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Bakery Boycott over Taiwan Issue: The 85°C Café Controversy

In light of the recent boycott of 85°C Bakery Cafés, some complain: “There’s still money left in my customer card!”

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A brief visit to Taiwanese bakery 85°C by ROC President Tsai Ing-wen has caused a huge storm on Chinese social media this week, where netizens called for a boycott of the chain.

One brief visit to a Taiwanese bakery turned out to have huge consequences this week amidst discussions over Cross-Strait relations.

On August 12, Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen paid a visit to a Los Angeles chain of Taiwanese 85°C Bakery Café (85度C) while on her United States trip.

During the brief bakery visit, Tsai reportedly chatted with employees and was offered a small gift. The occasion, captured on photos, triggered controversy among mainland netizens, who tied the event to the 85°C Bakery supposedly supporting Taiwan independence.

Image via Taiwan News

The issue drew so much controversy on Chinese social media that netizens called for a boycott of the 85°C chain, with typical comments saying: “[85°C Bakery Cafés] is a company in favor of Taiwanese independence. Your consumption will fund Taiwanese Independence. Let’s boycott together!”

Tsai has not endorsed the 1992 consensus or ‘One China Consensus’, something which has made the polician a controversial figure in mainland China.

Small Visit, Big Consequences

85°C, also called the ‘Starbucks of Taiwan’ has 1000 locations worldwide, of which 628 outlets are active in mainland China.

On the 15th, the 85°C mainland branch issued an official statement on their WeChat and Weibo account in response to the controversy, saying that the gift Tsai received was a “private matter” and that the company “firmly supports the One China Policy.”

But the same statement, that emphasizes the peaceful development of Cross-Strait relations, was not published on the website of Gourmet Master, the 85°C parent company. In a reaction, the 85°C head office stated that the post was an individual action of the 85°C mainland branch and that they would not express any opinions on the matter.

The controversy is deeply affecting the business of 85°C in China. Not only are netizens calling for a large-scale boycott, China’s most popular online delivery apps have also removed the chain from their platforms.

Among the major food apps boycotting 85°C are delivery giants Meituan, Ele.me, and Dianping.

The recent developments have led to a sharp drop in stocks of parent company Gourmet Master, hitting its lowest point in 15 months.

Netizens Worried over their 85°C Customer Card

On Weibo, many seemingly see the 85°C boycott as their personal mission, writing things such as: “There are many more tea and bread shops you can choose to go. We, as common workers, can’t really fight the big companies, and it’s impossible for us to force others not to go [to 85°C), we can only do what we think is right.”

Many sarcastically say: “Wanting to make money in Mainland China while also wanting Taiwan to be independent – how nice.”

Recently, similar sentiments flooded Weibo when a video clip emerged of Taiwanese actress Vivian Sung, in which she called Taiwan her “favorite country.” Sung currently stars in the mainland China’s hit movie Hello Mr. Billionaire (西虹市首富).

Although many people on Weibo are in favor of a boycott of the 85°C Bakery, some are somewhat more critical about the issue.

“We actually do not know if this chain is in favor of Taiwan independence,” one commenter said: “But if Cai goes to the US in her role as President, her every move will be coordinated. Which is to say that Cai, of course, knew about 85°C before, and they were prepared to welcome her.”

There are also those who seemingly do not care much about the political side to the discussion – they are more worried about what to do with the money they have deposited in their 85°C-customer cards.

“Let’s use it up quickly,” some say, ignoring the supposed boycott: “We won’t be able to use it anymore if they’d close their doors.”

“I just hope they won’t leave the mainland any time soon,” someone else writes: “I still have credit on my customer card..”

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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