Mapmakers Told to Dot Their Seas for Sovereignty’s Sake

2018-01-30 11:33:04

China’s national mapping agency wants businesses to get serious about state sovereignty — or face public shaming.

In a notice released Monday, the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping, and Geoinformation (NASMG) named eight companies guilty of inaccurate cartography or failing to submit their maps to the authority for review before publication. The companies range from a local publishing house to well-known Japanese retail brand Muji.

According to the notice, the eight examples were identified in a monthslong nationwide inspection of “problematic maps” that harm state sovereignty, security, and national interests.

Last October, Muji stores in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing were told to destroy a catalogue because an inspection team had found that it featured a problematic map: The national borders were wrong, and it left out the South China Sea islands and Diaoyu Islands — both of which are considered historical and inseparable parts of China.

Similar issues were found in a commercial advertisement by HUA&HUA, a brand consultancy in Shanghai. The company was fined 1 million yuan ($158,000). “We thank the Shanghai government for pointing out the problem,” a HUA&HUA brand strategist surnamed Yang told Sixth Tone. “It’s quite sensitive. We’ll download standardized maps from the NASMG website in the future.”

In an email reply sent to Sixth Tone on Thursday, the NASMG said its inspections are intended to bolster the Chinese public’s conception of sovereignty. “While the use of geographic products like maps has increased in recent years,” the statement read, “the public lacks a sufficient understanding of cartographic regulations and national sovereignty.”

In 2015, China’s cabinet issued a regulation requiring all published maps to pass a review by authorities. Organizations involved in drawing maps must hold cartography qualifications. Last August, the publishing house at Hunan Normal University was given a warning and fined 11,000 yuan because maps used in two of its middle school supplementary books had not been submitted for review.

Since 2005, the NASMG has conducted several inspections to root out problematic maps — but the 2017 inspection is one of the largest to date. According to the administration’s email, this round of inspections covered over 188,000 companies and organizations and over 2 million maps. Some cases are still under investigation, the statement read, so more announcements of inappropriate maps can be expected in the future.

Several major businesses have already stepped on the toes of China’s sovereignty concerns this month. In early January, Chinese customers found that American hotel chain Marriott had listed Tibet, Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as countries in a questionnaire. Later, a number of international brands including Zara and Delta Air Lines came under fire for similar issues. In an apology published online, the president and CEO of Marriott said the company “respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”

This article has been updated to include comment from the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping, and Geoinformation.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: Sino View-RF/VCG)