China is known to be a stickler when it comes to maps, but the online maps provided by two leading Chinese web platforms triggered a row after they failed to show the country name "Israel".
Both Baidu and Alibaba-backed Amap failed to include country name markers for "Israel" or "Palestine", though its territory and the names of neighbouring countries are clearly shown. China recognised Palestine as a state in 1988 and lists the region on its official maps alongside Israel.
However, both Israel and Palestine do appear in word searches on the mobile versions of the platforms. Though these platforms are not state-owned, China exercises heavy control over their content.
However, Beijing quickly issued a clarification. "China and Israel have a normal diplomatic relationship … the relevant country is clearly marked on the standard maps issued by the Chinese competent authorities," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday in response to a question during a regular press briefing.
China officially did not condemn Hamas, angering Israel, but called on "relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and immediately end the hostilities to protect civilians and avoid further deterioration of the situation."
On the countries missing from maps, a Baidu Maps spokesperson told CNN: "Where space is limited, our maps may not display the names or flags of some territories. Users can find corresponding countries or areas on Baidu Maps by simply using the map’s search function."
Alibaba has not yet responded to the controversy.
However, countries of similar or smaller size to Israel such as Cyprus, Lebanon and Kuwait are visible in the same view.
China is known to pay stringent attention to detail on maps used around the world when it comes to how its own border and territorial claims are represented. China's "standard maps" have always irked its neighbouring countries, including India.
In August, China's map published on the website of the Ministry of Natural Resources clearly shows Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Aksai Chin region as part of China. Following this, India registered its "strong protests" through diplomatic channels. "We have today lodged a strong protest through diplomatic channels with the Chinese side on the so-called 2023 "standard map” of China that lays claim to India’s territory. We reject these claims as they have no basis. Such steps by the Chinese side only complicate the resolution of the boundary question," the Ministry of External Affairs said.
It also laid claim to Taiwan and some regions of the disputed South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have all claims over the latter.