population that is), you should not label the majority ones as “modern” and thereby suggest that the minority ones are “not modern.” This is where I have an issue with.

  28. Even this livery did not satisfy many pro independent Taiwanese. Why is Taiwan enveloped in the big C? It already suggests Taiwan is part of China.

    Put political view aside, the real issue is the confusion with Air China. Go watch the episode of Mayday/Aircrash Investigation on CI140, the narrator has referred the pilots as “Air China pilots” a couple of times. With Korea, which both side claim themselves to be the legitimate government of the whole peninsula, used different names for their national airline. Korean Air vs Air Koryo. Imagine if it had been Korea Air and Air Korea, that will cause a lot of confusion.

  29. They cannot change their name to Taiwan Airlines or anything with the word Taiwan in it. Putting the image of Taiwan in the C is already kind of pushing it but is technically okay because it’s just the island of Formosa and is not declaring affiliation with Taiwan the entity in any way.

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