Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, December 05, 2003

Toyota apologizes to Chinese consumers for improper ads

Japanese carmaker Toyota lately roused resentment from Chinese people when it makes two stone lions, a traditional symbol of power in China, salute and bow to Toyota's Land Cruiser and Prado GX in two ads respectively. Toyota translates the word Prado as "Badao" in Chinese, a word that means "high-handed" or "domineering", and the tagline reads "You have to respect Badao."


Toyota apologizes to Chinese consumers for improper ads
Japanese car maker Toyota Thursday apologized to Chinese consumers for running advertisements that many Chinese complained were aimed at humiliating them and domestic industry.

The advertisements, for two new types of cars - Prado GX and Land Cruiser - had drawn widespread indignation and criticism from China's netizens, who see them as a deliberate act by the Japanese car firm to insult the Chinese.

The two ads, which ran in the latest issue of Auto Fan, a Beijing-based monthly, look harmless enough at first glance, but many Chinese readers said they were furious at the implied message of Japanese superiority relayed by the advertisements.

The first ad shows a Toyota Land Cruiser pulling a broken-down truck, which looks similar to a Chinese military vehicle, up a rocky incline. The suggestion, according to critics, is that Japanese SUVs are more durable than China's military equipment - a statement sure to draw heated remarks in China, considering Japan's military past in the region.

Another picture by Chinese Internet surfers to show anger
The second ad shows a stone lion, a traditional symbol of power in China, saluting one of Toyota's new Prado SUVs. Toyota translates the word Prado as "Badao" in Chinese, a word that means "high-handed" or "domineering." The tagline reads "You have to respect Baoda."

Many connect the stone-carved lion with those carved on the Marco Polo Bridge, where Japanese imperial troops launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937. The bridge has become one of the symbols of humiliation China has suffered in modern history.

Readers of the magazine flocked to the Internet to denounce the ads in various chat rooms.

"Why not resist Japanese goods," suggested one online writer going by the nickname Epdlfoywt. "I don't believe that Japanese (companies) can live well without a huge Chinese market."

A writer using the pen name Irvenliu said: "The magazine editors are idiots, they just know how to make money."

Other online comments called for Japanese goods to be pulled out of the stores and burned, but most included language that can't be re-printed here.

One district Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau in Beijing is investigating to see if the ads are illegal.

"If they have the effect of hurting the nation's feeling, it will be considered a violation of the advertisement publication code," the official said. If the ads are illegal, they will be banned, and Toyota could be fined.

But Toyota said the ads were nothing but commercials, and do not imply "any other meanings".

"We want to express our sincere apology for the unpleasant feelings they have generated among Chinese readers," it said in a statement, adding that the ads would be stopped.

The magazine had earlier issued a public apology for running the ads, which carry pictures that "hurt the Chinese national feelings". "We have realized the severity of the incident," it said.

But some people think the critics might be too sensitive in interpreting the meaning of the ads. "Statues of lions can be found in many other countries. They are not regarded as the symbol of China," said another surfer.

There is deep-rooted resentment against anything related to Japan among many ordinary Chinese people because of the country's failure to fully atone for its war-time past.

Such resentment is easily fanned in the Internet age, and it has been strengthened by a string of Japanese-related incidents lately.

In August, one Chinese man died and 42 people became ill after chemicals leaked from weapons left over by Japan in the northeastern city of Qiqihar, prompting protests and demands for compensation by China. A sex orgy by more than 400 Japanese male tourists with hundreds of Chinese prostitutes in Zhuhai on September 16-18, the anniversary of an attack by Japanese forces in 1931, led to Beijing asking Tokyo to strengthen law-abiding education among Japanese citizens abroad.

The following is the full text of Toyota's letter of apology:
Toyota motor Corp sincerely apologizes for the unpleasant feelings that may have caused to readers by the two ads of Land Cruiser and Prado SUV. The two ads are solely commercial and contain no other intention.

Toyota has stopped running the two ads. Toyota will continue to provide its Chinese consumers with the most satisfactory goods and services, and hopes for support from Chinese consumers.

By People's Daily Online

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