Proof
How Pineapples Became a Hashtag
The story of how Taiwan came to embrace the pineapple more than ever.
Kevin Pang

When you hear the word “pineapples,” what’s the image conjured in your head? Do you see tropical vacations, swaying palm trees, a cold beachside drink?

Do you see Taiwan?

Unless you’re Taiwanese, you might not know that pineapples are inextricably linked to the island nation. Taiwan produces 420,000 tons of the fruit annually, and it’s found in dishes from pineapple shrimp balls to pineapple cakes and even in pineapple soy sauce.

But in February, China banned pineapple imports from Taiwan, citing “the presence of pests.” Taiwanese leaders say the ban has nothing to do with pests but more to do with China applying political pressure on Taiwan. The geopolitical history of China and Taiwan is fraught; China claims Taiwan as its territory, even though Taiwan has its own currency, flag, and democratically elected president.

VICE News

As a result of the trade ban, pineapples became a cause célèbre in Taiwan. A government campaign urged citizens to “eat pineapples until you burst.” Taiwanese chefs began incorporating pineapples into dishes in creative ways. Pineapples became a unifying cause across the Taiwanese political spectrum, and a hashtag took hold: #FreedomPineapples, a nod to the United States’ Freedom Fries. 

On this week’s episode of Proof, reporter Kai McNamee traveled to Taiwan with his Taiwanese-born mother Jessica to tell the story of how pineapples became a national movement.

Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast players.

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Photo: Sam Yeh, Getty Images

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