One aspect of Apple’s new mobile operating system may not receive a warm welcome in Taiwan, after some versions of its inbuilt map program were found to refer to the country as a province of China, a label that the Taiwanese strongly dispute.
The map system available in the new mobile operating systems—iOS 7—in its Chinese- and English-language versions, identifies Taiwan as: “Taiwan Province, China,” in some regions.
The change in the description of Taiwan does not appear to have been included in Apple’s revamp of its desktop operating system, called OS X Mavericks. A desktop version in both Chinese and English, tested in the United States, simply identifies Taiwan as Taiwan.
Taiwan is a small island nation off the coast of southern China. It has its own constitution, military, and democratically elected government, though the Chinese Communist Party maintains that it is a breakaway province, and that it reserves the right to use military force to bring it under control.
Officials from the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Oct. 29 that Taiwan “definitely won’t compromise on the issue,” and will “make every effort to negotiate with Apple.”
“We immediately arranged the Overseas Mission to negotiate with Apple,” Kelly Hsieh, head of North America Office at MOFA, told Voice of America. “It obviously doesn’t conform to the facts, and it has the effect of belittling Taiwan.”
The negotiation between Taiwan and Apple is still underway, Hsieh says.
Taiwan’s reaction has aroused heated discussion and argument among Internet users in both countries. A large number of Chinese Internet users responded to the effect that “Taiwan is part of China” and “it’s alright for Apple to call it Taiwan a Chinese Province.”
Some mainland Chinese Internet users were critical of Apple. “Apple doesn’t have backbone in front of profit. I agree that Taiwan is China, but the situation right now is still unclear, and cross-strait relations are blurry and intense. Apple using this to flatter mainland China is despicable!”
Taiwanese Internet users were angry at the idea of their country being called part of China.
“What ‘Taiwan Province!’ I am Taiwanese, not mainland Chinese, OK?” remarked Guo Achun, a Taiwan netizen.
“Taiwan uses Taiwanese dollars, while mainland uses Renminbi. Taiwanese people write traditional characters, while mainland people write simplified characters. And there are very many things different between Taiwan and the mainland!! I didn’t say the mainland is bad, but I just think we are definitely different countries!!!”
The dispute between Taiwan and mainland China has lasted for decades, when the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, after defeating the Nationalist in a civil war. The Nationalists fled to Taiwan, which they conquered, and called it the Republic of China—the nation founded in 1912 after the collapse of the imperial Qing Dynasty.
Apple did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
It is unclear if the alteration of the name of Taiwan is an attempt to curry favor with Chinese authorities. Earlier this year, Apple was the target of a multiweek, centrally directed propaganda campaign, which accused it of “unparalleled arrogance” for its high prices and allegedly discriminatory product warranties.
It is also unclear if the reference to Taiwan was different for different regions, or whether Apple quickly reverted the name after the backlash. In the initial reports, Taiwanese journalists demonstrated on their own devices that Taiwan was referred to as a province of China, but in the United States, some hours later, Taiwan was simply referred to as Taiwan.