TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese, Japanese, and Western netizens have gone into a frenzy over a meme showing images of face masks with Taiwan flags as the ultimate solution to ensure a steady supply of masks as the world clambers for protection against the China coronavirus.
Last week, as fears over the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) reached a fever pitch and Chinese purchases of face masks rapidly began to deplete the global supply, an image surfaced on social media showing masks guaranteed to keep Chinese away because of the presence of the dreaded Taiwanese flag. Images of the masks first surfaced on Twitter and Reddit with the caption "Taiwan printed its national flag on face masks so that any mainland Chinese who buys them will have to wear the Taiwanese flag on his face."
Next, the image made its way to the Japanese social media site Ameba when Japanese blogger Rie Ogasawara (小笠原理惠) posted it on Sunday (Feb. 2). She added a caption in Japanese which reads, "Taiwanese print their national flag on the mask so that when Chinese buy it, they will wear the Taiwanese national flag on their face." Taiwanese netizens on the popular online forum PTT then misunderstood the post and believed that the masks had been created in Japan.
"I'm laughing to death. The Japanese really launched a mask printed with Taiwan's flag to prevent Chinese from buying it. When the Chinese see this mask, would they dare to send it to their relatives and friends in China?" In response, some netizens said, "It turns out that the Japanese are the first to do it, not the Taiwanese," "Japanese do what Taiwanese can't," and "F***. They really dare to sell it. That's fierce!"
(Champ Mask screenshot)
However, Taiwanese netizens noticed that the label is actually from a Taiwanese manufacturer — Champ Mask (台灣康匠) — with one recalling seeing boxes of the product sold at Carrefour in Taiwan for NT$79 (US$2.61) and NT$89. Another pointed out that the displayed price of 49 per package could not possibly be in Japanese Yen.
As some Taiwanese netizens pointed out, the face masks can indeed be purchased on the Champ Mask website in adult and child sizes in packages of 5 masks each, with 200 packages per box. Given that the image appeared early on in the crisis, it is doubtful that such facemasks had already been prepared in bulk in advance specifically to stymie Chinese runs on Taiwan's face mask supplies.
The company has yet to respond to requests for comment.