Snickers owner apologises after referring to Taiwan as a country

BEIJING: American candy giant Mars Wrigley has insisted it “respects China’s national sovereignty” and apologised after an advertisement for its Snickers bar referred to Taiwan as a country, sparking outrage on the mainland.

Videos and pictures showed a Snickers website promoting a limited edition Snickers bar, saying the product was only available in the “countries” of South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. The commercial, featuring South Korean boyband BTS, triggered an outpour of anger on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on Friday (Aug 5).

Mars Wrigley later published an apology on its Snickers China Weibo account and said the relevant content had been amended.

“We are aware of reports on Snickers-related activities in certain regions of Asia, take this very seriously and express our deep apologies,” the company said.

“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and conducts its business operations in strict compliance with local Chinese laws and regulations.”

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 considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. 

The outcry over the Snickers advertisement came as sensitivities surrounding Taiwan in mainland China are at their highest in decades after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island on Tuesday, prompting China to announce unprecedented live-firing exercises around the island and a long list of import bans on Taiwanese products.

On Friday, China said it was ending cooperation with the United States on key issues including climate change, and has in recent days encircled the self-ruled democratic island with a series of military drills.

Mars Wrigley is far from the first international firm to issue an apology over worries of losing access to China’s massive consumer market.

In 2019, French luxury brand Dior apologised after using a map of China in a presentation that did not include Taiwan.

Hotel chain Marriott’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.