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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

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©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 and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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China and Covid19

‘Voices of April’: The Day After

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them.”

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On April 23, a day after the video ‘Voices of April’ briefly took over social media before it was censored, the trending topic of the day is a hashtag related to new Covid cases reported in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday than the five days prior, which showed a daily decline in new cases. Shanghai reported a total of 23,370 new cases (including 20,634 asymptomatic ones), the municipal health commission said Saturday. A related hashtag by Xinhua News received over 910 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#上海新增本土确诊2736例无症状20634例#).

Although the hashtag was initiated by state media to inform about the Shanghai Covid situation, netizens started using it to criticize Shanghai’s handling of the crisis, with more commenters questioning China’s zero-Covid strategy. Similarly, other state media-initiated hashtag places also became online spaces where Weibo users vented their frustrations earlier this month.

Besides the ongoing online criticism and vocal disagreement with China’s Covid handling and policies, there are also many who express shock at the recent crackdown of any form of protest or criticism regarding the situation in Shanghai.

“‘Voices of April’ has been shutdown all over the internet, I’m simply dumbfounded,” one person said about the popular video that contained real recordings of events that happened during the city’s lockdown.

“If you still can find the video anywhere, forward it,” another person writes.

Besides Voices of April (四月之声), there have also been other videos over the past week that are meant to expose the mishandling of the Covid situation in Shanghai.

One of them is titled Farewell, Language (再见语言), another one is Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春).

Farewell, Language (再见语言) is a 42-second sound art video by artist Yang Xiao (杨潇), who used over 600 commonly used propaganda phrases from Chinese official channels and randomly broadcasted the audio in the community where he lives.

The anti-epidemic workers just continue their work and do not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all. The video shows how this kind of language has been so normalized that for most, it has just become background noise in their everyday life – without even noticing nor critically assessing its meaning or logic anymore.

The Shanghai Late Spring (上海晚春) video is a compilation of video footage from the Shanghai lockdown, showing people struggling to get food, violent altercations between anti-epidemic workers and residents, people living in deplorable conditions in quarantine centers, and more (link to video).

The video uses the song Cheer Up London by Slaves, its chorus being:

You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready
Dead, already, dead
.”

One Weibo commenter responded to the video in English, using a text from Les Misérables: “Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again!” The phrase “do you hear the people sing” was also used by other social media users to address the situation in Shanghai and the censorship of related topics.

“The best way to make videos go viral is by censoring them,” one commenter replied.

Read our previous article about ‘Voices of April’ here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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