As an increasing number of foreign enterprises are operating in China, there has been growing public scrutiny on those that fail to respect the country’s territorial integrity.
Especially after the White House referred to the nation’s efforts to get foreign companies to stop referring to Taiwan and other regions as separate countries as “Orwellian nonsense”.
So it was not surprising that people were outraged when a photo was posted on social media showing a T-shirt produced by a US clothing giant bearing a map supposedly of China, which omitted Taiwan and other territories.
On Monday, the US clothing retailer Gap issued an apology on its official social media account in China, saying the company “respects the integrity of China’s sovereignty and territory” and it was “terribly sorry for this unintentional mistake”.
Gap is just the latest foreign company to upset consumers in China.
Foreign airlines and hotel chains have also felt the weight of public scorn for their casual redrawing of the map of China, although usually in a less graphic way.
Just because something unreasonable was tolerated in the past does not mean that should always be the case. It is right for people to no longer turn a blind eye to practices that embolden secessionists and fuel their deluded ambitions.
Any foreign multinationals doing business in China while violating its sovereignty principle should take the initiative to change their stance before the public’s attention is drawn to them. Otherwise, they will find there is a price to be paid, as Chinese consumers will turn their backs on them.
Not cashing in on the Chinese market is a high price to pay for a practice that – as Gap’s apology shows – is most often habit rather than intent.
The public’s refusal to continue to put up with the adventitious nibbling away of parts of the country is not political correctness. It is a long-delayed response to put a stop to what is an offensive practice.
Meanwhile, those companies that show they respect China’s sovereignty will find that they are welcome in the country and will fare well.