China's Dispute With Companies Over 'One China' Recognition Has Spilled Over Into Apparel
U.S. apparel company Gap found itself at the center of a T-shirt controversy earlier this week. According to The Washington Post, the retailer sold T-shirts in North America that featured a map of China without including Taiwan. Even though the T-shirt was not for sale in China, Gap had to quickly make an apology for the offending, incomplete map.
Gap's China map made a few other missteps, too. It did not show what China refers to as "Southern Tibet," a territory it claims in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and it did not draw a line around China's territory in the South China Sea.
Some Chinese social media users made their discontent known immediately, and prompted an apology from Gap.
"Gap Inc. respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We've learned a Gap brand T-shirt sold in some overseas markets mistakenly failed to reflect the correct map of China. We sincerely apologize for this unintentional error,” Gap said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
American clothing retailer @Gap on Monday apologized for printing incomplete Chinese map on T-shirts for sales outside #China, said the brand respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity pic.twitter.com/uHJoLnpmr6
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) May 14, 2018
Here's why the Gap Taiwan T-shirt faux pas is such an issue. China has recently been pushing for various global companies to change their websites to declare that Taiwan is a part of China, as part of its "One China" policy—a move that's resulted in pushback from the White House. On April 25, China sent written threats to several international airlines warning them against continuing to ignore this request.
“This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies,” the White House said in a statement. “China’s internal internet repression is world-famous. China’s efforts to export its censorship and political correctness to Americans and the rest of the free world will be resisted.”
The list of offending companies continues to grow. Back in January, the Marriott International apologized to China after sending a letter to rewards club members that listed Taiwan as an option for country of residence. Zara and Delta Air Lines also had to apologize to China for listening Taiwan and/or Tibet as countries in their drop-down menus. Audi got in trouble last year for omitting Taiwan and its parts of western China on a map during an annual meeting.
Gap has said it has removed the offending T-shirt from store shelves, but Gap's China headquarters in Shanghai was quick to point out the T-shirt has not been released in China.