Gap is the latest US company to apologise to China, but at the same time it's quietly protesting

Screenshot/ Gapfactory.comThe Gap T-Shirt with a map of China.
  • Gap has issued an apology for selling a T-shirt that depicts China without Taiwan, South Tibet, or the South China Sea.
  • The US clothing brand apologised, saying it “respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”
  • Gap is the latest company to run afoul of China’s sensitivity over its contested territories, after Marriott and Zara were forced to issue apologies earlier this year.
  • Despite the apology, Business Insider found Gap’s controversial T-shirt was still on sale on Monday evening.

Gap issued an apology to Chinese state media on Monday for selling a T-shirt that was described as having an incorrect map of China.

The shirt featuring a map of China – which Business Insider found was still available for sale on the US Gap Factory site for $US7.99 on Monday evening – caused something of an international uproar because it omitted South Tibet, Taiwan, and islands in the South China Sea – territories that China claims as its own. A picture of the shirt, which is the only one in the “City” T-shirt line to include a map rather than a flag, gained hundreds of comments on Weibo after reportedly being spotted in Canada. Gap issued an apology.

“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 apologise for this unintentional error,” the company said in a statement to Global Times on Monday.

“This batch of products had been pulled off shelves in the Chinese market and destroyed. As a responsible company, Gap Inc. strictly follows Chinese laws and rules,” the statement read, adding that the company would have more “rigorous reviews in the future.”

This is not the first time US companies have been urged by Chinese internet users or China’s government to change products or advertising materials to appease the “one-China policy.”

Beijing claims a number of contested territories, but is particularly sensitive about Taiwan, a self-ruled island that it considers to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified. China frequently seeks to assert its claim to Taiwan on the global stage.

Earlier this year, the hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week, and the fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report when the companies’ websites listed certain areas, including Taiwan, as countries.

And last month, China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines demanding they stop referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as countries. The move came a few months after Delta Air Lines was censured by the CAA for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website.

The White House called China’s latest demands in its letter to airlines “Orwellian nonsense.”

Do you know of foreign companies or organisations being forced to echo Beijing’s political views? Email [email protected]

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