US candy giant Mars Wrigley has insisted it “respects China’s national sovereignty” and apologized after an ad for its Snickers bar referred to Taiwan as a country, sparking outrage on the mainland.
Marketing screenshots of the walnut pastry featuring South Korean boy band BTS were quickly picked up on social media in mainland China, where any suggestion that the island is an independent nation is highly taboo.
“We are aware of reports of Snickers-related activities in certain regions of Asia, take this very seriously and express our deepest apologies,” said a Mars Wrigley statement posted on Snickers China’s Weibo page on Friday.
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The company has asked the local Snickers team to check and adjust its official website and social media account “to ensure that the company’s advertising content is accurate,” it added.
“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and conducts business operations in strict compliance with local Chinese laws and regulations,” the statement said.
Hours after the first statement, Snickers China shared another Weibo post, adding that “there is only one China in this world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”
Beijing reacted with fury this week when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied its warnings and visited Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory and has vowed to take, by force if necessary .
China said on Friday it was ending cooperation with the United States on key issues including climate change, and in recent days has surrounded the self-ruled democratic island with a series of military exercises.
Mars Wrigley is far from the first international company to apologize for concerns about losing access to China’s mass consumer market.
In 2019, French luxury brand Dior apologized after using a map of China in a presentation that did not include Taiwan.
The Marriott hotel chain’s website in China was shut down by authorities for a week in 2018 after a customer questionnaire listed Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries.