China Official's Remark on Taiwan's Chinese Restaurants Spawns Memes

China's senior government spokesperson triggered a flood of memes over the weekend after she attempted to use the number of Chinese restaurants in Taipei to prove Beijing's historical claim to Taiwan.

"Baidu Maps show that there are 38 Shandong dumpling restaurants and 67 Shanxi noodle restaurants in Taipei," China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted on Sunday.

"Palates don't cheat. #Taiwan has always been a part of China. The long lost child will eventually return home," said Hua, who has the @SpokespersonCHN handle on Twitter.

Hua's post, which has been quote-tweeted nearly 3,000 times, capped off a week of fresh tensions across the Taiwan Strait as the Chinese military launched unprecedented drills around the island in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit. 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 response came from Morgan Ortagus, who served as State Department spokesperson during the administration of former President Donald Trump.

"There are over 8,500 KFC restaurants in China. Palates don't cheat. #China has always been a part of Kentucky. The long lost child will eventually return home," Ortagus said in her now viral tweet.

On Baidu Maps, which is operated by China's equivalent to Google, a search for KFC restaurants in Beijing returned several dozen results.

Sharing a screenshot of Ortagus's tweet to Facebook on Monday, Taiwan's representative office in Boston wrote: "It turns out China is part of Kentucky," followed by a crying laughing emoji.

China's Food Claim Over Taiwan Sparks Ridicule
China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying holds a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on August 3, 2022. In a tweet on August 7, Hua suggested the number of Chinese restaurants in Taipei proved Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

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 ones, according to the data. Plates don't cheat," he concluded.

While backfiring on Twitter, Hua's message appeared to be intended for Weibo, China's main social media website, where the topic spawned several state media-led trending hashtags. Within the country's highly regulated information environment, Beijing's narrative about Taiwan's longing for "unification" with the mainland remains largely intact.

In reality, however, the Taiwanese public's desire for a political union with China remains at an all-time low.

Last month, the results of an island-wide survey on political trends found 1.3 percent of the population sought union with China as soon as possible, while 5.2 percent preferred that outcome at sometime in the future.

By contrast, a record 28.6 percent of those polled said they preferred to indefinitely "maintain the status quo," in which Taiwan and China remained separate. Some 28.3 percent chose the status quo and to "decide at a later date," and 25.2 percent opted for the status quo with a view to "move toward independence."