KFC re­ports re­vealWestern me­dia’s bias

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Amid wide­spread re­port­ing in theWest, KFC launched law­suits onMon­day against three Chi­nese com­pa­nies whose so­cial me­dia ac­counts al­legedly made com­ments about the ori­gins of the chicken used by KFC; in­clud­ing the claim that KFC chicken orig­i­nates from chick­ens with eight legs.

But th­ese re­cent re­ports and me­dia cov­er­age in theWest gen­er­ally rep­re­sent the con­tin­u­a­tion of a stu­pen­dously hyp­o­crit­i­cal theme with contempt and mock­ing of China’s so­cial me­dia on one hand and on the other hand at­tempts to paint a pic­ture of strict In­ter­net reg­u­la­tions in China.

Clearly, theWest­ern me­dia can­not have it both ways.

So­cial me­dia plat­forms in China, and th­ese prob­a­bly in­no­cent and par­tially tongue-in-cheek com­ments about KFC, quite rightly al­low users free­dom of ex­pres­sion. West­ern me­dia please note: No at­tempt at cur­tail­ing such com­ments has been made.

Of course th­ese com­ments have also been re­ported in the Chi­nese me­dia but not at all in the same KFC fin­ger-point­ing man­ner.

Fur­ther­more, the Chi­nese public also ap­pear not to at­tach se­ri­ous im­por­tance to th­ese KFC post­ings, some­thing also not re­ported in theWest­ern me­dia.

It is also note­wor­thy that re­cen­tWestern me­dia re­ports on KFC’s ex­tra­or­di­nary legal ac­tion do not re­fer, even briefly, to the his­tory of the in­fa­mous food safety scares as­so­ci­ated with KFC in China.

In 2005 the toxic red dye Su­dan 1 was found to have been used by KFC in its tomato sauce at KFC stores in China.

But even more re­cently, only last year KFC once again failed to earn the trust of the Chi­nese public with re­ports of con­tam­i­nated chicken sup­plied to its stores in China.

Chi­nese con­sumers, who have tra­di­tion­ally flocked to suchWestern fast food chains as KFC be­cause they were per­ceived to be safer to eat at, are now un­der­stand­ably wary.

The se­ries of food safety scares in re­cent years has added to KFC’s com­pet­i­tive decline too.

It is highly likely that this knee-jerk legal ac­tion launched by KFC is a re­sult of the in­creas­ing com­pet­i­tive pres­sures it faces in China. Chi­nese com­peti­tors are grow­ing stronger and stronger. And for­eign brands have lost a cer­tain­mys­tique and ado­ra­tion in the eyes of many Chi­nese con­sumers, not just in the food sec­tor.

SomeWestern me­dia re­ports ap­pear to sug­gest that China should do more to pro­tect for­eign com­pa­nies and that KFC has some­how been treated un­fairly. Of course no ref­er­ence is made to the prof­its KFC have en­joyed in China over many years while their mar­ket pres­ence in most other coun­tries has dwin­dled. Just where would KFC be with­out the China mar­ket?

Chi­nese lead­ers have re­it­er­ated that the gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to pro­tect the law­ful rights and in­ter­ests of for­eign com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in China, and it is the decline in com­pet­i­tive­ness ex­pe­ri­enced by KFC in China should be the real fo­cus of at­ten­tion. The au­thor is a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness and Eco­nomics in Bei­jing and a se­nior lec­turer at Southamp­ton Uni­ver­sity.

WANG XIAOYING / CHINA DAILY

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