From tea eggs to tech giant: Changing perceptions of identity
A TV show punchline – ‘Chinese people could hardly afford to buy a tea egg’ – that stereotyped mainlanders as backward is now losing its shine
A TV show punchline – “Chinese people could hardly afford to buy a tea egg” – that became popular in 2013 stereotyping mainlanders as backward and poor is losing its shine after a new quote set social media abuzz last week.
Tea eggs are considered an affordable food that usually costs 1 yuan to 2 yuan (15 to 29 US cents). Kao Chih-Bin, a career advisor in the labour department of Taiwan, made the comment on a 2011 TV show, but it only became popular two years later when his video clip hit Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
In 2013, Taiwanese students occupied the legislative chamber and protested against the approval of a trade pact with Beijing in a so-called sunflower movement. The video was then revived to show the difference between reality and how Taiwanese perceive mainland Chinese.
Now a video clip has been going viral on Weibo since last week of Lee Yung-ping, the former city mayor of Taipei, warning Taiwan people not to be limited by mainstream media’s biased reporting of Chinese society on a political talkshow.
“In the field of internet technology, including fin tech, China is not only surpassing Taiwan or dominating Asia,” said Lee on Chung T’ien Television in November 2016. “But China is also becoming a world leader in the internet industry.”
Lee gave an example of how Chinese millenials get a taxi via ride-hailing apps and make e-payments. Lee believed that driven by the rise use of internet technology, the service industry will be upgraded. Taiwanese might soon no longer be laughing at poor service levels and uncivilized behavior in mainland China.
In other Taiwan TV shows, similar comments were made in the past five years. Remarks include: “Frozen dumplings are too expensive for people from Henan and Hebei provinces in central China” or “Eating instant noodles at Shenzhen railway station will attract 50 or 60 onlookers who couldn’t afford it.”
On Weibo, the hashtag #台湾人眼中的大陆# (translated as mainland China in the eyes of Taiwanese) has seen 6,840 posts with screenshots of sensational TV shows. The topic has been discussed 12,000 times so far.
After this video clip went viral, some people expressed relief that Taiwanese commentators are finally being honest about mainlanders. “I felt exposed after some many years of underplaying our strength,” said a comment under the Weibo topic page joked.