BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. candy giant Mars Wrigley has insisted it “respects China’s national sovereignty” and apologized after an advert for its Snickers bar called Taiwan a country, sparking outrage on the continent.
Videos and images showed a Snickers website promoting a limited-edition Snickers bar, claiming the product was only available in the “countries” of South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan. The ad, featuring South Korean boyband BTS, sparked a wave of anger on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo on Friday August 5.
Mars Wrigley later posted an apology on his Snickers China Weibo account and said the affected content had been edited.
“We are aware of reports of Snickers-related activities in parts of Asia, take this very seriously and express our deepest apologies,” the company said.
“Mars Wrigley respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and conducts its business activities in strict accordance with local Chinese laws and regulations.”
Hours after the first statement, Snickers China shared another post on Weibo adding that “there is only one China in this world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”
Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
The outcry over the Snickers ad came as sensitivities surrounding Taiwan in mainland China are at their highest in decades after Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited the island on Tuesday, prompting China to announce unprecedented live-fire 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 surrounded the self-governing democratic island in recent days with a series of military exercises.
Mars Wrigley is far from the first international company to apologize for fears of losing access to China’s huge 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.