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Coca Cola in China: “Not a Single Bottle of Coke Should Be Sold to Chinese”

Coca Cola in China: The first crates of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. The majority of Chinese people had only known the drink from American movies, and were curious to try it out.

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The first crates of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. The majority of Chinese people had only known the drink from American movies, and were curious to try it out. Those who did, did not particularly like it.

The first 3000 cases of Coca Cola arrived in Beijing in 1979. Its arrival to China did not come without controversy, as the brand formally represented the “Western capitalist lifestyle”. But the Cultural Revolution had come to and end, and Western brands were slowly but surely coming to mainland China.

After the restoration of Sino-American diplomatic relations, Coca Cola was one of the first international companies to re-enter China. The Coca Cola shipment was the result of an agreement between the company and the Chinese government signed in December 1978, which was meant to sell Coca Cola to foreigners in China; initial sales were restricted to specially designated outlets, such as hotels and “Friendship” stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. But ordinary Chinese people, who only knew Coca Cola from the movies, also wanted to drink it.

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The first cases of Coca Cola arriving in Beijing in 1979.

1979 did not mark the first arrival of Coca Cola in China. The brand had actually already come to China in in 1927. By the 1940s, it sold over 1 million crates a year in Shanghai. But in 1949, business stopped as Mao’s communists took over China.

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Coca Cola outdoor ad in 1980s Shanghai.

In the 1980s, Coca Cola started to work with the government to set up ways to locally produce Coca Cola for Chinese consumers. On the marketing side, there was much to do; although many people were curious to try out the new drink, there were also many who preferred hot drinks over cold ones, and were not used to the strange taste of cola. Much of the success of Coca Cola in China can be ascribed to its marketing strategy.

Coca Cola in Chinese (kekou kele可口可乐), actually can be translated as ‘delicious happiness’.

To make the drink more popular, Coca Cola staff went to shops in Beijing to promote the beverage during weekends in 1983. They gave away Coca Cola balloons or chopsticks with every bottle of Coke, that cost 0.5 yuan ($0.07). It was the first promotional commercial activity in China since the death of Mao, and it was condemned by the government as “introducing American style commercialism”. They issued that “not a single bottle of Coke should be sold to Chinese”. The order lasted for a year, until Cola Cola set up its first joint venture in China in 1984.

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1988 Shanghai Coca Cola ad.

In 1985, the government officially allowed Coca Cola to sell its products to Chinese people.

In 2014, Coca Cola celebrated its 35th anniversary in China.
China is now the third-largest market for Coca Cola, and 140 million servings are sold every day.

Featured image: Man trying out Cola Cola in Beijing in 1981. At the time, one bottle was sold for 0.45 yuan ($0.07). When asked what the man thought of the taste, he replied: “It is so-so.”

By Manya Koetse

Sources:

Chen Yu (ed). 2014. 中国生活记忆 [‘China Remembers’, ‘Memories From Chinese Lives’]. Beijing: Zhongguo Qinggongye Chubanshe.

China Daily. 2008. “Fantastic Fizz.” http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2008-11/10/content_7190391.htm [24.9.15].

Coca Cola. 2015. “Celebrating 35 Years of Coca-Cola in China.” http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/celebrating-35-years-of-coca-cola-in-china [24.9.15].

Sohu. 2015. http://mt.sohu.com/20150702/n416070181.shtml [24.9.15].

Zhou Ke 周可(ed). 2014. Wo de Guxiang Zai Bashi Niandai 我的故乡在八十年代 [The 1980s, My Homeland] (In Chinese). Beijing: New Weekly 新周刊.

[box] This is What’s on Weibo’s “Throwback Thursday” section, where we take the time to look back on previous ‘trending topics’ in Chinese (social) media.[/box]

©2015 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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. History Nerd

    May 12, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Actually, the image with the woman drinking is not a Coca Cola ad. Its Lucky Cola which is the Chinese version of Coke sold during the communist takeover but it went out of business after Coke started up again in China.

  2. Ed Sherwood

    April 24, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    There is a huge Coke Cola, Manufacturing Plant, in China, as well as several Coke bottle Manufacturing Plants. Funny, you didn’t mention that!

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China Food & Drinks

Man Throws Tantrum in Hunan Restaurant Over Food Being “Too Spicy”

“If you can’t handle spicy food, don’t go to a Hunan restaurant!”

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A video showing the angry outburst of a customer at a Hunan restaurant is going viral on Weibo. The incident occurred on December 3rd in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, which is known for its spicy food.

The man was having dinner with five other guests, who started sneezing after eating some spicy dishes. The man then angrily complained to the waitress that the food was too spicy and that they were not able to eat it. “I’ve had Hunan cuisine before,” the man said: “But this is much spicier.”

Since there was “too much leftover food,” the man asked how the restaurant wanted to solve it, suggesting that they would not be charged for the dishes.

When the waitress offered the guests some free juice instead, the man starts throwing a tantrum, yelling: “You think I can’t afford juice myself?! I just said we have too much leftover food and I asked you how you want to handle this!” The waitress then repeats that she can offer free juice, after which the man aggressively throws a glass on the ground and takes off, screaming “We’re leaving!” to his friends.

The video shows the waitress looking distraught as the guests stand up and leave the restaurant without paying.

One hashtag dedicated to the incident received over 110 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#男子吃湘菜太辣打喷嚏要求餐馆免单#).

Most people commenting condemn the man’s angry outburst and him leaving without paying: “If you want to dine and dash, just be honest about it instead of first putting up such a performance,” one person writes.

“This is just an evil trick to avoid paying,” others say: “If it isn’t spicy, it’s not Hunan food.”

Many commenters said food being very spicy should not be a reason to leave without paying, especially not in Hunan: “If you can’t handle spicy food, don’t go to a Hunan restaurant!”

Another commenter wrote: “Some people think they can eat spicy food, but the real Hunan cuisine is too spicy for them. Hunan food in Hunan is different from the Hunan dishes served outside of the province.”

Hunan cuisine, also known as Xiang cuisine (湘菜), is known for being very spicy. One saying goes: “Sichuan people don’t fear spiciness, Guizhou people are fearless when it’s spicy, and Hunan people fear it’s not spicy enough.” (“四川人不怕辣,贵州人辣不怕,湖南人怕不辣”).

According to Sina News, the man apparently regretted his behavior the next day. On December 4th, he apologized to the restaurant and the waitress. He paid for his bill and also paid an additional 3 yuan ($0.50) to compensate for the broken glass.

The restaurant says the dispute is now resolved, and that no further action will be taken.

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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