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China: ‘Israel’ omitted from online maps

October 31, 2023 at 2:55 pm

China has removed Israel from its online maps [@LadyVelvet_HFQ/X]

Online maps prepared by several Chinese companies have omitted the name Israel from the land of historic Palestine, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) yesterday.

The report noted that internet users in China have expressed bewilderment that the name “Israel” doesn’t appear on online digital maps from leading Chinese websites such as the country’s dominant search engine Baidu and trading platform Alibaba. This, it is said, represents “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 recognised borders of Israel, as well as the Palestinian territories, plus key cities, but don’t clearly identify the country by name,” said the WSJ. It added that such was the case with Alibaba’s Amap online maps “where even small nations like Luxembourg are clearly marked.”

The newspaper said that it had contacted both companies for comment, but has yet to receive a response. It acknowledged, though, that it is unclear whether it is a new development, although it has garnered a lot of attention online from Chinese social media users since Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip started more than three weeks ago.

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The development comes amid reports of anti-Zionist and in some cases anti-Semitic sentiments being on the rise on Chinese social media platforms. China’s state-run media has also blamed the US for fuelling the largely one-sided conflict “while perpetuating tropes of Jewish control of American politics.”

Carice Witte, the executive director of SIGNAL Group, an Israeli think tank focusing on China, was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “If China felt that it was dangerous and problematic to allow anti-Semitic comments to flourish, the censors would stop it. Clearly, the government is conveying the message that it’s tolerated.”

The Chinese government has refused to condemn the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, despite calls from the occupation state to do so. Instead, it has been more direct in blaming Israel for the latest outbreak of violence and devastation while calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“This response is consistent with China’s decades-long diplomatic support for Palestine and calls for a two-state solution, even as China and Israel have developed a close economic relationship since establishing diplomatic ties in 1992,” observed US-based The China Project.

READ: China says communicating with all parties of Gaza conflict