A cultural brawl is brewing between China and Taiwan over a seemingly innocuous snack: thetea-flavored egg.
The roots of the controversy lie in an undated Taiwanese TV segment featuring a guestconsultant who says that common Chinese people can't afford 'tea eggs,' hardboiled eggssimmered in tea leaves, spices and soy sauce that are a popular snack in Taiwan, China andbeyond.
'We only see Chinese people who visit Taiwan, but they are just the 40 [million] to 50 millionamong 1.4 billion Chinese and probably from big cities,' Gao Zhibin says in the video, whichoffers advice for Taiwanese on how to open food and beverage businesses in mainland China.
The film clip has become popular for highlighting the perception gap between people on Chinaand Taiwan, heirs to opposing sides in the Chinese civil war. It resurfaced on Chinese socialmedia in recent days after students in Taipei began occupying the legislature to protest movesby Taiwan's ruling party to pass a pact to liberalize trade in services between the island andChina.
By Monday afternoon, 'tea eggs' had soared to rank as the most-discussed topic on SinaWeibo , with Mr. Gao's original TV clip gaining more than 195,000 views online. Mostcommenters mocked the idea that in China, where the average per capita income is about$7,500, people couldn't afford tea-flavored egg that generally cost less than 25 cents.
Mr. Gao couldn't be reached for comment, but he echoed his previous sentiments in aNovember interview, saying, 'Indeed, more than half of Chinese villages cannot afford even atea egg.'
Many mocked Mr. Gao online by waxing poetic on the importance of tea eggs for Chinese peopleand pretending to agree with Mr. Gao on how aspirational a good they remain.
'It makes me think of when my mom quietly told me, 'You go get married, your father will takethe private hoard of money he's saved for 20 years to buy you a single tea-pickled egg to beyour dowry,' ' one user wrote sarcastically. ' 'That way, you won't be looked down on by yourhusband's family.' '
Others noted the disappearing discrepancy between Taiwan and China's levels of wealth.
'Before, Taiwan people saw mainland Chinese people as their country-bumpkin relatives. Theydidn't think that someday they might become the nouveau riche. I guess the old saying, 'Nowit's my time, in 30 years it'll be your time,' is true,' wrote another.
'If Taiwan's economy doesn't get better, in another 10 years, Taiwan and the mainland's dividewill become even wider. Taiwan will have fewer resources and will be running out of time,' thisperson added.
Dozens of Taiwanese students--at times numbering as many as 1,000--have occupied thegovernment's legislature since last week to protest the trade pact. According to TaiwanPresident Ma Ying-jeou's government, the pact is important to promote business with China.Protesters, however, fear that the deal will harm small businesses in Taiwan and undermine theisland's independent politics and economy.
Some microbloggers quipped that the protesters urgency might really lie in a concern overgastronomy.
'Taiwan students are worried that those mainland Chinese who can't afford tea eggs will floodTaiwan and compete with Taiwanese for tea-pickled eggs,' wrote another Weibo user. 'That'swhy they're demanding that the government reverse the trade pact.'