First Nicki Minaj, now the Chinese government?
Pop superstar Taylor Swift could be headed for a showdown with Chinese Internet censors when her new line of merchandise hits online stores in the country next month.
Swift merchandise set to go on sale at China’s JD.com and Alibaba in August includes sweatshirts, dresses and and T-shirts featuring the name of the singer’s album, 1989, and the initials T.S. emblazoned on them. The move is meant to counter an explosion of counterfeit merchandise that has proliferated in the Chinese marketplace as Swift’s international popularity has skyrocketed.
But the Guardian points out that the terms “1989” and “TS” are particularly sore phrases in China.
On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government advanced on Tiananmen Square to crack down on pro-democracy protests. Hundreds of students were killed in the melee.
So it may be a sensitive issue when Swift’s merchandise goes on sale in China. For Chinese fans, “TS” could be a reference to Tiananmen Square, and “1989” to the date of the massacre.
According to the Washington Post, the phrases are so sensitive in China that the country’s Internet censors have outright blocked many search terms related to the event, like “89 6 4,” “Tiananmen Square,” “campus upheaval,” and “tank man.” In 2013, Chinese censorship expert Jason Ng compiled a list of phrases related to the event that have been banned from social media networks and search engines.
The Chinese government hasn’t yet taken action to block Swift from selling merchandise in the country, and the singer is still set to play a three-night stand at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in November.
Swift even posted a video message to her Chinese fans on the country’s social media network Sina Weibo announcing the new merchandise line:
“Ni hao, it’s Taylor Swift,” the singer says in the video. “Be sure to check out my new authentic merch, now available in China.”
But if the Chinese goods are going to look anything like the items in her U.S. online store, which features wristbands and cell phone cases with both “1989” and “TS” written on them, Swift may have a hard time bringing some of those items overseas to offer to her Chinese fans.