Taobao accused of 'forcing' unification with 'Taiwan province' profile option

Some Taiwanese were especially upset that e-commerce site did not allow them to register under Republic of China, saying it might be advancing a political agenda

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 4:45pm

The Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao, flexing its muscles in Taiwan, has alarmed some of its newly wooed Taiwanese buyers, who suspected that Alibaba was advancing a much bigger political agenda.

Some Taiwanese Taobao users were upset that they had to register as buyers from "Taiwan province" on their profile instead of the Republic of China.

Since "Taiwan province" was the only option Taobao offered on its user registration page, many feared it was a ploy by Alibaba to "force" the Taiwanese into accepting China's "unification" scheme.

"Will Taobao succeed in unifying Taiwan with mainland China even ahead of President Ma Ying-jeou?" a Taiwanese Taobao buyer, after observing its increasing popularity on the island, said on Taiwan's PTT forum last week.

The post became an instant hit.

"Taiwanese retailers who used to buy in bulk from Taobao are losing business since more individuals are now buying directly -- especially as shipping is much cheaper now," added the blogger, citing his own experience.

Taobao launched its "International Forwarding Service" months ago. This significantly reduced shipping costs for packages sent to Southeast Asian destinations by allowing buyers to consolidate their purchases into a single shipping order.

'You are sacrificing your national dignity by buying these cheap stuff from Taobao," a  Taiwanese blogger responded.

"This is all a conspiracy of the Chinese Communist Party," another warned, "Don't fall into their trap."

But many others disagreed.

"So what? Would you rather embrace your 'local ideology' and starve?," another blogger said.

"To be honest, some made-in-China products are not inferior to Taiwan-made goods," one blogger wrote.

Many others who joined the back-and-forth seemed to like Taobao and urged the e-commerce giant to soon accept the "payment upon arrival" option in Taiwan.

In the mainland, "Taobao to unify Taiwan and China" became a trending topic on Tuesday after mainland media picked up the discussion.

"It seems only globalisation can solve the China-Taiwan issue," a microblogger wrote.

"There's really nothing to gloat about," another blogger wrote, "I would not object to calling Taiwan a country if it could save me money in online shopping."

Different promotions were being advertised on Taobao Taiwan's homepage on Tuesday. One promotion  offered a free medium latte for buyers who opt to pick up their Taobao packages in any Familymart stores in Taiwan. 

"It costs 20 yuan (HK$25) to ship the first 1kg, " read the ad."And it arrives within two days. "

Alibaba's Hong Kong office did not return inquiries sent by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.