Netizens in mainland China have accused McDonald’s of advocating Taiwanese independence after the fast-food operator’s latest regional advertisement contained a brief shot of an ID card that mentioned Taiwanese nationality.
The hamburger ad, which first aired on television in Taiwan on January 6, included a two-second clip of a student ID card which listed the character’s nation as Taiwan.
Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island which China considers to be a breakaway province to be eventually reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Angry mainland netizens quickly picked up on the detail and took to social media to voice their Chinese nationalism.
“The nationality should be China! What is Taiwan? A province. Please know your place,” said one comment on WeChat.
“McDonald’s has put this out clearly for 1.3 billion Chinese people to see, what is the meaning of this?! Are they supporting Taiwan independence?” wrote another user.
However, other commenters were more supportive of Taiwan.
“The mainland really is sick, using patriotism to stir things up all day and making life impossible for people,” read one highly rated Weibo comment from a user in Guangdong province.
“This is too over the top, they even want to go abroad to boycott McDonald’s. I’m tired,” said another Guangdong commenter.
McDonald’s China released an official apology on Weibo on Saturday, stating that the advert was directed by an unnamed Taiwanese ad agency and has since been pulled.
“The ad company did not carry out strict background checks on the film and this caused a misunderstanding that we deeply regret,” the statement said.
“We have always supported the one-China policy and continue to uphold Chinese territorial sovereignty.”
The “one China” policy, first articulated in 1972 at the end of US President Richard Nixon’s trip to China, states that “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China”, but leaves ambiguous whether Beijing or Taipei should be the legitimate government.
As a result, foreign nations are only able to establish official diplomatic ties with either China or Taiwan.
In recent years, China has put intense diplomatic pressure on the international community to sever official diplomatic relations with Taiwan as cross-strait tensions have increased under Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who supports independence.
Beijing’s calls for Taiwan to reunify with mainland China have also intensified, as Chinese President Xi Jinping recently proposed that Taiwan could be governed under the “one country, two systems” model used in Hong Kong and Macau.
China has also pressured international corporations such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and the Marriott hotel chain to remove all references to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites.
Zhi Zhenfeng, a researcher at the China Academy of Social Sciences, told the news outlet Haiwainet.cn that the one-China policy has sufficient basis in Chinese and international law, and that China’s complete territorial sovereignty is a core national interest.