Taiwanese star baker's cross-strait expansion plan sparks controversy

Baker Wu Pao-chun became the focal point of a recent cross-strait dispute when his business expansion efforts in Shanghai sparked mainland netizens' call for a boycott due to his previous remarks about the mainland market.
Baker Wu Pao-chun became the focal point of a recent cross-strait dispute when his business expansion efforts in Shanghai sparked mainland netizens' call for a boycott due to his previous remarks about the mainland market.PHOTO: WU PAO CHUN

SHANGHAI • A star baker from Taiwan became the focal point of a recent cross-strait dispute when his business expansion efforts on the Chinese mainland sparked the accusation that he was an advocate of "Taiwan independence".

Mr Wu Pao-chun, who won the Master Baker title in the 2010 Bakery Masters competition in Paris, sought to expand his chain of Wu Pao Chun bakeries to Shanghai.

During a trial run last month, mainland netizens called for a boycott due to his previous remarks about the mainland market.

In 2016, when asked about his plan for new branches, Mr Wu was quoted by Taiwan media as saying, "Although the mainland market has over 1.3 billion customers, the world's market has over seven billion. I won't keep my eyes only on China."

His words were applauded by pro-independence advocates and were distorted by some media as saying he would rather starve than open a branch on the mainland, sparking the mainland protest against his expansion plan.

Mr Wu later clarified that he was from "Chinese Taiwan" and supported the 1992 Consensus, the understanding Beijing and Taipei reached in 1992 that the two sides belong to one China.

Upset by the clarification, island separatists later started a protest against him. Kaohsiung's then mayor-elect, Mr Han Kuo-yu, showed up with Mr Wu on Dec 11 in front of Mr Wu's bakery in the southern port city to back him up.

PEACE THROUGH BREAD

I am a baker and…I just want to make friends through bread.

MR WU PAO-CHUN

"Mr Wu is just a baker who wants to develop his business for a better life, so I hope people on both sides can protect and appreciate him," he said. "I don't see any reason why the two sides cannot enjoy the delicious bread together."

Taiwan is China's most sensitive issue and is claimed by Beijing as its sacred territory.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stepped up pressure on the democratic island since Ms Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became President in 2016.

Mr Xi, in his New Year address on Wednesday, said China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful "reunification" with the self-ruled island that has a bright future under any future Chinese rule.

Mr Liu Jieyi, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said in an interview with China Central Television on Monday that in the past year, the mainland had taken the lead in cross-strait relations and had achieved results in curbing all forms of separatist acts aimed at "Taiwan independence".

Taiwan compatriots are strongly dissatisfied with the DPP authorities' sabotaging of cross-strait relations, and they call for improving the economy and people's livelihood on the island, he said.

"The understanding that only when cross-strait relations are good can Taiwan prosper has gained greater popularity," he said, adding that facts prove steady and sound growth of cross-strait relations is the will of the people.

As for Mr Wu, his bakery is in full swing in downtown Shanghai.

"I am a baker and… I just want to make friends through bread," he said.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwanese star baker's cross-strait expansion plan sparks controversy'. Print Edition | Subscribe