The Chinese government has expanded its bullying of countries that have allegedly printed or displayed 'problem maps' of its territory. It has issued warnings, notices and imposed fines on eight companies that allegedly published maps that didn't include that China claims as its own - like Taiwan, the South China Sea islands and the Senkaku Islands.
This latest round of governmental action on maps comes close on the heels of similar targeting over foreign companies in China. US hotel chain Marriott, Delta Airlines and the clothing brand Zara have all faced trouble in recent weeks.
China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping, and Geoinformation (NASMG) handed out the notices, warning and fines to eight companies, including Japanese brand-less retailer Muji and Chinese news portal ifeng.com. Chinese media have referred to this as a 'shame list'.
These eight cases of 'problem maps' were all found to have 'seriously damaged the sovereignty and interests of the country'. How did achieve this? They did not include the South China Sea Islands, the Diaoyu Islands, Chiwei Island or Taiwan.
All of these islands are disputed. China is locked in territorial disputes with nine countries in the South China Sea; with Japan over Chiwei Island and the Senkaku Islands (China refers to them as Diaoyu), and has claimed Taiwan as its own ever since the Peoples Republic of China came into existence. Also, except the islands in the South China Sea, which it has artificially expanded, China holds no control over any of the islands in question - Taiwan has functioned as a separate country since 1949, and Japan has full control over the Senkaku Islands and Chiwei.
The eight companies that have been put on the shame list are Muji, marketing consultant Hua&Hua, Hongtong Network; news portal ifeng.com for 'misrepresentation' on its 'Interactive Belt and Road Risk Map'; toy maker Longchang Company for its 'problem globes'; state-run Hunan Normal University Press for errors in high school geography textbooks; Hubei Beier Publishing for wrongly labelling Tibet a British territory; and 21st Century Publishing Group for leaving out Taiwan in a children's book.
Some of these map offenders have been ordered to conduct National Territory Awareness Education for staff.
The action is being taken in line with the Regulations on the Administration of Map Management issued by the Chinese government in November 2015. The regulations had made it a legal requirement to make all published maps subject to inspection by authorities.
American companies operating in China have faced a recent series of troubles with the administration over the question of sovereignty. While Marriott got into trouble for listing Tibet as a country on its website, a dropdown menu for choice of country on Delta Airlines's site listed Hong Kong and Macau.