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May 15, 2018

Gap joins multinationals in apologizing to China for map gaffe

The Gap

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Gap Inc. became the latest international company to apologize for offending Chinese political sensibilities, pulling a T-shirt featuring a map of China that left out territories claimed by the country.

The apology was triggered by complaints from consumers reacting to pictures of a Gap-branded T-shirt posted on Chinese social media network Weibo. Users pointed out that a map printed on the shirt omitted territories claimed by China, including parts of southern Tibet, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Gap issued an apology late Monday on its Weibo account, saying it “respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China." The company said the product has been pulled from the Chinese market and destroyed.

POLICING COMPANIES 

The U.S. retailer is the latest international company to offer an open apology for the perceived political slight, following suit with Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Marriott International Inc. It comes after the White House recently blasted China’s demand that U.S. and other airlines change the way they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as “Orwellian nonsense.”

"We’ve learned that the map of China on a Gap brand T-shirt sold in some overseas markets contains errors,” Gap said in the statement. “We sincerely apologise for this unintentional error."

China has stepped up its policing of international companies from retailers to airlines to demand they respect the government’s position on long-standing territorial disputes from Taiwan to Tibet.

Marriott International, Indetix SA-owned ZARA and Delta Air Lines Inc. all also issued apologies for listing Tibet and Taiwan as nations on their websites earlier this year. Mercedes-Benz also apologized in February for using a quote from the Dalai Lama in a post showcasing a sleek luxury model.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement earlier this month that China’s demands on airlines for strict guidelines for references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are "part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies."