17 September 2019
Following the arrest of its CFO in Canada, Huawei has seen an outpouring of support in China, with some businesses offering discounts to Huawei phone users. Photo: Reuters
Following the arrest of its CFO in Canada, Huawei has seen an outpouring of support in China, with some businesses offering discounts to Huawei phone users. Photo: Reuters

Nationalism with benefits

As most mainland Chinese feel their telecoms equipment firm Huawei is being unfairly targeted by Western powers, we are witnessing a new upsurge in nationalist sentiment in the country.

And the immediate beneficiary of such “patriotic” feelings, not surprisingly, is Huawei itself.

Following the ordeal of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada this month at the direction of the United States, the company has seen an outpouring of support in China.

In recent days, some businesses, including retail outlets, restaurants and tourist attractions, have called on people to carry Huawei phones to show their solidarity for the firm and its embattled CFO.

For people who heed the call, the businesses will offer freebies, discounts or promotions, meaning that nationalism will come with benefits.

What is particularly interesting are the campaigns that have been initiated by tourist spots.

A growing number of national tourism facilities are offering discounts, or even free entry, to people who have Huawei handsets. In some cases, the offers also cover other Chinese mobile brands.

The latest entity to embrace the nationalistic tourism concept is the Wuyue scenic area from Jiangxi. Visitors to the area will be able to enjoy half-price entry to 12 scenic spots if they show a Huawei or other Chinese brand phone.

It is certainly a good offer as the scenic spots contain a 5A rated tourist attraction and seven 4A-rated draws, apart from being on the list of the nation’s best-maintained tourist areas.

Customers who bring their mainland-manufactured phones such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo or others will be entitled for discounted 105 yuan tickets over a five-day period until January 2.

The offer followed a similar one last week when a 5A-rated Hunan Shennong Mountain Scenic Area offered free entry to customers with Huawei’s Honor phones.

Among other entities that joined the campaign was Hubei Kongshan White Cloud Cave, a 4A-rated tourist attraction spot.

Huawei’s Honor sub-brand, it must be said, appears to have taken on new significance in the minds of the Chinese, as the name – Honor — reminds people of China’s pride and its rise into an economic power.

According to mainland media, several eateries and supermarkets across the nation are also offering freebies or discounts if they flash the Huawei phones.

The offers may be dismissed by some as gimmicks, but there is no doubt that the businesses are seeking to stoke the nationalistic pride and in the process draw some free publicity for themselves. 

Amid the nationalist sentiment, which has been fueled by Washington’s trade war with China, there have also been calls for Chinese people to shun American products such Apple iPhones.

In all this, there is a message to the West: bear in mind the power of China and its billion-plus consumers.  

If the US and Canada don’t back down on Meng, who was arrested over Huawei’s alleged breach of American sanctions against Iran, the pressure tactics from China are likely to be stepped up. 

In the past week, Chinese authorities have detained three Canadians in moves that were widely seen as retaliation for the Meng arrest.

With Beijing making it clear that it is angry at the treatment of Huawei by foreign powers, businesses have taken a cue and are joining in the efforts to stand in solidarity with the tech giant.  

That is understandable, but we still need to ask this question: where does one draw the line on the so-called nationalistic campaigns? 

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EJ Insight writer