It’s a blunder that happens at worst. US confectionery giant Mars Wrigley has apologized and said it “respects Chinese sovereignty” after an ad for its Snickers chocolate bars presented Taiwan as a “country”. China believes that the island of 23 million people, even if it is ruled by a rival Chinese regime, must be reunited with the rest of the national territory. She opposes any international recognition of Taipei.
The promotional video for an event involving Snickers and South Korean music group BTS ended with the words “only available in the following countries”, with the flags of South Korea, Malaysia and the Republic of China (Taiwan). This video, not intended for the mainland Chinese market, was however spotted by Chinese Internet users, triggering a controversy on social networks.
A failure that comes at the wrong time
“We have taken note of press reports relating to a Snickers event being conducted in parts of Asia,” Mars Wrigley said Friday evening in a statement posted on Snickers China’s official Weibo social media account. “We take this very seriously and offer our sincere apologies”, continues the confectionery giant, which says “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China”.
Snickers China concluded, “There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.” This case comes in the midst of tensions between Beijing and Taipei, following the stay on the island of the number three American Nancy Pelosi, to which China is currently responding with large-scale military exercises around Taiwan.
Brands already pinned down in the past
Mars Wrigley is far from the first foreign company to apologize in China after diplomatic blunders for fear of losing access to the huge local market. In 2019, Dior, owned by French giant and world number one luxury brand LVMH, apologized after using a map of China omitting Taiwan during a presentation at a Chinese university.
The previous year, the website of the American hotel giant Marriott had been blocked for a week in China. Reason: the group had presented in an online questionnaire the Chinese regions of Tibet and Hong Kong, but also Taiwan, as so many distinct countries.