People in China are calling attention to the fact that the state of Israel is not present on online maps in China, a concerning development given China’s historical obsession with map boundaries.
While it is unclear when Chinese companies like Baidu and Alibaba removed references to Israel, Chinese internet users began discussing the absence after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre.
Searching for ‘Israel’ on Baidu’s map portal prompts it to zoom in on the correct region, but Israel’s name is absent from the map despite cities like Jerusalem being correctly marked.
Israel’s neighbors like Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt also appear and are named accurately on the maps.
China has a long history of hyperfocusing on maps. It has redrawn maps in recent months in an effort to lay claim to disputed territory in spats with India and Malaysia.
India in August formally lodged an objection through diplomatic channels with the Chinese on the so-called 2023 ‘standard map’ that lays claim to India’s territory.
The version of the Chinese map published earlier that month on the Ministry of Natural Resources website clearly shows Arunachal Pradesh and the Doklam Plateau, over which the two sides have feuded, included within Chinese borders, along with Aksai Chin in the western section that China controls but India still claims.
China’s strong relationship with Iran may be a reason for Israel’s absence from the map. China remains Iran’s largest trading partner, and Iran is the prime source of funding for both Hamas and Hezbollah, terror groups devoted to the destruction of Israel.
The U.S. has also acknowledged China’s obsession with maps. In 2021, President Biden’s administration cut a video feed of a Taiwanese minister when the map behind her depicted China and Taiwan in different colors.
The map showed Taiwan in green, signaling it was ‘open’ to civil rights, while China remained red and was marked ‘closed.’ The feed was cut after roughly one minute.
China has long claimed ownership over Taiwan, though the self-governed island operates independently.