GAP Inc., the popular American clothing and accessories retailer, attracted huge backlash for printing an incomplete map of China on its T-shirts.
Amid a possible “trade war” breaking out between the U.S. and China, netizens in the Asian country went berserk on Weibo (a widely used local micro-blogging website) when a user posted one of GAP’s t-shirts on sale in Canada, pointing out that Taiwan had been excluded as part of China. The error also includes some islands in the South China Sea which Xi Jingpin’s government claims as part of its sovereign territory.
In response to this highly-sensitive political error by the American clothing company, China’s official newspaper The People’s Daily took to social media for a viral tweet, displaying a picture of the map on Gap’s shirt next to the one that Beijing thinks is accurate.
The GAP shirt caused massive offense in China for showcasing a map that didn’t adhere to Beijing’s territorial claims and did not include Taiwan, Southern Tibet, and the South China Sea.
While Taiwan is self-governed, only a minority of countries recognize its sovereignty as a nation independent of China.
The area that China has dubbed “Southern Tibet” is a disputed region on the country’s border with India.
China claims about 90,000 square kilometers in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, China is engaged in a number of disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in what is a major commercial thoroughfare that is potentially rich in resources.
Several other nations have claims in the South China sea.
Following the uproar, Gap immediately issued an apology to china, although the retailer said the shirts had not been sold in China.
In an official statement, Gap said that all shirts in the country had been recalled and destroyed.
However, it wasn’t immediately clear how the shirts would have been in the country if they weren’t on sale there.
The company’s statement noted, “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.”
Further, the company also reaffirmed its “strict adherence” to Chinese rules and laws.
China has launched a crack down on international companies to reinforce the ‘One china’ policy this year.
In recent similar slip-ups, several companies, including Delta Air Lines, Marriott, Zara, and Mercedes-Benz have all apologized to the country officially.
At a daily briefing in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded to Gap’s apology and said that it “will follow carefully their actions and remarks later on.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters that China pressuring companies like Gap to change how they refer to Taiwan was “rather unfortunate in terms of cross-strait relations” and would push its residents “further and further away” rather than winning their “hearts and minds.”