The Chinese government spokeswoman sparked a flood of memes over the weekend after she attempted to use the number of Chinese restaurants in Taipei to prove Beijing’s historic claim to Taiwan.
“Baidu Maps shows that there are 38 Shandong dumpling restaurants and 67 Shanxi noodle restaurants in Taipei,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying tweeted on Sunday.
“Palace don’t cheat. #Taiwan has always been part of China. The long-lost child will eventually come home,” said Hua, who has the @SpokespersonCHN handle on Twitter.
Hua’s post, which has been tweeted nearly 3,000 times, capped a week of renewed tensions in the Taiwan Strait as the Chinese military launched unprecedented drills around the island in response to the recent visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. China claims Taiwan as its own.
But many on Twitter found flaws in the Chinese official’s logic, given the popularity of many other cuisines in the Taiwanese capital and the prevalence of Western fast food restaurants in Beijing.
One of the most popular responses came from Morgan Ortagus, who served as a State Department spokesperson during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“There are over 8,500 KFC restaurants in China. Palaces don’t cheat. #China has always been part of Kentucky. The long-lost child will eventually come home,” Ortagus said in his now-viral tweet. .
On Baidu Maps, which is operated by the Chinese equivalent of Google, a search for KFC restaurants in Beijing yielded several dozen results.
Sharing a screenshot of Ortagus’ tweet on Facebook on Monday, the Taiwan Representative Office in Boston wrote, “Turns out China is part of Kentucky,” followed by a crying and laughing emoji.
Twitter user Grant Huang, a civil engineer from Taipei, shared maps showing the distribution of Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants in the city.
“There are more Japanese restaurants than Chinese, according to the data. The plates don’t cheat,” he concluded.
While taking to Twitter, Hua’s post appeared to be aimed at Weibo, China’s main social media website, where the topic spawned several trending hashtags led by state media. In the country’s highly regulated information environment, Beijing’s narrative of Taiwan’s desire for “unification” with the mainland remains largely intact.
In reality, however, the Taiwanese public’s desire for political union with China remains at an all-time low.
Last month, the results of an island-wide political trends survey revealed that 1.3% of the population wanted to unite with China as soon as possible, while 5.2% preferred this outcome at some point in the future.
By contrast, a record 28.6% of respondents said they would rather “maintain the status quo” indefinitely, in which Taiwan and China remained separate. Some 28.3% chose the status quo and “decide at a later date”, and 25.2% opted for the status quo with a view to “moving towards independence”.