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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.

Manya Koetse

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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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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 Digital

Exclusive QR Code-Based Service Under Fire: The 3 Major Downsides to Contactless Ordering

Self-service ordering is the norm in many restaurants across China, but its benefits do not always outweigh the downsides.

Manya Koetse

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QR code-based ordering is the new normal in Chinese restaurants, but contactless ordering also comes with major downsides. In a recent People’s Daily article, consumers’ rights expert Chen Yinjiang argues that contactless ordering can’t be the sole service option offered by businesses.

Along with China’s rapid digitalization, QR code-based ordering has become the norm for many restaurants across the country. Although many see QR code-based self-service – from waiting in line to ordering and paying – as a convenience that also saves the restaurant costs on staff, there are also downsides to these digital developments.

Contactless ordering is not just the new normal in many restaurants, it often also is the only way in which customers can order.

In a recent article published by Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily, the deputy secretary-general of China Consumer Protection Law Society, Chen Yinjiang (陈音江), argues that business owners in China should offer customers the choice, saying: “Consumers have the right to choose whether they want to order by scanning a code or order through a waiter. Businesses can’t just consider the costs without considering the customer experience – especially when they neglect the requirements of elderly consumers.”

Image via http://www.hnntv.cn/

On Chinese social media, the criticism of exclusive QR code-based service in restaurants has become a hot topic of discussion. The hashtag “People’s Daily Discusses QR Code-Based Ordering” (#人民日报谈扫码点餐#) received 280 million views on Weibo on Monday.

Both the People’s Daily article and the online discussions mention the following three major downsides to QR code-based ordering.

 
1. Missing the Communication with the Waiter

One downside to contactless ordering is that customers miss out on the experience of communicating their order directly with the restaurant staff.

One reason why people would prefer to place their order directly with the waiter is that it gives them an opportunity to inquire about the menu, get advice on the best choice to make, and to communicate any special dietary wishes and preferences.

But another reason is simply that talking to restaurant staff is part of the dining out experience, with self-service ordering being a rather bleak substitute for those people who would actually like to have some more human interaction when they go out for food.

“If a restaurant only lets people order through smartphone and don’t offer a menu, the entire sense of ritual [of eating out] is gone,” one person comments, with others agreeing: “Ordering food is part of the dining culture.”

 
2. Leaving the Non-Tech-Savvy Customers Behind

Contactless ordering is also a nuisance to the elderly and non-tech-savvy customers who struggle to scan a QR code and place an order. For them, the process of online ordering is not convenient or fast but actually makes their restaurant experience all the more difficult and complicated.

“We live in an aging society. We really need to have other ways of handling this for the future,” one popular comment on Weibo said.

Other commenters also indicate that even for people who are used to ordering online, the process can be a nuisance. When changing their mind about their order, or accidentally ordering a wrong item, the entire order is gone and the customer needs to start from scratch again. This makes the process far less convenient than ordering with a staff member.

 
3. Privacy and Spam Concerns

There are also those who find that QR-based ordering is an invasion of their privacy. Many restaurants require customers to register or to ‘follow’ them on WeChat or elsewhere before allowing contactless ordering.

This means that customers do not only give away some personal information stored in their app profile, it also means that it is easy for companies to keep on sending promotions and other information to their customers long after they have left their restaurants.

While this might be an efficient marketing strategy for businesses, many people see this as a major disadvantage to QR-based ordering, and this complaint is one of the most-discussed ones on Weibo.

“Contactless ordering is actually a good thing, it is the fact that you need to register or follow the company before you can place an order that’s the problem,” multiple commenters say.

“I just want to order food – why would you need my phone number for that? Why would I need to follow your account for that?”

Many commenters on Weibo indicate that if restaurants only offer QR code-based ordering, they would rather not eat there at all.

Despite the criticism on self-service ordering, it is also praised by many. The general consensus on Weibo seems to be that virtual ordering is great, but should not be the only way to order and that smartphones and tablets should never replace ‘old-fashioned’ menus and waiters.

By Manya Koetse

Featured image via http://dc.wio2o.com/new/diancan.php

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

Viral Video Exposes Wuhan Canteen Kitchen Food Malpractices

Boots in the food bowl, meat from the floor: this Wuhan college canteen is making a food safety mess.

Manya Koetse

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A video that exposes the poor food hygiene inside the kitchen of a Wuhan college canteen has been making its rounds on Chinese social media these days.

The video shows how a kitchen staff member picks up meat from the floor to put back in the tray, and how another kitchen worker uses rain boots to ‘wash’ vegetables in a big bowl on the ground, while another person is smoking.

The video was reportedly shot by someone visiting the canteen of the Wuhan Donghu University (武汉东湖学院) and was posted on social media on November 7.

According to various news sources, including Toutiao News, the school has confirmed that the video was filmed in their canteen, stating that those responsible for the improper food handling practices have now been fired.

The Wuhan Donghu University also posted a statement on their Weibo account on November 8, saying it will strengthen the supervision of its canteen food handling practices.

“The students at this school will probably vomit once they see this footage,” some commenters on Weibo wrote.

Wuhan Donghu University is an undergraduate private higher education institution established in 2000. The school has approximately 16,000 full-time undergraduate students.

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” one popular comment said, receiving over 25,000 likes.

Students from other universities also expressed concerns over the food handling practices in their own canteens, while some said they felt nauseous for having had lunch at the Wuhan canteen in question.

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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