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‘Baozi Burgers’ as ‘Insult’? Global Times Editorial Attacks Western-Chinese Fusion Food

“It combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

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“A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing,” author Lilian Hamilton writes for Chinese state media outlet Global Times in a recent video news feature. The video criticizes fusion foods such as the ‘Baozi burger’ or ‘Baozza’ (baozi + pizza) that mix popular Western and Chinese fast foods.

The feature was covered by Beijing blogger Jim Boyce on Beijingboyce.com, where he writes that “state-owned medium Global Times just cooked up a heaping serving of culinary cultural appropriation shade with a side dish of WTF. In this slide show, it takes aim at “baozza”, the tasty pizza-baozi combos I have covered here, here and here.”

Culinary ‘cultural appropriation’ has been an online issue of debate for some time now. In this Huffington Post article, for example, the author expresses that she finds it “painful” when, among other examples, the New York Times issues a recipe that features ‘pho’ (a type of Vietnamese soup) with broccoli and quinoa, or when 7Up releases a self-invented kimchi recipe.

 

It combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

 

In the thousands of restaurants in cities such as Beijing or Shanghai there will be new food trends popping up every day. The ‘baozza’ is one of them; it is a steamed bun, called baozi (包子) in Chinese, filled with pizza ingredients.

By whatsonweibo.com.

The full text of the Global Times feature, which was also published as an editorial, is as follows:

A new fad has flooded expat-oriented restaurants in Beijing: BAOZZA (Baozi + pizza). Baozi is a common Chinese breakfast dish or snack. A fluffy steamed white bun with a vegetable or ground meat filling.”

Global Times.

Pizza is brought to life by the Italian thin crust dough and the right sugo (tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese and fresh toppings.”

Baozza claims to be ‘Pizza with Chinese characteristics.’ Instead, it combines Western with Chinese fast food while ridiculing both food traditions for the sake of a marketing gag for expats with little or no culinary background.”

There must be at least a temporary demand. Otherwise, a newly-opened bar in Sanlitun would not offer ‘Burger Baozi’ on their menu. With the bamboo steamer basket being a mere decoration, these grilled ‘baozi’ halves come with beef, chicken, Beijing duck or mushroom filling. While a boazi at your regular street vendor costs 2 yuan, you pay around 50 yuan for a ‘Baozi Burger.’

Luckily, these fusion food fads are usually gone faster than you can flush the remnants of your latest food poisening down the toilet.”

The article text by Lilian Hamilton also says that the ‘baozza’ “seems like an insult,” and is “wrong on just so many more levels.”

 

A growing movement of people call out ‘white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures’.”

 

At a time when cultural appropriation, in general, is a hot topic, the idea of the cultural appropriation of food has also become more of an issue of debate.

Defining the term and idea of ‘cultural appropriation’ itself is not easy. While the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” the Urban Dictionary says it is “the ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures.”

A recent example is that of the American girl who wore a Chinese-style dress to her prom – something people in US seemed to take offense to, while most commenters on Weibo deemed the critique was silly.

The ‘cultural appropriation’ of food suggests that certain foods can be ‘confiscated’ when people from a dominant culture start to commercialize it.

A 2017 BBC article featured the views of Filipino-American food and travel photographer Celeste Noche, who finds it problematic that food bloggers will posts photos of, for example, Filipino short ribs with chopsticks (“even though Filipinos traditionally eat with spoons and forks or their hands”), or the stylization of Asian dishes on bamboo mats or banana leaves.

A Washington Post article from 2017 also addressed a growing movement of people who call out “white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures,” one of the names mentioned being Fuchsia Dunlop, a UK-born cook and food-writer who specializes in Sichuan cooking.

 

A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative..”

 

So are the ‘baozza’ or the ‘baozi burgers’ the next targets in the campaign against the ‘cultural appropriation’ of food?

The American inventer of the ‘baozza’, Alex Cree, evidently does not see anything wrong with it. He came up with the idea of stuffing a Chinese steamed bun with cheese, tomato, or other pizza toppings, during a trip with clients in southern China.

On Weibo, the only comments relating to Baozza are those of people who are curious to try out the ‘fad’ food. New or original food items such as these are often (temporarily) popular; another recent food item that attracted the attention of Chinese netizens was the Zang Baobao, a Chinese-French chocolate croissant product.

On Twitter, the attack on fusion snacks is also does not receive much understanding. “A “marketing gag”? More like genius and truly innovative! Way more tasty than traditional baozi,” @XiaoLan17 writes.

Damien Ma (@damienics) is already thinking of the next food fad; a ‘moonut’ that mixes Chinese moon cake with donut products.

Although Global Times‘s Lilian Hamilton and others might object, the rise of fusion food trends shows that snacks such as the Baozi Burger, the Baozza, or the potential ‘Moonut’ will not disappear from China’s big-city restaurant scene anytime soon.

By 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.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Would You Like Coffee with Your Sneakers? Chinese Sports Brand Li-Ning Registers Its ‘Ning Coffee’ Brand

Li-Ning enters the coffee market: “Will they sell sneaker-flavored coffee?”

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An unexpected competitor is joining China’s coffee market. With over 7000 stores in the country, Li-Ning has the potential to become the biggest athletic coffee chain yet.

Another player is joining mainland China’s growing coffee market. It’s not an American coffee giant, nor a coffee house chain from Hong Kong – it is China’s leading sportswear brand Li-Ning Sports (李宁体育).

Li-Ning registered its coffee brand under the ‘NING COFFEE’ trademark. As reported in an article written by ‘Investment Group’ (@投资界) and published by Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Li-Ning has confirmed on May 6 that it will provide in-store coffee services to enhance customers’ shopping experiences in the near future.

The move means that Li-Ning could potentially become a big player in China’s coffee market, competing with major brands such as Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, Costa and Pacific. If the in-store coffee cafes would roll out in most of its shops, there could be over 7000 Ning Coffee cafes in China in the future. By the end of 2021, Li-Ning Sports had a total of 7,137 stores in China.

Starbucks has 5,400 stores in China. Leading domestic coffee chain Luckin Coffee expanded to over 6000 stores last year. Costa Coffee, although closing some of its China stores in 2021, announced that it aims to have a total of 1,200 stores open in China later this year. Looking at Li-Ning’s presence across China, its in-store coffee cafes could be serious competition for the leading coffee chains in the country.

Over the past few years, various Chinese sportswear brands, including Anta Sports and Erke, have seen a rise in popularity, but Li-Ning is still China’s most famous brand name for athletic apparel and shoes. The company was founded in the early 1990s by Chinese Olympic gymnast and business entrepreneur Li Ning (1963) and was generally seen as a Nike copycat – the original logo was even similar to the Nike swoosh. Although Li-Ning looked like Nike, the brand is more appealing to many Chinese consumers due to the fact that it is cheaper and made in China.

Li-Ning markets itself as being “deeply and uniquely Chinese” (Li Ning official website 2022), which has made it more popular in an era of “proudly made in China” (read more about that here). Moreover, it also promises to offer high-quality sportwear at a price that is cheaper than the American Nike or German Adidas.

Li-Ning’s success is also owed to its marketing strategies. Besides being the official marketing partner of many major sports events, including the NBA in China, the brand has also contracted with many household athletes and famous global ambassadors.

Over a decade ago, marketing observers already noted that despite the remarkable success of Li-Ning in China, the brand still had a long way to go in order to strengthen its image as a long-term brand, recommending Li-Ning to “create excitement around the brand” by building more associations related to lifestyle and coolness to better resonate with younger Chinese customers (Bell 2008, 81; Roll 2006, 170).

With its latest move into the coffee market, it is clear that Li-Ning is moving its brand positioning more toward the direction of lifestyle, trendiness, and luxury. Although purchasing a coffee at Starbucks or Luckin is part of the everyday routine for many urban millennials, coffee is still viewed as a trendy luxury product for many, relating to both cultural factors as well as economic reasons. As noted by Cat Hanson in 2015, the price of a single cup of coffee was equal to a month’s worth of home broadband internet (read more).

Previously, other fashion brands have also opened up coffee stores in China. As reported by Jing Daily, international luxury brands Prada, Louis Vuitton, and FENDI also opened up coffee cafes in mainland China.

Another unexpected coffee cafe is that of China Post, which opened its first in-store ‘Post Coffee’ in Xiamen earlier this year. On social media, many netizens commented that the brand image of the national post service clashed with that of a fairly expensive coffee house (coffee prices starting at 22 yuan / $3,3).

“The postal services are located in cities and in the countryside and are often used by migrant workers, and generally this demographic isn’t buying coffee,” one person commented, with another netizen writing: “This does not suit the taste of ordinary people, it would’ve been better if they sold milk tea.”

Post Coffee, via Jiemian Official.

On Weibo, Li-Ning’s journey into the competitive coffee market was discussed using the hashtags “Li-Ning Enters the Coffee Race” (#李宁入局咖啡赛道#) and “Li-Ning Starts Selling Coffee” (##李宁开始卖咖啡##).

Like with China Post, many commenters say the combination of sportswear and coffee is not something they immediately find logical. “Will they also sell sneaker-flavored coffee?” one person wondered, with others thinking selling coffee – seen as a product from western countries – does not exactly match with Li-Ning as a ‘proudly made-in-China’ brand.

“How would you feel about trying on some clothes at Li-Ning while sipping on Li-Ning coffee? I understand Li-Ning is jumping on what’s popular, and this time it’s coffee,” one Weibo user writes, with others also writing: “I think it has potential.”

“I’m willing to try it out,” various commenters write. For others, they want to see the menu first: “It all depends on the price.”

For more about the coffee and tea market in China, check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References

Bell, Sandra. 2008. International Brand Management of Chinese Companies. Heidelberg: Physia-Verlag.

Roll, Martin. 2006. Asian Brand Strategy: How Asia Builds Strong Brands. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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©2022 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

Weibo Has Still Blocked ‘Shanghai Buy Groceries’ Hashtag

“It’s easier to get a Shanghai license plate than groceries around here.”

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While Shanghai is promising to improve food supplies for locked-down residents, many households are still struggling to get their groceries and complain about high prices for basic food items. Over the past week, Weibo has blocked a hashtag page about the issue.

On April 8, during the seventh day of Shanghai’s phased citywide lockdown, the Chinese social media platform Weibo removed the ‘Shanghai Buy Food’ or ‘Shanghai Groceries’ (#上海买菜#) hashtag while many in the city were facing difficulties in getting food delivered to their house and were venting their anger online. Getting daily necessities has become a problem for millions of residents not allowed to leave their homes due to the city’s coronavirus prevention measures.

The hashtag censorship coincided with state media news reports about Shanghai ensuring life supplies for residents and improving delivery capacities at a time when most stores, restaurants, supermarkets, and wet markets have shut down normal operations. Shanghai has registered over 253,000 Covid-19 infections since March 1st of this year, reporting another daily record of 26,330 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

Some joked that just censoring the problem was also a way of dealing with it. “Oh great, they solved the grocery shopping problem,” popped up as a recurring joke on Weibo after the hashtag page was removed.

The hashtag ‘Shanghai Buy Groceries’ first started trending on Chinese social media on March 23, when Shanghai residents started worrying about an impending lockdown amid spiking Covid19 cases.

Although Chinese state media reported on March 24 that Shanghai health authorities reiterated they had no plans to impose a citywide lockdown – and two people accused of spreading rumors about an alleged citywide lockdown were even placed under police investigation -, the city announced its phased lockdowns three days later and scenes of panic buying at local supermarkets ensued.

But around April 8, the moment when the hashtag’s popularity surged, many residents faced food shortages as their home supplies ran out and grocery orders did not come through. While some residents started receiving food boxes issued by the local government, most compounds and buildings also set up their own community WeChat group to place bulk orders at certain food vendors which then deliver the group purchase to the community, where it is distributed by volunteers or property management employees.

Earlier this week, Shanghai implemented a new measure that divides residential units into three risk categories depending on whether or not there have been any cases of Covid in their communities for a stretch of two weeks. For at least 15 million residents, their locked-down status remains unchanged – and for those in the ‘precautionary’ communities, their status could also be downgraded to the ‘locked down’ level the moment a positive case pops up again.

E-commerce and food delivery platforms such as Ele.me and JD have been sending more staff to Shanghai from other parts of China to help ensure quicker and smoother sorting and delivery processes. On April 13, many households also received their first (free) food boxes.

By Wednesday, hashtags such as “Shanghai Residents Are One by One Receiving Supplies” (#上海市民陆续收到物资#) and “Delivery Drivers Increased to Help Shanghai” (#多地快递小哥增援上海#) were circulating on social media. But on Weibo, the hashtag page for “Shanghai Groceries” still comes up with no results.

For some Shanghai residents, the pace of food delivery, even with improved delivery logistics, hasn’t been quick enough to alleviate their current food shortages. Others are also complaining about the costs of their ordered groceries, some spending 285 yuan ($45) or more on some basic groceries including noodles and vegetables.

One Weibo user asks: “Please, where can I buy reasonably priced meat, eggs, and green onions?”

“It’s easier to get a Shanghai license plate than groceries around here,” another netizen complained.

For some, doing online groceries has become an Olympic game; netizens are posting videos of setting a 5AM alarm clock, jumping out of bed, and entering their online orders as fast as they can. One video showed a wife cheering on her husband while his thumb was going as fast as possible to place grocery orders via his smartphone e e-commerce app.

“If I have to keep grabbing groceries like this, I’m gonna have a nervous breakdown,” one thirty-something lady from Shanghai wrote on Weibo: “I really hope the situation in Shanghai gets better soon. What happened to the city I grew up in?”

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

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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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