Mercedes-Benz is the latest in a long line of companies apologizing to China

Business & Technology

“Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open.”

Mercedes-Benz thought the quote was perfect for a #MondayMotivation post on Instagram (see a screencap of the post here). The People’s Daily, however, quickly decided that no matter how benign the substance of the quote, the source — the Dalai Lama — was too much to handle. An opinion piece in the paper denounced (in Chinese) Mercedes-Benz as an “enemy of the Chinese people” and demanded a retraction and an apology.

  • The carmaker promised to “immediately take practical actions to deepen our understanding of Chinese culture and values,” and apologized for its “extremely erroneous message” on Weibo (in Chinese). See Shanghaiist for a full translation of the apology and some social media commentary.
  • Several other companies have, in the first month of 2018, already faced criticism from China for online postings and website content.
  • On the one hand, these kinds of retractions are nothing new: “In 1998, Apple removed images of the Dalai Lama from an advertising campaign in Asia for fear of offending China,” notes journalist Isaac Stone Fish in a Twitter thread.
  • But something is different now: “China in the new era is more confident and open,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson while answering a question about the Mercedes apology earlier today.
  • “Same scenario twenty years ago and China is nothing but praise for the three-pointed star. Needed Mercedes to invest. Mercedes formed JV with Beijing. Today China is MB’s number one market. Leverage.” That’s the view of Michael Dunne, a longtime observer of the Chinese auto industry.