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.