Chinese internet giant Tencent makes peace with Laoganma, China’s favorite chili crisp brand

Society & Culture

Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent and the country’s most beloved chili sauce brand Lǎo Gàn Mā 老干妈 are officially back on good terms, after a highly public feud that ended with a dramatic twist.

Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent and the country’s most beloved chili sauce brand Lǎo Gàn Mā 老干妈 are officially back on good terms, after a highly public feud that ended with a dramatic twist.

In a joint statement (in Chinese) released on July 10, the two sides said that they had ended the dispute following in-depth communication. “Tencent has apologized to Lao Gan Ma in private for all the misunderstanding it created and its mishandling of the situation,” the statement read.

“We are deeply sorry for letting the controversy take up so much space in the public discourse,” the two companies stated, adding that they would “actively seek and explore opportunities for collaborations in the future.”

The much-discussed drama erupted at the end of last month when several newspapers reported that a court in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, ruled in April that it would freeze 16 million yuan ($2.3 million) in Lao Gan Ma’s bank account because of a complaint filed by Tencent. Shortly after the revelation, the internet giant told the Global Times that the sauce-maker had broken a contract they signed in March 2019 for failing to pay advertising fees.

As news about the case started trending on Chinese social media, Lao Gan Ma wasted no time responding to the claims. Just hours after Tencent disclosed details about its complaint, the manufacturer released a statement (in Chinese), saying that it had never signed any marketing agreement with Tencent and would use legal tools to protect its reputation.

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The next day, the drama took an unexpected turn when police in Lao Gan Ma’s hometown Guiyang, Guizhou Province, said that they had arrested three people accused of forging the  company seals — an equivalent of CEO’s signatures in China — and pretending to work for the firm’s marketing team. The scammers signed a contract to place advertisements in QQ Speed QQ飞车, a racing video game developed by Tencent. According to the police, the aim of the scam was to obtain digital codes for virtual items in the game, which the fraudsters later resold online.

In the latest statement, Tencent said it would take legal action against the fraudsters with the help from Lao Gan Ma.

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The short-lived feud has inspired a slew of memes ridiculing Tencent for throwing shade at Lao Gan Ma, which is arguably the most popular chili sauce and chili crisp brand in China, without sufficient evidence to back up its claims. Probably feeling a bit embarrassed about the mistake, Tencent made a few self-deprecating jokes about itself. Earlier this month, the tech giant said on Weibo (in Chinese) that it would offer 1,000 bottles of Lao Gan Ma as a reward for people sending tips about similar scams. Around the same time, the company posted a photo of its cafeteria with the caption, “All of a sudden, this afternoon’s chili sauce became not as tasty as usual.”