Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chinese Netizens Calling on Boycott of Carrefour in the Wake of Troubled Olympic Torch Rely

A photo circulated on the web: a young woman protests the interruption of the Olympic torch relay in France in front of a Carrefour store in Beijing

A boycott against French retailer giant Carrefour in China was recently waged on the Internet. One message has been widely circulated on the web, calling on people around China not to shop at Carrefour on the May 1 holiday to resist the retailer's big sale event on that day. Another message asks the Chinese public to stay away from Carrefour stores for 17 days, mirroring the duration the Beijing Olympics, between May 8 and May 24.

“No one should shop at Carrefour, because the biggest shareholder of Carrefour donated huge money to the Dalai Lama, a lot of French people support the independence of Tibet, and even the French president has announced boycott of the Beijing Olympics,” says the message.

In response, Carrefour China has posted a statement on its official website on Tuesday, claiming that “the rumor about Carrefour Group’s support of some illegal political organizations is completely groundless.” The statement goes on to express Carrefour’s support for the Beijing Olympics. “Carrefour Group has always actively supported the Beijing Olympics,” it says. “Currently, Carrefour stores in Beijing are busy preparing to welcome the opening of the Olympics.”

The protests in Paris during the Olympic torch relay there clearly enraged many Chinese people, who have been so enthusiastic about hosting the Olympic Games. Calling the Olympic torch “the holy flame,” Chinese people see the torch relay as a sacred ritual as well. To millions of common folks in China, what happened in Paris was like a slap in their faces, anything but acceptable. Angry comments about the Paris incident have flooded online forums in China in the past few weeks and now people are calling for actions. As perhaps the best known and the most widely presented French business in China, Carrefour is easily targeted.

Not everyone, however, sees boycott of Carrefour or French products as the right thing to do. “Boycott Carrefour, such a slogan is a bit too simple and hasty,” says one post, advocating a focus on the long term. “Once we develop and become stronger, will we still be afraid of other’s bullying?”

Some Chinese netizens are comparing the current anti-west reaction over the torch relay interruptions with the historic conflict between China and the West after the Opium War in the 19th century, and even describing the supporters of the boycott as the “contemporary Boxer,” drawing an analogy between some activists and members of the anti-foreigner rebellion in the early 20th century.

There are also a few voices warning about the seemingly rising nationalism ignited by the Olympic flames, and concerning things might go out of control on the eve of the Olympics. If so, one post says,“ [it] will cause long and unrecoverable damage to China’s international image.”

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