Blackpink Faces China Backlash Over ‘Macanese Blinks’ Incident

The K-pop supergroup later changed the word to ‘Macau,’ but controversy had already exploded on social media

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7:21 AM HKT, Thu June 1, 2023 2 mins read

On May 23, K-pop supergroup Blackpink attempted to express a positive message of gratitude toward fans in Macau, following a successful stretch of their ‘Born Pink’ world tour.

Unfortunately, the message was not received positively. Backlash started to bubble out when social media users on Weibo noticed that Blackpink had used the phrase ‘Macanese Blinks.’

blackpink macau

Image via Weibo

‘Blink’ is the official name for fans of Blackpink, but it was the word ‘Macanese’ that riled up Chinese fans.

For those unfamiliar, Macau has been a special administrative region of China since 1999. Meanwhile, Macanese people are an East Asian ethnic group primarily of mixed European (often Portuguese) and Asian (usually Chinese) heritage, with origins dating back to the 16th century in Macau.

It gets tricky because the Cantonese version of ‘Macanese’ really just means ‘someone who lives in Macau.’ That same definition is commonly used in casual English conversation — there was even an attempt by the Portuguese Macau government to redefine the term, making it a blanket term for any permanent resident of Macau.

The attempt was, however, unsuccessful, and the official definition of the word still refers to a distinctive minority culture that makes up about 1% of Macau’s population.

Blackpink’s Weibo post was quickly flooded with angry comments. Netizens questioned the use of ‘Macanese’ instead of ‘Chinese’ and suggested that it undermined Macau’s status as part of China. Some also criticized the lack of a Chinese representative within Blackpink’s management, YG Entertainment.

Debuting in 2016, the group experienced a breakthrough in China since 2020, despite political tensions between China and South Korea and a controversial ‘K-pop ban.’ Now though, this incident poses a potential threat to their Chinese fan base. Some fans expressed disappointment, and stated their intention to unfollow the group.

“I’ve been a fan of them for four years, but now it’s time for me to unfollow them,” commented a self-proclaimed longtime fan.

Nevertheless, a few Chinese fans defended their idols, suggesting that it’s a common practice to greet concertgoers of a specific city, and that others may be overreacting to a simple linguistic misunderstanding. After all, nobody has seen anything wrong with terms like ‘Shanghainese’ or ‘Cantonese.’

Neither Blackpink nor YG responded to the controversy, but their original Weibo post was edited, replacing ‘Macanese’ with ‘Macau.’

Their tweet posted on May 29 also reflected the change. Interestingly, Blackpink’s international fanbase on Twitter was more bewildered by a different term, ‘520,’ referring to May 20 as one of several Chinese Valentine’s Days. The term gained popularity due to the phonetic coincidence that ‘I love you’ (我爱你, wo ai ni) and ‘520’ sound similar in Mandarin.

Hope remains alive that cultural tensions between China and Korea will ease, with K-pop artists like Jay Park returning to the stage in China, and Chinese contestant Zhang Hao becoming the first non-Korean person to win a K-pop reality TV competition.

Blackpink’s most recent controversy underscores the challenges faced by K-pop artists in aligning politically and culturally with a Chinese fan base. Some, though, have succeeded, including artists like Jay Park, who strategically expanded his influence in China by releasing a single in Mandarin, and Jackson Wang who frequently introduces himself as “Jackson Wang from China.”

Cover image via Depositphotos

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