- China fined the Japanese retailer Muji $31,280 for describing Taiwan as a country.
- Taiwan was listed as the “country of origin” on the packaging for 119 clothes hangers last year.
- This is the most serious action from China in the country’s escalating war of words over how Taiwan is officially recognized. Beijing considers it to be a province of China, not an independent country.
- So far this year, China has ordered Marriott to shut its website for a week for listing Taiwan as a country, and a number of airlines have kowtowed to China’s description of Taiwan.
China fined iconic Japanese retailer Muji over $30,000 for describing Taiwan as a country on its packaging.
The Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce fined the minimalist retailer 200,000 yuan ($31,280) for listing Taiwan as the “country of origin” on 119 clothes hangers it imported in August last year.
In describing Taiwan as a country, Muji broke the advertising law because its actions were “detrimental to the country’s dignity or interests.”
“The party did not properly fulfill their inspection obligations which lead to the above-mentioned goods to enter the market to be sold,” the administration said in a statement released in March but reported on this week.
This appears to be the most serious case in China’s increasing sensitivity over how foreign companies describe Taiwan.
Taiwan is a self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing considers to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified – by force, if necessary. China frequently seeks to assert its claim to Taiwan on the global stage.
So far this year, hotel chain Marriott was forced to shut down the Chinese version of its website for a week, and the fast-fashion retailer Zara was ordered to complete a “self-inspection” and turn in a rectification report when the companies’ websites listed certain areas, including Taiwan, as countries.
The issue gained attention at the highest levels of Washington when, last month, it emerged that China’s Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines demanding they stop referencing Taiwan as a country. Despite the White House calling the demands “Orwellian nonsense” a number of airlines, including Malaysian Airlines and Air Canada, have since made changes to their sites.
Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, and British Airways also stopped listing Taiwan as a country after similar complaints from China earlier this year.
But Muji was actually one of the first foreign companies to be targeted in October last year.
The company drew the ire of China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation for publishing what it deemed to be an incorrect map of China in a store catalog. The map left off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands which both Beijing and Taipei make claims to.
At the time Muji took “appropriate measures” and destroyed the catalogue. Muji has also changed its packaging on the hangers.
In January, China also began destroying imports that said “Made in Taiwan” rather than “Taiwan Area” or “Chinese Taiwan,” reportedly costing some food businesses in Taiwan hundreds of thousands of dollars.