Protesters in several Chinese cities have gathered outside KFC restaurants in recent weeks calling for a boycott of the fast food chain. In their eyes, consumers of the "finger lickin' good" greasy chicken are traitors, bowing to American tastes at a time when the United States is rebuilding military ties with the Philippines. Photos on state media showed red banners accusing KFC patrons of bringing shame upon their ancestors.
Apple products, another symbol of American consumer culture, also are taking a hit. Netizens are imploring iPhone users to smash their devices in a demonstration of loyalty to China. Popular posts circulating on social media show cracked screens and phones bent nearly 90 degrees.
But as the Shanghaiist noted, "Some posts seem a little fishy. ... How did they post images of their smashed iPhones from an iPhone?" Several of the pictures were accompanied by an automatic tag noting that they had been uploaded from an iPhone.
China is Apple's largest market outside the United States. Some users pointed out online that they had already paid for their phones, so there was nothing to be gained from smashing them. They promised, however, not to buy the next version of the iPhone.
Authorities are attempting to quell the acts, according to China Daily: "Local police in China have been taking action to contain scattered protests calling for a boycott of U.S. products." Three KFC protest organizers in central China were detained because they "disturbed normal business operation."
State media asked protesters to halt their demonstrations.
"Any action that promotes national development can rightfully be called patriotism," said a People's Daily column. "But so-called patriotism that willfully sacrifices public order will only bring damage to the nation and society." The Xinhua News Agency said the protesters should not be associated with "patriotism."
Yet exerting nationalist ire on consumer products is nothing new in China. Anti-Japan protesters have boycotted Japanese products since 1919, during China's May Fourth Movement against the Treaty of Versailles. "Boycott Japanese products," the straightforward appeal propagated at the time, was recycled years later, most recently during anti-Japanese demonstrations in 2005 and 2012.
Four years ago, an ongoing territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea stoked tensions.
The Wall Street Journal reported that thousands marched on the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, setting flags on fire and destroying cars, emblems of Japanese auto manufacturers' successful entry into the Chinese market.
Though such rallies have dissipated, some citizens have continued to boycott the vehicles. In March, the South China Morning Post reported that a 31-year-old Chinese man deliberately crashed his electric bicycle into a stationary Toyota while shouting that it "was an act of revenge for China."
Where the South China Sea ruling is concerned, even fruit can be fraught with political meaning. In addition to American phones, some Chinese netizens are renouncing mangoes imported from the Philippines.
On Taobao, the online marketplace owned by Alibaba, ads for locally grown dried mangoes boast a "domestic good" that contributes to "protecting the South China Sea."