Mars Wrigley, maker of the Snickers candy bar, apologised on Friday for a Snickers product launch which Chinese social media users said suggested that Taiwan was a country.
Videos and pictures showing a Snickers website promoting a limited edition Snickers bar and saying the product was only available in the “countries” of South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan triggered an outpour of anger on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on Friday.
Mars Wrigley later published an apology on its Snickers China Weibo account and said the relevant content had been amended.
“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and conducts its business operations in strict compliance with local Chinese laws and regulations,” Mars Wrigley added.
However, the social media backlash did not abate as many users were irate that the U.S. company’s statement did not say Taiwan was a part of China, a cornerstone of Chinese foreign policy.
“Say it: Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory!” read one comment underneath the post on Snickers China Weibo account that received 8,000 likes.
The issue of Taiwan is a hangover from a brutal civil war in China that ended in 1949 with the defeated Nationalists fleeing to the island while the victorious Chinese Communist Party assumed control of mainland China.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.
Snickers joins a long list of foreign brands that have been forced to apologise after being called out by Chinese social media users for not using Beijing’s preferred nomenclature for the island: Taiwan province or Taiwan (China).
The outcry over the Snickers’ advert came as sensitivities surrounding Taiwan in mainland China are at their highest in decades after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island on Tuesday, prompting China to announce unprecedented live-firing exercises around the island and a long list of import bans on Taiwanese products.
On China’s highly censored social media platforms, calls for Beijing to launch a military assault on Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit have been widespread.