Now It's The Turn Of Mercedes-Benz To Grovel Before China, Over An Instagram Post Quoting The Dalai Lama

from the extremely-erroneous dept

A couple of weeks ago, Techdirt wrote about Marriott International kowtowing to China because of a drop-down menu that dared to suggest that Tibet might be a country. We noted that a newly-confident and increasingly aggressive China might well start finding more of these alleged “insults” to use as pretexts for asserting itself internationally. And sure enough, that’s already happened again, this time with Mercedes-Benz. As a New York Times story explains, the German car maker posted an image of a white car parked on a beach, along with a quotation popularly ascribed to the Dalai Lama — “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open. #MondayMotivation” — to its official Instagram account.

Becoming “more open” by looking at things from this particular angle didn’t go down at all well in China, where the authorities regard Tibetan veneration of the Dalai Lama as a threat to political stability in the region. According to the New York Times, the post provoked an “outcry” from Chinese internet users, many of whom pledged to boycott the Mercedes brand. It’s hard to gauge to what extent Chinese citizens did this spontaneously, or whether some of those protesting online were part of the authorities’ well-oiled Internet surveillance and propaganda machine. In any case, what mattered was that the Chinese government was not happy at all, and Mercedes-Benz realized that if it wanted to carry on selling its cars in China, it had better start apologizing quickly and deeply. This it did by posting to its official Weibo account, translated here by the Shanghaiist:

This morning, we noticed that our company’s international social media had posted an extremely erroneous message. For this, we sincerely apologize.

Although we deleted the post as soon as possible, we fully understand how it has hurt the feelings of people in this country, including our colleagues who work in the country. For this, we express our sincerest apologies.

The Chinese government evidently wanted to make the most of this new opportunity to humiliate a Western company. The People?s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper, went so far as to berate Mercedes-Benz thus in a headline (original in Chinese):

If you do like this, you are an enemy of the Chinese people!

What makes the situation even more absurd is that Instagram is blocked in China, and so in theory nobody in the country could even see the ad. As with the Marriott International story, it underlines that the Chinese government now believes it has a right to dictate what should happen outside its borders, as well as within them.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: instagram, marriott, mercedes-benz

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Now It's The Turn Of Mercedes-Benz To Grovel Before China, Over An Instagram Post Quoting The Dalai Lama”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

So the post is both erroneous and and an assault on China not because of what it says, but because of who may have said this in a quotable manner once.

China and Mercedes officially hate looking at anything from more than one angle. That’s probably an obvious thing with most governments and corporations, but good to hear it openly admitted.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Bad example

It may be the wrong message, but at least it’s consistent. The big example from my gen was yammering incessantly how drugs are bad while chugging a bourbon, smoking a stogie, and popping handfuls of prescription pills. They couldn’t have looked like bigger hypocritical douche-bags if they tried. They even stuck this asinine statement into our video games.

Every gen has to put up with this sort of hypocrisy from those in authority – in many different forms. The war on drugs has stretched over the last few generations, and doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.

John85851 (profile) says:

Shouldn't Mercedes know better?

I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here…

Mercedes-Benz is a huge multi-national corporation which I assume has legal departments that are well-versed in protocol and international cultures.

So why did anyone think it was a good idea to run an ad with a quote from the Dalai Lama? Did they not know or not understand that it could offend people in China and that those same people could be customers?

Or if we’re cynical: did they do something to offend Chinese people, but they did it on Instagram because it’s blocked in China, for the simple reason that it gets more attention. Look- we’re now even talking about the story!

Ed (profile) says:

“It’s hard to gauge to what extent Chinese citizens did this spontaneously, or whether some of those protesting online were part of the authorities’ well-oiled Internet surveillance and propaganda machine.”

I would wager 99% was the later. From my time living in China, I can say with some degree of certainty that the average person doesn’t give a flip about the Dalai Lama or would even know that quote was attributed to him.

takitus (profile) says:

The flexibility of "hateful"

The Chinese Government’sAHEM People’s Daily also makes this interesting comment:

“It is not only an offense, but even more so, it’s a challenge to the Chinese people. Needless to say, it’s hateful.”

This is an obvious lesson in how flexible the definition of “hate speech” is in the hands of clever propagandists. Even an uncited quote encouraging broad-mindedness can be spun as hateful, given enough Orwellian oomph.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing but sabre rattling.

I grew up in a very Chinese neighbourhood. I can confirm that Chinese people are addicted to driving Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

I don’t think the Chinese government would be so dumb as to stop letting their people buy these cars, I’m sure they make a fortune on sales tax. Nothing will come from this, they’re just getting pissy about Tibet like they always do.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...