The controversial Youtube advertisement promoted the fast food giant’s Egg McMuffins to students about to take exams. It depicted students who became lucky in their exams after eating the popular breakfast item “manfubao,” which translates to “full of good luck.”
Eagle-eyed netizens spotted that one of the students toted an exam admission card which listed her nationality as “Taiwan.”
The screencap of the admission card shot across social media, causing McDonald’s to became the latest foreign company to earn the ire of Chinese netizens.
Comments on internet bulletin boards accused the fast food company of attacking China’s sovereignty and violating mainland law by impliedly supporting Taiwan independence. Beijing has always claimed Taiwan to be a part of its territory.
Some commenters called for a boycott, whereas others asked for the mainland franchises to be expelled from the country.
One netizen commented, “Only if the motherland is strong can we establish her prestige! Long live the motherland!”
“Taiwan’s independence is good,” wrote another commenter. “Taiwan’s independence will destroy the Chinese communists.
“If the Chinese Communist Party isn’t destroyed, China’s ‘mouth cannons’ flip the definition of right and wrong everywhere, causing people all around the world to look down on them…”
The advertisement enjoyed a short period of publicity from Dec. 6 until it was removed on Dec. 18.
However, backlash from netizens continued until McDonald’s broke its silence one month later.
“We firmly support the one-China policy and resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The commercial has been taken offline,” the fast food chain’s China company stated on Weibo on Jan. 19.
While McDonald’s in China is owned by China’s CITIC Ltd and the US-based Carlyle Group, Taiwan’s McDonald’s outlets are owned by Taiwanese restaurant chain operator Deyu Co. It is unclear how much responsibility for removing the video is attributable to McDonald’s China.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu weighed in on the issue in a tweet on Jan. 19.
“What? Now even hamburgers have to follow the one China principle? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) January 19, 2019
As of Jan. 21, the apology appears to have disappeared from McDonald’s China’s Weibo page.