GAP issued a written apology on its official Sina Weibo page for printing a T-shirt portraying a map of China which failed to include the nation’s claimed territories, including Taiwan, South Tibet and islands in the South China Sea. Quartz Media hereby presents a Tee you could wear everywhere in East Asia without upsetting anyone. Speaking of dotting those i’s and crossing your t’s.
Last week, U.S. clothing retailer GAP apologized for printing a t-shirt that didn’t include China’s claimed territories, including Taiwan, South Tibet, and islands in the South China Sea. In doing so, it joined Marriott and Delta, which had previously triggered Beijing’s ire for maps-related issues. At the same time, a group of Chinese tourists to Vietnam generated outrage by showing up at a Vietnamese airport wearing t-shirts with a Chinese map including parts of Vietnam.
Maps are complicated in the current geopolitical climate — especially emblazoned across your torso. What is perfectly acceptable in Vietnam can get you stopped at Chinese border control, and vice versa. Either way…
The design in casu featured just the Mainland and not territories that China also claims, such as Taiwan.
The controversy kicked off after one Sina Weibo user wrote on the social media network that the T-shirt, which was being sold in Canada, did not show Chinese-claimed territories including Taiwan, islands in the South China Sea and southern Tibet.
Beijing considers self-ruling Taiwan to be a breakaway province, while Tibet is governed as an autonomous region. China also claims a large part of territory in the South China Sea, which neighbouring Asian countries dispute.
GAP issued a statement in which the company said it respected China’s “sovereignty” and would implement “rigorous reviews” to prevent a repeat of the incident.
GAP is the latest in a string of foreign firms to face a backlash for not adhering to China’s territorial claims.
Even the United Nations’s world map openly states that the represented borders aren’t necessarily officially recognized (the map specifically calls out Kashmir and the Falkland Islands as disputed territories.) It also notes that although Taiwan was a UN founding member, it left the organization in 1971, and the UN recognizes China’s sovereignty over it.
Nonetheless, what if you just really want to wear a map of the South China Sea?