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There’s a new outrage for every day of the week these days. However, with all the butting of heads happening in the world today, no one thought ice cream would be the subject of millions of Chinese people’s outrage. Well, at the Shanghai Auto Show, BMW MINI was giving away free ice cream, and a video surfaced of a “foreigner” getting ice cream while Chinese citizens got turned away. 

A person wipes a BMW logo with a cloth.
BMW | Uli Deck/picture alliance via Getty Images

BMW MINI sparks Chinese outrage at Shanghai Auto Show

According to Reuters, millions of Chinese citizens are calling the German automaker prejudiced against the Chinese after a video was posted online of the German marque refusing Chinese citizens a free scope of ice cream and instead giving it the “foreigner.” 

BMW MINI quickly apologized for the poor optics of the video, chalking it up to “poor internal management.” The outrage was so widespread, in fact, that “BMW MINI” became the second-most searched term on China’s social media platform, Weibo, with 93 million looks. 

What actually happened with BMW at the Shanghai Auto Show

The video shows two Chinese workers telling another Chinese visitor that the free ice cream had run out, only to turn around moments later and offer a free scoop of the good stuff to a Western guest. 

A source close to the issue said that BMW was only planning to give out 300 scoops, and when those 300 were gone, the workers gave the alleged discriminatory scoop to a BMW employee. The informant claims the people handing out the ice cream were temp workers and not employees of BMW. 

BMW had also spent the week praising the Chinese market, saying that many of BMW’s new features were inspired by China’s leadership in the global market. 

Reuters also claims this explosion came on the heels of Chinese citizens more closely watching the attitudes and tactics of major corporations in regard to not respecting China’s territorial claims. 

China slaps back on perceived racist marketing 

The 20th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition (Auto Shanghai 2023) - Day 4
A FAW Bestune Xiaoma is on display during the 20th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition | Zhe Ji/Getty Images

One of the more high-profile examples of this raised sensitivity came in 2019 when Dolce & Gabbana was hit with a boycott in China from backlash for an advertising campaign that was seen as racist and decried by celebrities on social media. Dolce & Gabbana asked for forgiveness for the campaign, citing “cultural misunderstanding” as the cause. 

As a Westerner writing this piece, the video is posted and not for me to comment upon. Watch, read, and come to your own conclusion.