Sun, Apr 15, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Chinese urge boycott to tepid reply

AFP, BEIJING

The messages began to pop up on Chinese social media as the trade spat with the US sizzled, urging people to boycott McDonald’s and other US firms to “defend the economic Great Wall.”

US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods have roused nationalist sentiment in the world’s second-largest economy, where consumers have a long track record of spurning foreign products when political nerves are frayed.

Appeals to shun the likes of McDonald’s, KFC and Apple’s iPhone have appeared on the WeChat messaging app and the Weibo microblogging Web site.

“Compatriots, our motherland is going through a difficult time. We must unite to support our national brands and help defend the economic Great Wall!” read one message being circulated on WeChat.

On Weibo, a car salesperson from northwest Gansu Province wrote: “The US has fired the first salvo in this trade war. It’s everyone’s responsibility to boycott American goods!”

Beijing has hit back at the US tariffs and vowed to retaliate to any new measures, but Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Trump delivered conciliatory words this week that raised hope of a negotiated solution.

The Global Times has encouraged the government to take a tough stance, with an editorial last week saying China should fight with the same spirit as during the Korean War — one that “fears no sacrifice or loss.”

“Chinese living across the globe have considerable purchasing power. We can cause a lot of damage to the US economy,” wrote one reader in the article’s online comment section.

However, it might be tough to convince Chinese to give up US brands that have become ubiquitous in streets and shopping centers across the vast nation.

The calls for boycotts certainly did not ruin the appetite of the lunch crowd at a McDonald’s in downtown Beijing this week, just a stone’s throw away from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I also received these messages — I just delete them,” diner Wang Zhiyi said. “These people [who share such messages] just want to cause a ruckus.”

This is not the first time US products have been targeted by boycotts.

Photographs of people smashing their iPhones emerged on social media in 2016, purportedly to denounce US support for the Philippines in a territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea. Protesters also shouted slogans in front of a dozen KFC outlets.

However, Ben Cavender, an analyst at Shanghai-based China Market Research Group, said he does not expect a boycott to gain much traction this time.

“Despite online slogans, surveys show that service brands that mostly employ Chinese nationals are viewed more positively,” Cavender said.

At the Dunkin’ Donuts outlet across the road from the McDonald’s, bank employee Gao Junya sat sipping her afternoon coffee with a friend.

“Do you think this doughnut is a symbol of American overreach and imperialism?” she asked, biting into a gooey Boston Cream. “Small groups on social media are just trying to put up smokescreens.”

Although many were quick to brush aside nationalist slogans, US wine has taken a hit.

“I’ve had a couple of corporate clients who’ve said they’d prefer to switch from a US wine to something else [for official events] in recent weeks, because they are conscious of the image they are projecting,” Beijing-based wine consultant Jim Boyce said.

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