Discover more from Pekingnology
Did China recently remove Israel's name from its maps?
China's official map show Israel's name. The questioned maps are operated by two internationlly-publicly-traded non-state companies, and they have been like this for at least 2 years.
The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that
Israel Goes Unnamed on China Online Maps
Internet users in China are expressing bewilderment that the name Israel doesn’t appear on leading online digital maps from Baidu and Alibaba, an ambiguity that matches Beijing’s vague diplomacy in the region and contrasts with its attentiveness to maps generally.
Baidu’s Chinese language online maps demarcate the internationally recognized borders of Israel, as well as the Palestinian territories, plus key cities, but don’t clearly identify the country by name. The same is true with online maps produced by Alibaba’s Amap, where even small nations like Luxembourg are clearly marked. Neither company responded to questions on Monday. It is unclear whether the development is new, though it has been discussed by Chinese internet users since war broke out.
China’s government has over the years cried foul and levied fines over maps published elsewhere online, such as on hotel websites, for failing to strictly adhere to Beijing’s territorial claims, like leaving off a nine-dotted line stretching around the South China Sea that isn’t internationally recognized.
The Telegraph reported yesterday
Israel disappears from online maps run by Chinese tech giants
Omission branded a ‘a major provocation from China’
Israel’s country name is not appearing on online maps run by Chinese tech giants, causing confusion and anger as the country fights to defend itself from terrorist attacks by Hamas.
The name Israel does not appear on online maps run by two of China’s largest internet companies, Alibaba and Baidu. City names in the country are still visible, as are the names of nearby countries including Cyprus, Jordan and Iraq.
Social media users noted the apparent disappearance of Israel since Hamas murdered thousands on October 7, prompting surprise and anger.
Shaun Maguire, a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia, accused the tech giants of deliberately omitting Israel and said on X, formerly known as Twitter, it was a “major provocation from China”.
Baidu denied deliberately erasing Israel, saying smaller countries may not always have their names displayed at certain zoom levels.
Haaretz, a major Israeli paper, reported yesterday
Israel Removed From Largest Map Platforms in China
In the midst of Israel’s conflict with Gaza, the two major map platforms in China – Alibaba and Baidu – have removed the name 'Israel' from their maps, although the border of the country and the names of its major cities remain
On the two major Chinese map platforms - Alibaba and Baidu - viewers are able to see Israel’s neighboring countries of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, while the Jewish state’s name is missing.
Although the change appears to have been a wartime decision, made as conflict rages between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the companies have offered no explanation for the change, refusing comment to a Wall Street Journal inquiry about the practice.
Similar reports abound.
1. It’s not a recent development.
According to an archived webpage via Wayback machine, a Chinese Internet user inquired on Zhihu, China’s Q&A community equivalent to Quora, in May 2021 that why he couldn’t see the names of Israel and Palestine.
The snapshot put into English
2. Baidu Map and Amap/Gaode Map are commercial products from Baidu and Alibaba, two publicly-traded non-state companies.
3. China’s official map service shows both the names of Israel and Palenstine.
4. China says its “standard maps” mark Israel
Yesterday, or Tuesday, Oct. 31, Reuters asked about it and a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave an answer, according to the website of MoFA
Reuters: It appears that the Baidu and Alibaba Gaode maps do not immediately show Israel unless people search for the country on those maps. Is there a reason that these platforms don’t identify Israel on their maps? Has China asked these platforms that provide map services to remove Israel? Also, does China still recognize Israel as a sovereign state?
Wang Wenbin: I believe you are aware that China and Israel have a normal diplomatic relationship. As for your questions, the relevant country is clearly marked on the standard maps issued by the Chinese competent authorities, which you may refer to.
If it interests anybody, Twitter account @curtexplores discovered
Bonus fact: Whilst the Chinese maps don't make a distinction between Israel & Palestine (either showing both or neither), Google Maps does. Israel is displayed in the country font. Palestine isn't mentioned, though 'West Bank' & 'Gaza Strip' are displayed in region font.
This is not the case with all partially recognised territories on Google Maps. Whilst Palestine is recognised by 139 countries & holds UN Observer Status, Kosovo is recognised by 113 & Taiwan is recognised by 12. Both Kosovo & Taiwan have full country labels on Google Maps.