6 December 2023

Misleading: Apple and Google Maps have been calling Taiwan a “province” for years, not just after Pelosi’s visit

The controversy surrounding Taiwan’s status on the two maps goes back for more than a decade.

A Weibo post claimed on Aug. 5 that Apple Maps and Google Maps have changed their ways of referring to Taiwan as “Taiwan Province” after the Chinese military drills near the island following the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

However, this does not seem to be a recent change.

Since each user might see different labels to describe Taiwan based on his or her language setting, IP address and other factors, it is difficult to say what modifications are made to which version and when, but the controversy surrounding Taiwan’s status on the two maps is not new.

Apple Maps, for example, reportedly changed “Taiwan” to “Taiwan Province” in October 2013, just a year after the service was launched.

Google Maps also made news a few times when some users discovered Taiwan was called “Province.”

When the service was launched in 2005, it quickly became a contentious topic and Google seemed to have settled on just “Taiwan” at the time.

But in September 2014, a user noticed that the Taiwan was labelled as a province when searching for Niubu Bridge in Taichung City.

More recently, some users posted their “discovery” that Google Maps (and also Google Earth) were calling the island as “Taiwan Province” in August 2019 and in March 2022.

A screenshot from Apple Maps taken in China with the words “Taiwan Province.”
A screenshot from Google Maps taken in China with the word “Taiwan”.

After Pelosi’s visit, Apple has reportedly asked their suppliers in Taiwan to label their parts and components as “Made in Taiwan, China” or “Made in Chinese Taipei.”