An imprinted T-Shirt from retailer Gap Inc. was at the center of an international controversy this week because it depicted what authorities in China deem to be an incomplete map of the nation.
The shirt’s imprint of China did not show Taiwan, disputed islands in the South China Sea and parts of the semiautonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. The Chinese government claims these regions as part of China and doesn’t appreciate when representations are made suggesting the lands are not part of the nation. State-owned Global Times reported that there was an outpouring of complaints about the shirts on China’s Weibo microblogging platform.
Following the pushback from China, Gap pulled the shirts from markets around the globe and offered an apology. "Upon the realization that one of our T-shirts sold in some overseas markets mistakenly failed to reflect the correct map of China, we urgently launched an internal investigation across the group and have decided to immediately pull back this T-shirt from all the concerned global markets," read a statement from the company.
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
As The Wall Street Journal reported, other brands, including Mercedes-Benz and Marriot International, have recently issued apologies for web-based communications that irked China regarding Tibet and Taiwan. Gap’s apology follows an April warning from China’s aviation authority in which international airlines were advised to ensure that their websites reflect China’s claim over Taiwan, among other geopolitical sticking points, or be subjected to major service disruptions. China is the world’s second busiest aviation market. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the threat “Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.’’
Regarding the Gap controversy, folks weren’t shy about weighing in with opinions on Twitter.
Dear @Gap, it’s a fact that #Taiwan is not part of #China anymore since 1949, but China keeps ignoring this and even wants to invade Taiwan. So to China, stop crying over something so small that’s on a shirt...— Esther Tsai (@TsaiEsther) May 16, 2018
yo @Gap i like what you did with the china shirt don’t apologize— adrienne lai (@driaaala) May 15, 2018
I see this map all the time in western medias because obviously they have their political agenda and have no reason to see it from Chinese point of view, but it is absolutely not acceptable to show this map in China. Let alone selling it ? Boycotting the shirt !— Gundamwen (@Gundamwen2017) May 16, 2018