Gap apologizes for t-shirt design that leaves Taiwan out of map of China

The controversial shirt was found on sale in Canada before going viral on the Chinese internet

Gap has now become the latest foreign company to apologize for violating the “one China” policy — this time with a geographically controversial t-shirt.

A Weibo user recently posted photos of the contentious article of clothing onto Chinese social media. The front of the shirt shows a map of China which notably does not include Taiwan, nor the disputed territory claimed by China in South Tibet and in the South China Sea.

According the post, the shirt was on sale in Canada.

Photos of the t-shirt quickly made their way around the Chinese internet, inciting anger and prompting the US retailer to issue an official apology in Chinese on its Weibo account yesterday evening:

Gap respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We were informed that the design of a map of China on a Gap T-shirt sold overseas was incorrect. We are extremely sorry for this unintentional mistake.
We are now conducting an internal investigation in order to correct this error as quickly as possible. The product has been recalled from the Chinese market and completely destroyed.
As a responsible company, Gap respects Chinese laws and regulations. We are grateful to customers, media, employees, government regulators, and all parties involved for their attention and support. In the future, we will work to strengthen our review process to ensure that similar mistakes do not happen again.

The apology appears to have been well-enough received by Chinese Weibo users, though many would like to know if the shirt is being recalled from overseas markets as well.

Meanwhile, the apology has not been officially translated into English by the company, and has not appeared on any of Gap’s international social media accounts at this time.

How international companies refer to Taiwan and other Chinese-claimed territories has suddenly become a major issue this year, beginning with an apology from Marriott in January after the hotel chain was found to have listed Taiwan, along with Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau, as separate “countries” on a customer survey.

Since then, China has called on foreign companies — including airlines in particular — to rectify the drop-down lists on their corporate websites in order to comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

After China’s aviation authority sent a notice to 36 foreign carriers demanding that they remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials that suggest that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are separate countries, independent from China, the White House responded earlier this month by calling these demands “Orwellian nonsense.”

But, “Orwellian nonsense” or not, a number of companies have already acceded to Chinese demands and made a change. Lufthansa, for instance, used to refer to to Taiwan as simply “Taiwan,” that has now been changed to “Taiwan, China.”