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Chinese People Attacked with Milk Powder in Amsterdam

Pictures and a video of Dutch men emptying boxes of milk powder over Chinese tourists in Amsterdam have become trending on Chinese social media networks Weixin and Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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Pictures and a video of Dutch men emptying boxes of milk powder over Chinese tourists in Amsterdam have become trending on Chinese social media networks Weixin and Weibo. Many netizens are angry with the men for insulting Chinese people. A commission has been set up to take legal actions against them.  

Chinese media report that two Dutch young men have recently attacked Chinese people with milk powder on the streets in Amsterdam. According to   Sina Weibo News, a Chinese netizen wrote on January 25 that two men in Amsterdam were looking out for Chinese people to pass by in the streets of Amsterdam, asking them if they wanted milk powder and then emptying a box of milk powder on them.

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According to Sina Weibo News, the attacks took place because Dutch people are not happy with Chinese people buying up milk powder in Amsterdam.

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The attacks occurred at different locations in Amsterdam, amongst others at the beginning of the Zeedijk, which is also known as Amsterdam’s ‘China Town’, and at the Stadhouderskade near the Heineken Brewery, which are both popular tourist places.

In the video, you can hear young men asking Asian-looking tourists if they want to buy some Nutrilon milk powder for twenty euros. They then proceed to throw milk powder over the tourists. “In the Netherlands, they are open about drugs and prostitution, and there is a free market, what’s the problem with buying milk powder?” one Weibo netizen wonders. “Only losers would take out their own frustration on other people like that,” another user responds. “They are only wasting milk powder like this!” one other Weibo netizen writes.

The two boys, who are named Rome Terbeek en Kenzo Hanter, have apologized for their actions in another video after their ‘prank’ caused controversy on social media in the Netherlands. In the video they say: “Hereby we would like to apologize for the prank we did in Amsterdam. We don’t have anything against Chinese or foreigners, but that is what it is made to look like now. We thought it would be a funny video and never thought it would turn out this way.” Their apology was also covered by Chinese media.

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Although the prank allegedly had no connection with Chinese buying up milk powder, Chinese media do connect this issue to earlier incidents where the ‘panic buying’ of milk powder has led to aggression, such as in last November in Rotterdam, where two Chinese got into a fight over milk powder (screenshot below).

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The boys have apologized, but the video and pictures have already become a much-discussed trending topic on Weibo under different hashtags, one being “Chinese splashed with milk powder” (#华人被泼奶粉#). Most Chinese netizens think the news has a direct connection to China’s milk powder problem, and many people are angry at the young men for insulting and bullying Chinese people this way and scold them on Weibo: “You fuckers really have a problem!” or “These fuckers really deserve a beating”, and “We should spill something over these son-of-a-bitches!” and “I only have a middle finger for you two!”

Chinese state media Xinhua and Tencent News report that the Chinese embassy hopes that legal measures will be taken against the two boys. The Chinese embassy in The Hague has stated on 27 January: “We are shocked that this nasty incident has happened in the Netherlands. We hope that the Dutch side will legally deal with this incident and that they will take the necessary measures to avoid such a thing happening again” (“我们对在荷兰发生这样的恶劣事件感到震惊,希望荷方依法处理并采取必要措施,避免此类事件再次发生”).

According to Xinhua News, Chinese media has been in touch with Dutch criminal lawyers, who think that the conduct of the two Dutch men could be classified as slander, discrimination, and bringing intentional harm to others. The Chinese community in the Netherlands has held a meeting and has decided to set up the “Dutch Overseas Chinese Rights Commission” (“荷兰华侨华人维权委员会”). They have asked the victims of the incident to come forward, as the Commission will help them in taking legal action against the men.

“This might have been just a street prank,” one netizen says: “but the issue of milk powder is a very sensitive one for Chinese people. It is just as insulting as it would be for a Muslim to be confronted with a pig’s head.”

Some examples of Chinese (state) media covering this news:
Global Times
Phoenix News
Epoch Times
China Youth
China Bridge
Sina News
China News Service
Sohu News

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.38.56

Screenshot of China Bridge News, naming the two boys and quoting a social media comment of a netizen who calls himself Geert Wilders (a well-known Dutch politician) and who says: “Guys guys, why would you do this? You know Nutrilon doesn’t care about this, they make loads of money.”  He also says: “Why would you bully Chinese people? They are very well integrated in the Netherlands! They are always very calm, why don’t you dare to bully people of other nationalities?” 

– By Manya Koetse

©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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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    January 28, 2016 at 11:13 am

    What makes you assume these were tourists?

    Ed

  2. Avatar

    Pepsi

    January 28, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I was so angry when I saw this I was shaking. If any country knew anything about China, the Chinese, their traditions and culture, they would not even consider such a childish move. I, myself, have had 20+ years experience of the country itself.
    Baby milk is valuable in China, the powder on their shelves holds no nutrition, not their fault, but their governments fault. The country doesn’t have such luxuries which is why milk powder is bought abroad by many parents.
    I’m surprised the Chinese tolerate us westerners still and wouldn’t blame the Chinese if they rebelled. Which they won’t because they don’t like confrontation or debate.
    The Chinese are peaceful people. For all who are from outside of China…treat the Chinese with respect and how you yourselves wish to be treated. Otherwise, LEAVE THEM ALONE AND IN PEACE!

    • Avatar

      Sander from Holland

      January 28, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      Hmmm… I think you missed that communist part of their culture. I had to work together with a Chinese girl for a few months and I noticed her enormous shyness and she was also afraid to tell about her country. She even was afraid for repercussions, even in Holland/Netherlands for the slightest critics onto her country. For me unimaginable that this is still possible in 2016

    • Avatar

      laowai

      January 30, 2016 at 6:03 am

      @Pepsi
      This was a tasteless joke and not funny at all. But you’re really a little whiner, my god.
      I live in Shanghai and I can tell you that there are a lot of Chinese who are not peaceful. So stop crying and get a life

    • Avatar

      Jason

      May 25, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Thank you for your understanding, as an exchange student in Barcelona, I am feeling shocked to see that as well. We buy the milk powder because we want our babies to grow up safely.

  3. Avatar

    LOL

    January 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Haha don’t get your panties in a bunch, it’s a tasteless joke but still pretty funny. Realize this is funny to some Dutch people as Chinese people literally fight each other over baby powder in our stores and more often then not baby powder milk is not available to Dutch people because Chinese people buy it all to resell it to China 😉

    The world would be a better place if folks wouldn’t get insulted so fast..

    • Avatar

      Sander from Holland

      January 28, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      It is literally a matter of life and dead for the Chinese, because they poison all their milk in China

    • Avatar

      A. from Groningen

      March 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      If this was the other way… Chinese adults throwing dirty water on Dutch tourists / Dutch students in China, you wouldn’t find it so funny. This is worse when baby milk-powder is actually a very sensitive topic in China.
      I am a Korean-Brit in the netherlands, I’ve gotten pushed off my bike while riding at times while being called a Shanghai c*nt wh*re. 🙂 I’ve had people chasing me around telling me they want to rape me :)….. because I am an asian looking woman.
      It’s not nice. It’s not funny.
      It IS insulting. And its frightening.

    • Avatar

      Bjorn

      March 15, 2016 at 5:43 am

      It’s tasteless, not funny, and uncalled for. Besides, powdered milk is scarce because factories don’t produce enough, you can’t blame Chinese people. What people do with products bought in supermarkets (use it themselves or resell) is up to themselves.

  4. Avatar

    Really?

    January 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    @Pepsi:

    The chinese people are peaceful people?
    Maybe, but tell that to the people in Tibet. They have a different experience with the Chinese.

    • Avatar

      Jason

      May 25, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Don’t mix up Chinese citizens with Chinese governments, and you do not understand the real situation on What Tibet is going through. Just like Catalonia wants independence, some people in Tibet wants independence but they could not represent the whole population of a region, what you hear and see is simply what those people wants to show.

  5. Avatar

    Maaike

    January 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    This just makes me so sad in many ways. Personally, I don’t think how anyone above the age of, let’s say, 5, could find this funny. But there’s no accounting for taste. Still, it angers me that people out of boredom spill good food, while others are starving, while at the same time being a real nuisance to the people they poke fun at. Shame on you, boys, shame on you…

  6. Avatar

    Simon

    January 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Reactions on a Dutch blog where this was published were all very negative. These guys have the brains of a shrimp and are not funny at all.

  7. Avatar

    Sander from Holland

    January 28, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I sincerely hope for this guys the Chinese laws don’t apply here in the Netherlands. I can imagine the Dutch government will be held under pressure by the CCP to punish these guys, because of the economic dependency of Holland to China. They probably won’t survive it and their families can buy their organs back…

  8. Avatar

    Peppi

    January 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    I had to laugh at the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands in this article, they are notorious for refusing to pay their rental fee of the building, and they don’t care. But now they want justice?

  9. Avatar

    Henk

    January 28, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I am Dutch and there is absolutely no excuse for such behavior. Hell nobody cares if Chinese buy the milk powder especially not those two boys. They are plain and simple just morons trying to be funny to get attention. If I saw them do it I would punch them in the face until they apologized. I feel really bad for their victims. Let’s hunt them down, and hand them over to the authorities.

  10. Avatar

    Dutch J

    January 28, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    =January 28, 2016 at 5:57 pm
    Hell nobody cares if Chinese buy the milk powder especially not those two boys.=

    Oh hell yes we care. More often than not, Dutch nationals stand for an empty shelf because the milkpowder has been hamstered by the Chinese.

    The fact that babies die in China because of bad powdered milk is not our problem to begin with but becomes so because our product gets bought up in wholesale to ship it to China.

    • Avatar

      Ting

      September 20, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      I’m chinese, but I’m absolutely against the chinese people buying up milk powder in europe, no matter they’re tourists or residents. Those people have very good excuses to cover themselves up, such as: we care about our own people, or we’re doing it in legal way, not robbing or stealing, we’re buying with money! The hell they care, it’s money they are making out of, living in another country but causing problems to the local people, not trying to integrate into the country but doing such business, robbers with money. At the same time they show off on Weibo about their “happy” lives in Europe, I see these people as real losers.
      Now that I’m living in Germany myself, I’ve always planned to write one article about this phenomenon, instead of focusing on the milk powder scandle or food safety in China, I’ll write about the people who are doing this. It’s not only about milk powder, but also other baby stuff.
      I want to say to those chinese people: fingers off! (in real life I would say that in Chinese though)

  11. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    January 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    True, this punks could not care less about milk powder themselves. But the fact that they came up with this ‘prank’ does prove that the issue of milk powder and Chinese is a sensitive and controversial one.
    This recent Dutch article gives a very thorough analysis of the problem: http://www.deondernemer.nl/nieuwsbericht/38064/babymelkmaffia-deinst-nergens-voor-terug

    To me, the biggest Chinese mystery has always been that Chinese government can employ 2 million people to police the internet, but they can’t clean up an essential sector like the dairy industry.

  12. Avatar

    Sjaak

    January 29, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Ok it might have been stupid prank like most pranks are.
    Dont take it so hard, nobody got hurt and if China wants more Nutrilon than ask the producer to produce more.
    I think not long ago they decided to produce it in Germany specially for Chinese market.
    Give it some time.
    Oh and they’re €10-12 here 😉

  13. Avatar

    Richard Woltz

    January 29, 2016 at 1:22 am

    I am Dutch and think these two stupid boys are very confused about the concept of humour.

  14. Avatar

    T

    January 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    What a stupid behavior. In Holland and Amsterdam especially, we don’t have any problems with Asians and/or Chinese people. As a Dutchman living in Amsterdam I feel really embarrassed by this ‘joke’.

  15. Avatar

    Jan

    January 29, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    L.s.

    In any country you have scum.
    This is a Dutch guy – scum
    and an Maroccon guy – scum.

    Most people in Amsterdam are nice.
    Too bad they have not been beaten up.

    I am a 4th generation man from
    Amsterdam.

    Now fanatic Muslims are invading Holland/Europe so things will
    become much worse. I hope
    for the Chinese people to be more
    smart than Merkel and keep them out of your country. By the way.
    If YOU like these people please let us know We will be glad to send them over. We will pay the tickets.

    Take care.

    Han..

  16. Avatar

    frank man

    January 30, 2016 at 1:27 am

    We start a group on face book “NIET leuk,NOT amused,不再容忍,for the chinese communities in Holland to show they are not amused and we hope you will sign our petition too. Please support us.

    • Avatar

      laowai

      January 30, 2016 at 6:05 am

      Seriously, Frank man?
      Get a life, loser
      Lol

      • Avatar

        Walao

        July 12, 2016 at 4:26 am

        You live in Shanghai and you get your panties in a bunch over people speaking up for the chinese people? How about you get out of that country, “laowai”?

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China Insight

“Support Xinjiang MianHua!” – China’s Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

The hashtag “Wo Zhichi Xinjiang Mianhua” – “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” – received over 6 billion views on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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Western brands faced heavy criticism in China this week when a social media storm erupted over the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its brand members for no longer sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region. The ‘Xinjiang cotton ban’ led to a major ‘Xinjiang cotton support’ campaign on Weibo, and a boycott for those brands siding with BCI.

In 2019, an extensive brand ‘witch hunt’ took place on Weibo and other Chinese social media networks in light of the protests in Hong Kong, with international fashion and luxury brands, from Versace to Swarovski, getting caught in the crossfire for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or brand T-shirts.

Now, another brand ‘witch hunt’ is taking place on Chinese social media. This time, it is not about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang and its cotton industry.

H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and other international brands have caused public outrage for the stand they’ve taken against the alleged use of forced labor involving the Muslim Uyghur minority to produce cotton in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

The social media storm started earlier this week on Wednesday, March 24, and is linked to H&M and the ‘BCI’ (Better Cotton Initiative), a Swiss NGO that aims to promote better standards in cotton farming.

In October 2020, H&M shared a statement on its site in which the Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

H&M stated that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, following the BCI decision to suspend licensing of BCI cotton in the region.

 

BCI and its Suspension of Activities in Xinjiang

 

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. It practices across 23 countries and accounts for 22% of global cotton production. The governance group was established in 2005 in cooperation with WWF and leading retailers, with the aim of promoting the widespread use of improved farm practices.

While H&M is a ‘top member’ of the Better Cotton Initiative (link), many others brands such as IKEA, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, and C&A are also brand members.

January 2020
In January of 2020, the BCI was slammed by Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, for its refusal to pull out of the Xinjiang region. At the time, 20 percent of its ‘better cotton’ was sourced from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

According to a 2020 report by EcoTextile, the BCI maintained that its implicated council member, the yarn producer Huafu, denied the allegations and that an independent audit of the company’s Aksu facility in Xinjiang had failed to identify any instances of forced labor. An earlier report by Adidas from 2019 also stated that their independent investigations found no evidence of forced labor.

March 2020
In late March of 2020, the BCI reportedly did suspend activities with licensed farmers in the Xinjiang region for the 2020/21 cotton season while also contracting a global expert to conduct an external review of the Xinjiang situation. Chinese state media Global Times later reported that despite suspending its licensing activities, the BCI would remain committed to cotton farming communities in Xinjiang and would continue to engage in activities in the region.

July 2020
The pressure on BCI and other brands to stop sourcing from Xinjiang was heightened when a coalition of civil society groups raised concerns over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China and the “grave risk of forced labor.” Reuters reported that more than 180 organizations urged brands from Adidas to Amazon to end sourcing of cotton and clothing from the region and cut ties with any suppliers in China that would benefit from the alleged forced labour of Uyghur other Muslim groups.

October 2020
In October of 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative announced it would cease all field-level activities in Xinjiang with immediate effect because the region had reportedly become “an increasingly untenable operating environment.” The aforementioned statement by H&M came out in the same month.

March 2021
By late March 2021, various Chinese state media reported on the BCI suspension. These reports came days after a coordinated effort by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over China’s alleged human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, something which was called a “concerted effort to slander China’s policies in its Xinjiang region” by Global Times. The news outlet linked these “anti-China forces’ efforts” to the BCI decision to suspend its Xinjiang activities.

 

A Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton

 

The news developments were followed by a wave of social media boycott movements and Chinese brand ambassadors cutting ties with international brands, with H&M being the main target over its Xinjiang statement.

Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Suning.com, and Meituan’s Dianping on Thursday all removed H&M from their platforms, with Chinese Android app stores also removing H&M. On Thursday, a search for “H&M” came up with no results on these sites (see images below).

Two of China’s largest online maps also removed H&M from its systems.

No H&M on these maps.

On Thursday, virtually all topics in Weibo’s top trending lists related to the Xinjiang cotton ban (see image below), with Chinese famous influencers and celebrities one by one announcing they would terminate their contracts with international brands related to the Xinjiang cotton ban.

The storm became so big this week that some people on social media even commented that “if you’re a Chinese celebrity and you don’t have any contracts to terminate now, you’re not doing so well.”

After H&M, an entire list of brands was targeted, including Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Converse, Puma, Burberry, and Lacoste.

In light of the heated discussions and calls for boycotts, there was also another hashtag that popped up on Weibo, namely that of “don’t make it hard for the workers” (不要为难打工人). The hashtag came up after some Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded on a live stream, with netizens calling on people to stay rational and not let the boycott turn into personal attacks on people. But another popular video showed a man in Chongqing calling customers out in an H&M store for buying their “trash.”

Another hashtag gaining many views, 520 million in total, was that of two ‘girls from Xinjiang dancing outside H&M’ (#新疆小姐姐在HM门店外跳新疆舞#) – it was linked to a video that showed two women performing outside of a H&M store in Chongqing.

Meanwhile, some brands, including Chinese company Anta Sports and the Japanese Asics, reportedly announced they would leave the Better Cotton Initiative in order to continue sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

The discussions on Xinjiang as Weibo saw this week are unprecedented, as ‘Xinjiang’ was previously a sensitive topic on Chinese social media and was barely discussed in political contexts. The last time Xinjiang became a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media was in 2018, when CCTV aired a program on the region’s “vocational education programs” in Xinjiang. That media moment triggered mixed reactions on Weibo, with some commenters wondering what the difference between a ‘re-education center’ and a ‘prison’ is.

 

Chinese State Media and the ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’

 

While Chinese netizens and celebrities play a major role in the storm that erupted over BCI, H&M, and Xinjiang cotton, the role of Chinese state media is pivotal.

Over the past week, various state media outlets posted strong messages regarding the ban in various ways, the most noteworthy one being People’s Daily‘s “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” (#我支持新疆棉花#) hashtag, which had garnered six billion views by the weekend. “The H&M Group released a statement that sparked outrage among netizens. Let’s pass it on together: Support Xinjiang Cotton,” the tagline of the hashtag page said.

The message came with an image saying “Xinjiang Mianhua” (Xinjiang cotton) in a similar font to the H&M logo, the “H” and “M” within ‘mianhua‘ being identical to the H&M letters.

The image and post by People’s Daily was shared over 36 million times.

A message by People’s Daily: those who slander China are not welcome.

Another image by People’s Daily published on March 25 said that the Chinese market does not welcome those who slander China.

The Communist Youth League also contributed to the online storm by posting about H&M, writing: “On the one hand they are starting rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand they want to make money in China. Dream on, H&M!” That post received around 430,000 likes.

Various official media, including Global Times and China Daily, posted about cotton production in Xinjiang. Besides refuting the forced labor accusations and accusing Western players of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, a recurring issue stressed is how 42 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton is harvested by machines. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying that “the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is nonexistent and entirely imaginary. The spotless white Xinjiang cotton brooks no slander.”

This image was posted by China Daily USA.

On March 27, People’s Daily posted a rap video by ‘Xinjiang Youth’ (新疆青年) on its official Weibo channel (video below) that included some tough lines attacking Western powers, companies, and media.

Also noteworthy in this propaganda campaign is how the Canadian YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill got caught up, as what he said in one of his videos was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) on March 27 during a press conference, with his video being screened before the conference.

In this video, that was part of a larger panel on Xinjiang, Dumbrill responded to the decision-making process on how China’s treatment of Uyghurs is called a “genocide.”

Recently, a number of countries and parliaments including the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have declared that China’s crackdown on the Muslim minorities amounts to “genocide” in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. Dumbrill talks about why the Xinjiang narratives matter to both the foreign and domestic politics of the US and other Western countries, with Dumbril claiming it “isn’t really about human rights and a care for overseas Muslims” but about other political goals. Dumbrill’s video was praised by authorities, state media, and by Chinese netizens.

“We have to push for the truth to come out,” some netizens commented. Others wrote: “But we’re only allowed to discuss it from within [the country].”

Meanwhile, while many companies are seeing sales falling, there are also many who are benefiting from the current developments. Some sellers on Taobao have found another way to attract customers, promoting their products as being made with “100% Xinjiang Cotton!”

As this is an ongoing topic, we will report more later. Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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 Media

About Yang Jiechi’s Instant Noodle Lunch at the US-China Talks in Alaska

Chinese state media want to make sure that you know that top diplomat Yang Jiechi had instant noodles for lunch during the top-level US-China talks in Alaska.

Manya Koetse

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A 12-second video in which top diplomat Yang Jiechi said he had an instant noodle lunch became a topic of discussion in China, where one hashtag on the issue attracted over 270 million views. It’s about more than noodles alone.

The high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska concluded on Friday. While international media describe the talks as “tough” and exposing the “depth of tensions” between the United States and China, many netizens also focus on the smaller events that occurred during the talks.

Besides the cool and collected way in which Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) went about her job, the fact that Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) had remarked he had instant noodles for lunch also triggered discussions on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlet CGTN published a short video showing how Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Yang walk to enter a session of the high-level talks, with Wang asking Yang “Have you had lunch?” Yang then answers: “Yes, instant noodles.”

The topic was discussed on Weibo in multiple threads and under the hashtags “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃泡面#) and “The Instant Noodles Yang Jiechi Had for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃的泡面#). The latter received had 270 million views on Weibo by Sunday evening.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag page “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” was initiated by Party newspaper People’s Daily. Together with the video published by CGTN, this shows that state media are purposely bringing ‘noodle gate’ to the attention of readers – both inside and outside of China.

Some Chinese news outlets reported that no formal dinner was arranged for the Chinese diplomats at the strategic dialogue due to COVID19, and that their lunch apparently consisted of simple noodles.

On Twitter, Christian Goebbels (@Chri5tianGoebel), Professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Vienna, commented: “My first thought when seeing this was: this is a complaint that the hosts didn’t even serve their guests a proper lunch, which Chinese viewers (and the guests!) would consider incredibly rude. If they wanted to create a good atmosphere, they should’ve served up a banquet.”

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham, called the noodle incident a “meaningful detail” on Twitter (@jonlsullivan), writing: “It fits the narrative that the US is inhospitable & disrespectful, incapable of treating China as a power of equal standing.”

Many netizens on Weibo take a similar stance, writing: “The American etiquette is unsatisfactory,” and: “Let’s not pay attention to food, they completely lack etiquette.”

“Jeez, these Americans don’t even care about food,” others wrote.

“It’s extremely insulting,” one blogger wrote: “This is a superpower, their strategy is despicable, to send our diplomatic staff off with a bucket of noodles!”

On Twitter, George Washington University Law Professor Donald Clarke called ‘noodle-gate’ a “non-story,” saying: “A reliable source tells me that China agreed on no joint meals for Covid reasons. Thus, no big banquet. If someone wants to order noodles instead of a proper meal from room service, they can do that, but it’s their choice, not something forced on them.”

But meanwhile, on Weibo, commenters are adding that plenty of restaurants in Alaska are still operating, suggesting that there would have been options to socialize safely.

In Chinese culture, it is a custom to hold a banquet for business, diplomatic, or even trivial events, with meal gatherings being used as a social lubricant; a way to build and maintain relations.

With food and meal gatherings being such an important part of communicative practices in relationship-building in China, Yang Jiechi having instant noodles by himself for lunch is much more than just that. From the perspective of many Chinese, it shows little consideration for the Chinese cultural background and not a lot of hospitality from the Americans towards their Chinese guests.

The fact that the US-China talks were icy does not help. State media outlet Global Times said that American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “unjustifiably attacked and accused China’s domestic and foreign policies” and “seriously prolonged its opening remarks.”

The Chinese delegation blamed the Americans, who invited the Chinese to Anchorage to have the strategic dialogue, for lacking “hospitable [and] good diplomatic etiquette.”

The noodle incident already led to one Guancha blogger coining the term ‘noodle diplomacy’ (“泡面外交”).

“The decline of the US starts with a bowl of instant noodles,” some said on Weibo.

“Let’s at least hope it was a ‘unifying’ beef noodle that he had,” some on Weibo jokingly commented.

Although many see the noodle lunch as a symbol of American inhospitality, there are also many commenters who see it as a practical and safe way to have lunch: “It’s good this way – at least nobody can poison him.”

“I want to know which brand [of instant noodles] he’s having, I want it too!”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by Miguel Andrade.

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