NEW YORK -- When a recruiter for Christian Dior was asked, during the Q&A of a campus session in China earlier this week, to scroll her presentation back to the slide of the country's map, she thought it an unusual request.
Then came the question: "Why does the map not include Taiwan?" The query inspired a round of applause in the audience.
The recruiter answered that the map was too small. The student swiftly pointed out that the map included the island of Hainan in the south of China, which is similar in size to Taiwan. Dior explained that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China were considered the greater China market.
A video of the Wednesday exchange at Zhejiang Gongshang University was captured and uploaded on social media platform Weibo, where it went viral.
Under the "One China principle," Beijing considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan a province of the People's Republic of China which will one day be reunified with the motherland. Many countries in the international community adopt a "One China policy," which asserts that there is only one sovereign state under the name "China," but with some ambiguity over the exact details.
Weibo users remained unconvinced by the recruiter's explanation distinguishing mainland China and greater China, and the French fashion house issued an apology on Thursday.
"Individual Dior employees' wrong description and expression are categorically unrepresentative of the company and brand's consistent China stance!" the company said in a statement posted to Weibo.
"Dior has always respected and upheld the principle of One China, strictly upheld China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and cherished feelings of the Chinese people," the statement, which was written in Chinese, continued.
The incident again shows that western companies' allegiance to China's sovereignty claims is monitored not only by the Chinese government but also by consumers who share and advocate Beijing's rhetoric surrounding sovereignty.
Earlier this year, Coach, Givenchy and Versace issued similar apologies, after social media users spotted the brands' T-shirts failing to identify Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan as part of China. Brand ambassadors including supermodel Liu Wen and actress Yang Mi also quickly distanced themselves from the companies.
Consultancy McKinsey projects that 65% of global growth in spending on personal luxury goods from 2018 to 2025 will be from Chinese consumers.