Gap executives are in for quite the geo-political lesson this week.
The U.S. retailer, which has previously apologized for selling children's tees that reinforce sexist gender norms, came under fire this week for a tee that was deemed offensive by Chinese consumers.
A photo of a gray T-shirt featuring the word "China" alongside a silhouette of a map of mainland China—which was notably missing several China-claimed territories—went viral on the Weibo social network, prompting outrage for being "incomplete."
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The printed map did not include Taiwan, a self-ruled island considered Chinese territory by Beijing, the capital. According to the state-owned Global Times, the map also left out southern Tibet and the South China Sea. The photo of the Gap tee was snapped inside a store in Canada, and The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, tweeted a photo with the "correct" version of the map.
The shirts have since been removed from stores in China.
“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,” Gap said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for this unintentional error.”
As the New York Times points out, companies like Delta Air Lines, Marriott, and Zara have also been called out for failing to recognized Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet as sovereign to China, instead referring to them as separate countries.
In the meantime, we suggest sticking to tried and true "I heart NY" graphic tees. No controversy there.