British chain Pizza Express has apologised for advertising the location of a Shanghai branch as “in the French Concession” (法租界 Fǎ Zūjiè), the French-governed enclave which occupied the city’s Xuhui and Luwan districts between 1849 and 1943. From Shanghai Daily:
“Pizza Marzano [as it is known in China] is a British company and its management are British people who are not familiar with Chinese culture. We never intended to offend Chinese people,” the statement said ….
A netizen called Amoy asked: “Is Pizza Marzano suggesting that the Chinese did not have enough dark days under colonial control? Do they want to prolong that control …?”
… Gu Xiaoming, a history professor with the Cultural Heritage Protection Department of Fudan University, said outrage was understandable ….
Gu also urged expats to learn more about the history of Shanghai and stop calling the area “the French Concession”.
For now, the name is in common use by expats and Western media; English-language Chinese media such as Shanghai Daily and China Daily do use the term, but generally refer to the “old” or “former French Concession”.
The inadvertent reminder of China’s past suffering at the hands of foreign powers was perhaps particularly unwelcome following recent comments by the mayor of Nagoya: Kawamura Takashi told a delegation from Nanjing that the 1937 massacre in the city never happened. Nanjing promptly severed sister-city ties with Nagoya, and while the Japanese government insisted that the matter was strictly between the two cities, conservative governor of Tokyo Ishihara Shintaro soon chimed in in Kawamura’s defence. See chinaSMACK’s compilation of reactions.