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Can’t Buy Me Trump – Is Trump Merchandise Being Censored on Taobao?

While some Chinese businesses are doing good business with Trump-related merchandise, e-commerce giant Taobao blocked virtually all Trump products on its desktop version on election day.

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While some Chinese businesses are doing good business selling Trump-related merchandise, e-commerce giant Taobao blocked virtually all Trump products on its desktop version on election day, What’s on Weibo found.

The victory of Trump in the US elections is the talk of the day on Chinese social media. On e-commerce platform Taobao, Trump-related merchandise is ubiquitous, with merchants selling anything from Trump masks, to Trump toilet paper or sweatshirts. But on November 9, all Trump-related products led to an error message on the Taobao desktop version, making them unavailable for purchase.

trump-merchandise

When searching for Trump merchandise on China’s e-commerce Taobao, there are many options available. A Trump “Make America Great Again” t-shirt is sold for 59 RMB (±8.6 US$), while a Trump mask is priced at 66 RMB (±9.7 US$). Some Trump toilet paper was sold for 228 RMB (±33 US$).

trumptshirts

toilet

But while searching for any other non-Trump-related product on Taobao does not give any problems, all Trump products gave an ‘error’ message upon clicking them in the late evening and night of November 9/10 (Beijing time).

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The error page upon clicking any Trump merchandise on Taobao.

Various English-language media outlets reported earlier that China’s censors issued advance orders to media outlets to restrict coverage of the U.S. democratic contest.

According to South China Morning Post, Chinese websites, news outlets and TV networks were told not to provide any live coverage or broadcasts of the election, and to avoid “excessive” reporting of the story. It is yet unclear if Taobao’s Trump merchandise was under similar censorship regulations.

Earlier today, a Weibo blogger posted that a factory in Zhejiang producing rubber Trump masks, as the one featured in this article, had “crazy orders” with many bulk buyers, mostly from outside China. The blogger also stated that Trump-related merchandise on e-commerce giant Alibaba had 11 pages of products, while Hillary-related products only counted 3 pages.

For now, those who want to buy a Trump mask on Taobao are out of luck – virtually all results for purchasing are blocked. On the mobile version of the e-commerce platform, some might still be able to buy a Trump mask, if they just cannot get enough of the most talked-about person of the day.

Update November 10: not just Trump merchandise, but also Hillary Clinton masks and other products have been blocked on Taobao on the election day.

Update November 10: the blockages seem to have cleared up now, so it might have been an election-day-only measurement. Who ever wants to buy a Trump mask on Taobao can do so here.

– By Manya Koetse
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Additional research by China blogger @edsander.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ed Sander

    November 10, 2016 at 11:07 am

    One day later the products are available again, making this a strange case.

    Yesterday all of the ‘fun’ products like masks and T-shirts were not available, while serious Trump products like his books were. This pointed at a very selective temporary censoring of products.

    It also doesn’t seem like they wanted to screen out the more offensive products since the Trump toilet paper is also available again.

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China Fashion & Beauty

Chinese Fashion Brand Peacebird Accused of Plagiarism (Again!)

The Chinese fashion brand Peacebird turns out to be a copycat.

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The Chinese fashion brand Peacebird (太平鸟) is trending on Chinese social media this week for its alleged involvement in various cases of plagiarism. The brand is accused of producing exact copies of garments designed by other labels. Hashtag “Peacebird Repeatedly Accused of Plagiarism” (#太平鸟多次被控抄袭#) drew in over 230 million views on Weibo.

In late October of this year, fashion blogger and small fashion brand @SOS_SEAMSTRESS called out Peacebird on Weibo for plagiarizing one of their designs.

Besides changing the material used for the garment, the Peacebird outfit is an exact copy of the design by SOS Seamstress – even the buttons and pockets and other details are exactly the same. The price, however, is five times higher.

Left: the Peacebird garment. Right: the original design by SOS Seamstress.

Left, Peacebird. Right, SOS Seamstress design.

SOS Seamstress condemned Peacebird for claiming to have their own original fashion designs, produced by their in-house design team, while actually stealing from others and completely disregarding the rights of domestic local designers.

It is the fifth time this year that the fashion house is accused of plagiarism. Beijing Business News reported that other brands, including Mostwantedlab and Annomundi, previously also accused Peacebird of stealing their designs. In February of this year, the artist @LOONY_FACE also publicly exposed Peacebird for using his designs without his permission.

Left Annomundi, right Peacebird.

Left Annomundi, right Peacebird.

Chinese netizens have further researched other clothing brands that Peacebird allegedly plagiarized, including UNALLOYED, Moussy, Off-White, FREI, Maje, and other domestic and international brands.

Design by Maje (left), and the dress by Peacebird (right).

Various Chinese media outlets, including Beijing Business News, call it noteworthy that Peacebird’s response to these plagiarism accusations is not an apology but a simple statement that “original brands can go through legal channels.” Meanwhile, the company has allegedly also taken down the designs that have been pointed out as copies.

Peacebrand is a fashion retail brand established in Ningbo in 1996. The company also holds various smaller brands such as LEDIN (乐町) and Material Girl. The fashion company claims to have approximately 12,000 employees in its stores, headquarters and factories. In 2018, it made its first debut at New York Fashion Week.

Among all the people commenting on this issue, there are many who think that although ‘borrowing’ popular designs has always been a part of the fashion industry, doing an exact copy is uncommon and unacceptable – especially for such a large company as Peacebird. “Shameless!”, multiple commenters say.

“I once bought an embroidered garment at Peacebird’s, and then later saw the same design from a brand I didn’t know. I thought it was copied from Peacebird, but now I think it might’ve been the other way around,” one person writes.

“I’m shocked that the national brand Peacebird would plagiarize while waving the flag of originality,” another commenter says.

“Plagiarizing one time, ok, but plagiarizing so many times and then even doing one on one copies, how can they run a business?!”

There are also those who hope that the current focus on Peacebird’s alleged plagiarism will lead to more attention for smaller, original brands in China.

To read more about the recent surge in popularity of domestic brands in China, see: “Chinese Fashion First: Consumer Nationalism and ‘China Chic’.”

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

Hotpot Chain Haidilao Is Shutting Down Over 300 Restaurants

After adding 544 stores in 2020, Haidilao will close 300 locations this year.

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News that China’s most popular hotpot chain is closing down over 300 restaurants became a top trending topic on Chinese social media site Weibo on Friday.

Haidilao (海底捞) made the announcement on Friday evening through a social media post, saying the company will gradually shut down about 300 of its stores. The restaurants that are to be closed are those with relatively low customer traffic and lower-than-expected business performance.

Although the stores will be shut down before December 31 of this year, some of them will potentially reopen at a later date after reorganization. The company also said it would not lay off its staff for now.

Haidilao has approximately 1600 restaurants, of which many were opened in 2020, when the chain added an astonishing 544 new restaurants. In the summer of 2021, Haidilao had a total of 131,084 employees.

It has been over 25 years since Zhang Yong, the owner of Haidilao, set up his first hot pot restaurant in Jianyang, Sichuan, with a mere investment of 10,000 yuan ($1470). It later became the dominant hot pot chain in the country.

Hot pot restaurants, where fresh meat and vegetables are cooked at the table in the simmering broth, are extremely common across China. But Zhang Yong chose to market Haidilao and its authentic Sichuan hot pot with an innovative strategy: high-service, high-tech, and high-quality.

The restaurant is known for giving its customers a free manicure along with snacks and drinks while waiting for a table. The staff is thoroughly trained in providing the best customer service, and Haidilao has introduced new concepts throughout the years to enhance customer experience. People who dine alone, for example, will get a teddy bear to join them. The restaurant also introduced robot waiters and is known for its noodle dancers and staff singing birthday songs whenever there is a birthday celebration.

Want a bear to join you for hotpot? Haidilao’s got you covered.

Over the past two years, however, Haidilao’s table turnover rate shrunk dramatically. The average table turnover rate in 2019 was 4.8 per day, but that number fell to 3 times per day in 2021, with some restaurants only doing 2.3 per day, leading to significant losses for the company’s net profit.

Due to the Covid19 crisis and lockdowns, Haidilao closed its doors in late January of 2020. By mid-March, it started to gradually reopen some of its locations, although they initially offered fewer seats and introduced an increased distance between dining table, that were allowed to have no more than three guests.

Due to the restaurant’s limited tables and increased labor costs, its menu prices went up, much to the dismay of many netizens, who already thought the prices at Haidilao were steep before the pandemic.

In October of this year, the story of a Haidilao customer in Zhengzhou discovering that the 200 grams of tripe he ordered for 72rmb ($11) was actually only 138 grams also went viral on Weibo, stirring discussions on the Haidilao menu prices.

While news about Haidilao closing so many of its stores attracted over 260 million views by Friday night, many commenters agreed that the company should scale down. “The more stores you open, the less you focus on service, the surroundings of the newly opened stores are not up to par, while prices are only rising,” one person wrote on Weibo.

“They’re not making enough money, while their prices were already being pressed down, and still I can’t afford to eat there,” another commenter wrote.

Others also wondered how Haidilao could claim they would not sack their staff while closing down so many stores. “Does that basically mean they’ll wait for them to leave for themselves?”

“When there’s a pandemic, there’s bound to be bad luck [in business],” another commenter writes: “There’s really not much to do about it.”

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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