Depending on where you read your news, the nation-wide boycott of, and protests against, French supermarket chain Carrefour in China were either a well-attended show of nationalistic pride or were over-shadowed by the bargains on offer inside the stores. Angered by events surrounding the Olympic torch relay in Paris last month and by President Sarkozy declining to rule out a boycott of the games in Beijing in August, the protests had been arranged through on-line forums and text messaging.
Despite Carrefour’s announcement (according to Xinhua) last week that it fully supported the Olympics and recognised Tibet as a part of China, “hundreds of protesters gathered at Carrefour outlets in several major cities Thursday, shouting slogans against the retail giant, as well as against CNN and ‘Tibet independence'”, according to the China Daily. Reuters report the best-attended protest as being that in Fuzhou, where around 400 protesters chanted slogans and waved flags. Elsewhere in the country, most reports state that demonstrations were attended by tens, rather than hundreds.
Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune puts a slightly different spin on the protests:
“On Thursday, the first day of a planned boycott against Carrefour, a French retail chain here, there were a few low-key protests around the country, but many Carrefour outlets did a healthy business in peanut oil, petit fours and family packs of litchi juice.”
The article goes on to state that most Carrefour stores in the country witnessed “throngs of unapologetic shoppers” rather than mass-demonstrations. The piece, carried by the New York Times as well, also contains this revealing comment:
“‘Politics is one thing, but people have to eat,’ said Zheng Wu, 55, a Beijing homemaker whose shopping cart was loaded up with a 12-roll bundle of toilet paper, two large sacks of rice, a box of corn flakes, three pairs of pink flip-flops and a toilet plunger.”
Only the essentials then. Clearly buying food from non-French owned stores in Beijing is a problem, even for those sympathetic to the protestors’ sentiments.
The government has recently been trying to dampen the spiralling anti-Carrefour and anti-French fervour with officials reminding protestors that the supermarket chain employ around 400,000 Chinese. For their part, whilst distancing themselves from any association with political or religious groups, Carrefour have made their workers don “patriotic” yellow and red uniforms and decorated them with Olympic insignia. Unfortunately, hats bearing the Beijing 2008 logo were deemed a copyright violation and the government ordered Carrefour workers to remove them.
The above photo, left on our Contribute page, is, according to elephantonabicycle who took it, of
“a protest today at Xian Carrefour against France, the French, The Dalai Lama, Tibetan separatists, Western media bias, CNN, BBC, the West, people protesting the Olympics, China-haters of various kinds, Camembert cheese, Jean-Michel Jarre and possibly more besides.
One popular chant: “look down upon the foreign countries”.
It was, however, very peaceful. “
There were no reports of major disturbances at Carrefour shops in Shanghai and at least one store, at Zhong Shan Park, appeared as busy as you would expect for a national holiday, i.e. very crowded.
More on Shanghaiist
Nationalist netizens call for boycott of Carrefour and other French brands
Anti-French, anti-Carrefour fury bubble over all across China
China Tech News: Google.cn blocks “Carrefour”
New York Times: Anti-French boycott falters in China
China Daily: Hundreds hold rallies at Carrefour
Wall Street Journal: Anti-Western protests in China seem to wane
BBC: New anti-French rallies in China