Chinese Nationalists Protest KFC As Symbol Of All Things American

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson

Last week, an international tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands decided in favor of the Philippines on the question of whether China has sovereignty over the South China Sea. The dispute began when China claimed a reef that both countries believe is part of their own territofy. The problem is that Chinese nationalists are taking their anger at the decision out on KFC< a popular restaurant there and a handy symbol of American overreach.

China’s government doesn’t accept the tribunal’s decision. The New York Times quotes the People’s Daily, official newspaper of the country’s Communist Party, ran a front-page editorial proclaiming, “We do not claim an inch of land that does not belong to us, but we won’t give up any patch that is ours.”

A former senior official in the Chinese government gave a speech in Washington declaring the tribunal to be useless, their decision “waste paper,” and that the U.S. could send “a fleet of aircraft carriers” and China still won’t back down. He wasn’t speaking officially on behalf of the country, of course.

China claims that it has historic rights over the sea, but also signed the treaty that the tribunal used to reach its unanimous decision, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It happens that the Philippines’ ally is the United States, making KFC (which was the first foreign fast food outlet to open China, almost 30 years ago) an easy target. It’s also a very common target, with over 5,000 restaurants in the country, including in out-of-the way towns.

That’s why the protests are happening: the dispute over the sea is really a dispute between the United States and China, and KFC is a familiar and handy symbol of United States power. Ironically, American owner Yum Brands has plans to sell its KFC operations in China, presumably to a local company.

One popular video shows an older man lecturing two younger men that by supporting KFC, they could be helping to purchase the very weapons that could be used against their own army. The video ends with the younger men seeking fried chicken elsewhere. Presumably.

Tribunal Rejects Beijing’s Claims in South China Sea [New York Times]

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