The Gap Issues Apology After Selling Shirts Displaying ‘Incorrect’ Map Of China

It is unlikely that clothing company The Gap expected to come under fire for a simple series of shirts featuring shapes of different cities and countries — but it seems that the company has just unwittingly stumbled into the middle of the contentious debate between China and Taiwan.

The shape of China was recently featured on the front of one of The Gap’s jersey t-shirts. However, the map excluded South Tibet, Taiwan, and the South China Sea.

While this might simply seem like an oversight/an exercise in simplification, Chinese netizens were outraged, and The Gap hastened to issue an apology for the error.

“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 apologize for this unintentional error,” the company said in a statement 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.”

This apology stirs up the controversy between the two countries that dates all the way back to the Chinese civil war. While China considers Taiwan to be a Chinese territory, Taiwan does not.

Taiwan has a democracy and essentially runs as an independent country, much to China’s chagrin. In 1992, both Taiwan and China officially agreed to disagree, allowing ambiguity where questions of Taiwan’s sovereignty was concerned. However, relations between the two territories have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan, pushing a more independent platform.

Western businesses are now getting pulled into the rift, and several, including The Gap, have been called to choose sides on the matter. When Air Canada recently listed Taiwan capital Taipei as a Chinese territory, Taiwan demanded and received a hasty correction from the airline.