The Carrefour (And CNN) That Chinese Consumers Don’t Care For

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While some have already commented eloquently on how business blogs might deal with Big (political) issues, this one will continue to do what it says on the tin (i.e. put China business issues in context). But some political things are having a business impact (no great surprise there!).

Right now Carrefour (perhaps unfairly, and mainly because they are French with a slow PR machine – see background here on the ESWN blog) are getting a taste of economic nationalism, as part of a backlash against anti-Chinese protests around the now infamous Olympic torch relay. CNN (itself a target) reports:

    “Demonstrators also expressed their anger about what they see as biased reporting of the Tibet story by Western media organizations including CNN.

    Protesters gathered outside the French supermarket Carrefour in several Chinese cities including the northwestern city Xi’an, and the northeastern city Harbin and eastern city Jinan, the agency reported.

    …Protesters were also heard shouting anti-CNN slogans. This criticism comes after remarks recently made by CNN commentator Jack Cafferty.

    Thousands of Chinese also demonstrated outside Carrefour on Saturday in east-central city of Wuhan. And on Saturday about 1,500 pro-Chinese demonstrators gathered outside of CNN’s bureau in Los Angeles demanding that a Cafferty apologize and be fired from the network over comments critical of China and the U.S. government’s relationship with it.

    …In the comments, Cafferty referenced what he called billions of dollars in U.S. debt and trade deficits with China.

    “So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed,” he said. “I think they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.”

    In addition to Cafferty’s clarification, the network also issued a statement saying the commentator was referring to China’s government, not its people.

    “It was not Mr. Cafferty’s, nor CNN’s intent to cause offense to the Chinese people, and (CNN) would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way,” the statement said.

That is an apology unlikely to get much traction in China!

The message for businesses is to beware, the activist Chinese consumer / netizen, who will not settle down quietly. This sort of thing could happen to any company that lacks clear communications policies and PR skills (especially if they have very vocal – informed or otherwise – countrymen). But the point is a serious one that should inform risk management and PR planning.

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One Response to “The Carrefour (And CNN) That Chinese Consumers Don’t Care For”

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