Burger King Taiwan on Wednesday last week posted an update on Facebook advertising a new “Wuhan pneumonia” (武漢肺炎) home delivery meal, catering to customers hankering for a Whopper, but who wished to avoid visiting one of its outlets.
“Wuhan pneumonia” is the term commonly used in Taiwan to describe COVID-19.
Beijing has been waging an extensive propaganda campaign against the use of the words “Wuhan” or “China” in reference to the novel coronavirus, calling it racist and discriminatory. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have claimed that the coronavirus might have originated in the US.
The intention is obvious: to distract attention from the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up and epic mismanagement of the outbreak.
Burger King China on Sunday posted an apology on Sina Weibo (it could not post on Facebook as the social media site is blocked in China).
“Burger King Taiwan Region used the phrase ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ in a post on Facebook. Although Burger King China and Burger King Taiwan Region are separate companies, we would like to express our anger at the inappropriate language,” it said.
Burger King Taiwan then decided to remove its post and substituted any previous mention of “Wuhan pneumonia” with “novel coronavirus.”
Furious Taiwanese immediately plastered the page with a torrent of invective.
The BBC on Thursday last week published a report that quoted the mother of a British woman who was quarantined in Taiwan.
The mother claimed that her daughter was being kept “in prison-like conditions” in a “filthy” room with no hot water and nowhere to wash her clothes.
Taiwanese expressed their anger on social media and it was not long before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was pressed into action.
The ministry sent the BBC a lengthy rebuttal, which was added to the report on the BBC News Web site. Several hours later, photographs showing a spotless room and a wide, airy balcony also appeared.
Taiwanese social media users this week criticized the government’s donation of masks to nations most severely affected by the pandemic, even though the recipient nations used Twitter to publicly thank Taiwan, some including the ministry’s #Taiwanhelps hashtag in their posts.
All of this was reminiscent of a special Taiwan edition of Japanese men’s magazine Brutus in 2017, which featured a photograph of a typical night market scene in Tainan on its cover.
While many Taiwanese would presumably be delighted at the positive coverage of their nation, some criticized the magazine online, saying that the image was “insufficiently beautiful.”
Before reaching for their keyboards, Taiwanese should take a moment to consider whether their actions are causing more harm than good.
Expressing dissatisfaction with “negative coverage” that “spoils Taiwan’s image” runs the danger of making Taiwanese appear thin-skinned and churlish.
Taiwanese complain about their nation’s diminished international profile, but now that more attention is being focused on the nation — the vast majority of it extremely positive — Taiwanese need to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
There cannot be many nations whose foreign ministries rebut such trifling news reports.
As for Chinese interference, the school bully analogy is appropriate: just ignore it. Reacting simply emboldens the bully.
Instead of complaining, Taiwanese should get behind the government’s attempts to help other nations in their battle to contain the pandemic, and take pride in and promote their nation’s achievements in disease prevention.
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