Clothing retailer Gap apologized to China on Tuesday for selling a T-shirt that displayed a map of China but did not include Taiwan, southern Tibet, or disputed islands in the South China Sea claimed by the Chinese.
The Associated Press reports that Gap came under fire on Chinese social media after photos of the T-shirt taken at a Canadian store were posted and drew “hundreds of complaints.”
The Chinese Communist People’s Daily posted a photo of the shirt, evidently screencapped from a Gap web page, alongside their idea of what all maps of China should look like:
American clothing retailer @Gap on Monday apologized for printing incomplete Chinese map on T-shirts for sales outside #China, said the brand respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity pic.twitter.com/uHJoLnpmr6
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 14, 2018
“Upon the realization that one of our T-shirts sold in some overseas markets mistakenly failed to reflect the correct map of China, we urgently launched an internal investigation across the group and have decided to immediately pull back this T-shirt from all the concerned global markets. … We sincerely apologize for this unintentional error,” Gap said in a groveling statement printed by Chinese media.
Gap said it respects the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of China, pledged to obey all of its laws, and promised to conduct “more rigorous reviews” to avoid further offenses.
“The product has been withdrawn from the Chinese market and completely destroyed,” the company said.
The incident was the latest example of China enforcing its speech codes far beyond its national borders, a disturbing extension of political influence the Trump White House denounced as “Orwellian nonsense” last week. Previous victims of China’s “sharp power” include the Marriott hotel chain, Mercedes-Benz, international airlines, and another clothing chain called Zara.
“The retailer doesn’t break out China figures but its Gap stores in Asia booked revenue of $1.12 billion, or 7% of net sales, in the fiscal year ending Feb. 3. In Asia, it has more than 310 stores across Japan, Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong,” the Wall Street Journal notes by way of explaining how much financial leverage Beijing has over the company.
Fortune points out that the Gap statement simultaneously insists that the T-shirts were not sold in China and that all shirts shipped to stores in China have been recalled and destroyed.
Business Insider reported on Monday evening that the shirts were still on sale at the U.S. Gap Factory website, but the China shirt was missing from the collection of city and country T-shirts linked by Business Insider on Tuesday morning.