Houston Community News >> China Bans Pig Ads

1/27/2007-- Early in January, jibing with the Western New Year spirit and no doubt thinking of the soon to start Year of the Pig, writers in China’s state news agency Xinhua announced the fascinating news that scientists had successfully bred partially green fluorescent pigs.

In Chinese culture (and in serious Taoist religious observance), the pig is one of the 12 animals that govern the Zodiac and thus the lives and destinies of human beings and societies.

The Xinhua report said a team of agricultural scientists in Harbin’s Northeast Agricultural University was hoping that their accomplishment would be a boon to stem cell research.

Scientists in Manchuria

Harbin (Ha Er Bin) is in Heilongjiang province, one of China’s northeastern provinces (the other two are Jilin and Liaoning) which Westerners and Japanese used to refer to as Manchuria. In World War II, the Japanese colonized Manchuria and turned it into their puppet state, Manchukuo.

What the research scientists did in Harbin was inject a green protein—genetic matter from jellyfish that glow in the sea—into the womb of a sow and thus into her embryos. Three of these when born had mouths, trotters and tongues that were fluorescent green under ultraviolet light.

But stranger things subsequently happened to the Year of the Pig.

The Wall Street Journal Asia reported in its January 26 to 28 issue “Pigs Get the Ax In China TV Ads.”

The article by WSJA’s Gordon Fairclough in Shanghai and Geoffrey Fowler in Hong Kong tells us that in deference to the sensibilities of Muslims, “China’s Central Television, the national state-run TV network, banned Nestlé’s ad—and all images and spoken references to the animal [the pig] in commercials, including those tied to the Lunar New Year, China’s biggest holiday.”

Multiethnic society

“The intent: to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean. ‘China is a multiethnic country,’ the network’s ad department said in a notice sent to ad agencies late Tuesday [January 23], ‘To show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any ‘pig’ images off the TV screen.’”

China has more than 20 million Muslims, but this is only a speck in the total population of more than a billion.

Nestlé had planned to ring in the Lunar (Taoist) Year of the Pig with the rest of the non-Muslim Chinese population by putting out TV commercials, the WSJA article said, “featuring a smiling cartoon pig. ‘Happy new pig year,’” the ads would have said.

Fairclough and Fowler’s article continues that, “Suddenly, companies reaching out to China’s booming consumer market have a pig problem. The edict has sent Nestlé and others scrambling to adapt to the last-minute rule change, altering spots that had included pigs.”

Big pork eaters

“For most other Chinese, the pig has powerful and positive cultural associations as one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Year of the Pig decorations already festoon cities and villages all over China.

“Pork is the meat most widely consumed by the country’s Han Chinese majority. On average, Chinese annually eat more than 80 pounds of pork, according to United Nations statistics. At banquets in southern China, people often roast whole pigs, decorated with blinking red lights in their eye sockets.

“Tens of millions of people have been born in the year of the pig, which occurs every 12 years. People born under the sign of the pig are believed to be happy and honest. Astrologers say this year is held to be especially auspicious for new births.

“Pigs symbolize prosperity and good fortune as well as fertility and virility. “Pigs are fat and they mean good luck,” says Miao Saiwang, a spokesman for the Bank of China, a commercial lender. In some areas this year, the bank is using the slogan: ‘Golden pigs bring good fortune.’”

There was also apparently a recently emerged political reason for the anti-pig TV ad ban. For, the AWSJ writers tell us, it “comes in the wake of the killing of 18 Muslims by police in the country’s remote northwest earlier this month. The government accused the men of being terrorists. Muslim activists have called for an independent investigation.”


Last-minute rule changing by the government is one of the things businessmen also complain about in the Philippines. At least in China, the changes are often occasioned by government efforts to do something socially relevant for the good of the state.

Early in communist-ruled China’s movement toward a market economy and less repressive society in the late seventies the government allowed temples to reopen. Taoist worship of every kind of gods and guardian-protectors is held in the strict Maoist-Leninist ideologue’s view as counterre­volutionary superstition. Confucian ancestor worship in that view is even worse. During the Maoist Cultural Revolution, whenever communist ideological hardliners tried to attack the wiser members of the leadership, such as the late premier Chou Enlai, they wrote veiled taunts in essays alluding to him as a new Confucius.

(Contributed by Manila Times)