Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce operator, is pulling all goods bearing the Confederate battle flag from its marketplace. The move comes soon after the biggest U.S. online retailers -- Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Wal-Mart -- removed such products amid the fallout from the Charleston church massacre.
“Alibaba Group prohibits listings of materials that are ethnically or racially offensive across its platforms,” a representative told the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong via email. “As such, we will be removing listings for flags, clothing and other memorabilia that display the Confederate flag imagery.”
A search Wednesday morning EDT on Taobao, Alibaba's commerce site for China, for “American Confederate flag” no longer returned any results that featured the rebel flag. Previously, a search on Alibaba reportedly returned more than 400 types of made-in-China flags and other products with the symbol. However, searches for the term “American southern flag” showed the flag and other Confederate-themed paraphernalia still for sale.
The economic fallout for China’s Confederate flag retailers and producers will be minimal. One Taobao-using shop owner told the SCMP that sales for the Confederate flag have never been popular. China happens to be the largest flag producer in the world, but at Shanghai factories, managers aren’t concerned about the backlash, saying demand from Europe and the U.S. had been on the decline even before the Charleston massacre and the ensuing flag controversy. “It might have a small impact on us, but not a very big one,” Jessie Liu, a general manager of sales at Xiangying Textile in Shaoxing, a town south of Shanghai, told IBTimes in a separate report.
When searching other politically sensitive items, like “Nazi flag” or “swastika,” a message on both Tmall.com and Taobao says related products cannot be displayed “according to relevant laws, regulations and policies.”
Several companies stopped the sale or manufacturing of Confederate flags after seeing a spike in sales following South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's call Monday to remove the flag from the state house grounds. The move followed the killing of nine black people last week at the Emmanuel AME Church by a suspect who displayed the flag and racist views on his website.