Ikea under fire for listing Taiwan as a country on its packaging

Lee Jeong-ho
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Ikea under fire for listing Taiwan as a country on its packaging

Ikea has become the latest foreign company to fall foul of Beijing’s demand that Taiwan be referred to as part of China, with the Swedish furniture giant coming under fire from state media and mainland internet users over its packaging.

On Tuesday, a report in state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times said Ikea had violated the “one China” principle by treating Taiwan and semi-autonomous Hong Kong as countries on its packaging.

“Ikea uses ‘Spain-Mainland’ and ‘Spain-Balearics and Canary Islands’ [on its materials],” the report said, adding that the retailer should take the same approach to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

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Mainland internet users added to pressure on the company, posting images of product packaging from the popular furniture chain on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, that gave Taiwan the same status as countries such as India, South Korea and the Philippines.

“[Ikea] earns money in China yet it is trying to separate the country?” one person wrote on Weibo.

Another said: “Ikea has always separated Taiwan and Hong Kong from China in its product tags and on its website … Ikea must correct this.”

Ikea did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province to eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. It has ramped up pressure on the self-ruled island since Tsai Ing-wen became president in 2016 and refused to accept the “1992 consensus” that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of it. Beijing says the principle forms the basis of any ties between the two sides.

Earlier this month, mainland internet users demanded boycotts of Taiwanese bakery chain 85C for supposedly crossing Beijing’s “red line” on Taiwan when it presented a gift to Tsai during her stopover in Los Angeles. They said the gift to Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was a sign that it supported Taiwan as a separate country.

The Chinese government has accused a number of foreign companies – including hotels and retailers – of treating Taiwan and Hong Kong as if they were independent countries on their websites and in other materials since the start of the year.

Taipei may hit back at airlines that complied with ‘Taiwan, China’ demand

In April, international airlines with mainland routes were told to stop listing Taiwan as a country on their websites and instead refer to it as “Taiwan, China” or the “China Taiwan region” or face punitive measures – demands the White House described as “Orwellian nonsense”.

Japanese retailer Muji was meanwhile fined 200,000 yuan (US$29,300) in May for using packaging that listed Taiwan as a country for some of its products sold in mainland China.

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