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Tiananmen Square crackdown

Taylor Swift, or Tiananmen Square? 1989 clothing line courts controversy in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2015, 3:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:57pm

Chinese e-commerce giants JD.com and Alibaba may have landed the rights to Taylor Swift's fashion line, but some of her offerings may prove surprisingly controversial in China.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Swift partnered with the two e-commerce platforms in order to head off counterfeits ahead of her upcoming November shows in Shanghai as part of a global tour to promote her newest album, 1989.

The name of that album however, a reference to Swift's date of birth, may pose a problem for the artist in China, and for her local partners.

Beijing is notoriously sensitive to references to the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989, routinely censoring search results and social media posts. The event's anniversary even has a tongue-in-cheek nickname on the Chinese web: "internet maintenance day".

On Weibo, China's domestic version of Twitter, mentions of "六四事件" (June 4th incident) and related terms are not allowed. In 2013, even searches for "big yellow duck" were blocked, after users began sharing a modified version of the iconic "Tank Man" image with ducks instead of tanks.

A Swift-branded hoody emblazoned with "TS 1989" may not impart the same message in China as it does back in Nashville.

While it is unclear whether the Chinese Taylor Swift range will reference the album name, a JD.com advert promoting it featured Swift in a 1989 tank top.

A spokesman for JD would say only that the firm was "exclusively carrying an entirely new fashion line designed for the Chinese market".

"Taylor Swift's team has been working closely with Tmall to open her Tmall flagship store. We are confident that Taylor Swift's Tmall store and her brand will be a hit in China, and we look forward to offering her unique, premium apparel designs to our 350 million annual active buyers," an Alibaba spokeswoman told the Post

Heritage66Company,  a Nashville-based branding company that is representing Swift and bringing her line to China, did not respond to a request for comment.