The Marriott hotel chain has been forced to apologise to the Chinese government for referring to Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as countries. USA -based Delta, Spanish clothing chain Zara and US medical device maker Medtronic were targeted, the Liberty Times reported.
For the record, Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions (SAR), while Tibet is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC or mainland China).
China views with Tibet and Taiwan as integral to its territory and reacted furiously to the mistake.
Multiple commenters on the original Weibo post noted it is common practice for foreign companies to list Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as "countries", especially in English-language content. China has punished Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Brad Pitt for appearing in films which may have promoted the notion of a separate Tibet.
Investing in partnerships with locals who can audit and help with marketing and communications, localizing websites and social platforms, should be considered a core-requirement of doing business internationally.
The CAC met with Marriott representatives this week and ordered its website and app to be taken down for a week, as punishment. We will learn from this experience, make changes to ensure errors like this don't happen again, and continue to focus on making sure our Chinese guests feel respected and have wonderful experiences as we have the privilege of serving them in our hotels in China and around the globe.
Medtronic immediately issued a statement saying the company "completely understands the stance of the Chinese government on relevant sovereignty issues", adding, "we sincerely apologize for causing misunderstanding among the public".
"Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite", said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International in a statement.
Delta's apology was similarly groveling.
"We are deeply sorry for the questionnaires".
China claims indisputable sovereignty over all four of the territories and bristles at any suggestion of independence.
"Boycott Marriott! Get out of China!" one Weibo user said.
There are some key takeaway lessons from Marriott's recent blunder, and they revolve around how the Chinese government sees itself in relation to private businesses and Beijing's understanding of history and its place in it.
Some China-commentators have suggested that China plans to annex Taiwan within the next two years. Officially, the US government has adhered to this policy even as President Donald Trump has argued against it.
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