After Gap, Delta Air Lines and Marriott, Costco has become the latest American company to have incited the wrath of Chinese internet users for what it has said about Taiwan.
Costco faces backlash on Chinese internet for ‘very much’ considering Taiwan a country
With a population of 23 million, Taiwan has been self-ruling since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. But Beijing sees the island as an inalienable part of Chinese territory, to be reunified someday, by force if necessary.
The retail giant has been in hot water since Haiwai Net, the overseas edition of state newspaper People’s Daily, ran an article on May 22 accusing Costco of supporting Taiwan independence.
The newspaper dug up a 2016 letter written by a Costco executive in reply to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, which filed a complaint against the listing of Taiwan as a province of China on the chain’s online job application system.
“It was simply an oversight, not any commentary on Taiwan’s status,” Costco Senior Vice President Patrick Callans said in the letter. “As you probably know, we have retail locations in Taiwan and very much consider it a country.”
The DC-based organization advocating Taiwan independence has confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the letter is authentic.
The Chinese government has been pressuring international companies ranging from airlines to fashion brands to refer to Taiwan as Chinese territory.
Haiwai Net broke the story after receiving a tip-off from a reader Ms Ma, who comes from Shanghai but has stayed in the US after finishing her studies.
“Costco wants to earn money from the Chinese people, but it is shamelessly expressing its support for Taiwan independence. Costco should apologize to all Chinese people,” Ms Ma told the outlet.
The story came at an awkward time for the warehouse club. Days ago, Costco signed an agreement to set up an office and a store in Shanghai, after more than two years of negotiation.
Costco hasn’t responded to a request for comment from Inkstone. The warehouse club has been hugely popular in Taiwan, after it opened its first store in 1997. Costco now has 13 outlets on the island.
But China has a huge demand for “hypermarkets,” giant stores that are usually located on the outskirts of cities and towns. According to market research company Euromonitor, this market will be worth $103 billion by 2020.
Costco is late to the game. Its rival Walmart opened its first store in 1996, and is now the third-largest hypermarket in the country.