The Real Reason KFC China Is Being Boycotted

While fried chicken might be one of the most quintessentially American foods, and KFC — the chain that once had an American state in its name — is a fast food franchise that is practically synonymous with the U.S., it's still been extremely successful with its overseas expansion. Despite Japan's having its own amazingly delicious fried chicken (hello, katsu and karaage), KFC has become a holiday tradition in the country. And in China, home of some of the best-tasting chicken dishes on the planet, KFC is also widely popular, with Yum China reporting 7,900 locations as of late 2021

As Time points out, though, KFC is also seen by many Chinese people as the embodiment of U.S. cultural imperialism. A few years ago, some activists called for a KFC boycott in response to an international decision regarding the ownership of the South China Sea, since they felt the ruling had been engineered by U.S. interests. Once again, KFC China is the subject of a boycott, but it's not politically driven this time, nor does it have anything to do with anti-American sentiment. Rather, this new boycott is in response to an unpopular — or rather, way too popular — promotion that KFC has been running.

KFC's latest promo is leading to a lot of wasted food

As the BBC relates, KFC China recently partnered with toymaker Pop Mart for a special 35th anniversary promotion. The promo meal includes Pop Mart's incredibly popular googly-eyed Dimoo dolls in certain KFC meals. This "blind box" special, meaning consumers won't know what they will get before they buy it, is certainly moving a lot of chicken — especially among customers who want to collect an entire set of the dolls. This has led to a KFC-buying frenzy in China, with one consumer dropping nearly 10,500 yuan (about $1,650) on the meals. Some have even paid others to go and purchase their meals, and apparently much of the food is going straight into the trash.

The Chinese government doesn't love food waste, which is valid since it's a huge global problem. The UN Environment Programme estimates that about one-third of the world's food (1.3 billion metric tons) goes to waste each year. The Chinese president has called such waste "shocking and distressing," and although he's yet to take steps to block KFC from continuing its promo, the government-backed China Consumers Association is calling for a voluntary consumer boycott of the chain. Should this prove unsuccessful, it's possible that the government may step in, as just last year they banned binging social media stars on grounds that they, too, were promoting food waste.