In the immediate aftermath of The Hague ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea (see WiC333), the People’s Liberation Army released a music video featuring citizens repeating the line, “South Sea Arbitration: Who cares?” The song echoed the Chinese government’s refusal to recognise the court’s jurisdiction.
But in the weeks following the judgement there have been signs that Chinese citizens are bothered by it – greatly, in fact.
Netizens have launched campaigns against symbols of American ‘oppression’, such as Apple and KFC, as many blame the United States for stirring up tensions between China and its neighbours over the disputed maritime areas.
The campaign started off with a few protesters smashing their iPhones and posting pictures of the damage on weibo.
A small company in Zhejiang province called Bina Industries took inspiration from this movement, issuing a memo to its employees telling them that any purchasers of the forthcoming iPhone 7 would be fired.
It added that those already in possession of an iPhone should switch to a domestic brand and that it would pay compensation to staff that give up their Apple phones.
“The company’s motto is ‘Make China love China’s creations’. The domestic products on the market nowadays are all really good, so why should people just follow the trend and buy such expensive Apple phones?” one of the company’s shareholders asked.
Others have taken to the streets to air their grievances, protesting outside outlets of KFC, the fast food chain.
But the Chinese government hasn’t taken kindly to these demonstrations, with state media labelling them as jingoist and “disruptive to regular order”.
Higlighting the sense of official unease at some of the public displays of patriotic fervour, three men in Henan province were arrested for planning an unlawful protest outside their local KFC.
So far there have been protests at KFC restaurants in at least 12 Chinese cities, but the authorities dislike the spontaneity of these kinds of protests and they want to avoid some of the passions that they can unleash.
According to the China Daily,, demonstrators need to seek approval from a local security authority before organising one.
An editorial in the People’s Daily announced that “so-called patriotism that willfully sacrifices public order will only bring damage to the nation and society” and Xinhua condemned such assemblies as “irrational”.
Considering that the Chinese operating business of KFC looks likely to be bought by a local conglomerate, perhaps the protesters should take heed.
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