​Katy Perry’s sunflower dress blooms political controversy with China

Katy Perry’s performance costume has people in mainland China and Taiwan questioning her political stance. The frenzy began Tuesday after Perry’s concert in Taipei, Taiwan, where she wore a long, sparkling-green gown accessorized with bright yellow sunflowers.

Some fans might just call it a classic Katy outfit. She wears anything from fruits to sushi to cupcakes. Maybe she is just trying to cover everything in the food pyramid.

For the Taiwanese and Chinese people, this was not the case. Although she has worn this dress before, according to E!, many people viewed her fashion statement as a pro-Taiwanese statement and an expression of solidarity with the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement.

This group protested the country’s trade agreement with China accusing the government of pushing through a controversial trade deal that gave too much economic and political power to China. Students demanded transparency from their government and established the organization. Their sunflower symbol represented the tension between Taiwan (known as the Republic of China) and China (the People’s Republic of China).

It comes down to intention. What exactly is this pop star trying to tell us about her political views, and how will this impact her relationship with China?

It is always an Internet storm when celebrities openly lean left or right. When artists have made strong political stances in the past, their opinions are either widely accepted or rejected. The risk for rejection is obviously larger than average because the number of people interested in their life is larger than average.

In 2003, when the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the war in Iraq and former President George W. Bush, the band's views were widely rejected, and they became pariahs to the industry.

The difference in this situation is most American celebrities take stances on social issues related to America and are therefore protected by their freedom of speech rights.

China has maybe even less tolerance for international pop stars taking a political stance. In 2008, Icelandic singer Björk promoted Tibet independence during a Shanghai concert. After her performance, Chinese government banned overseas entertainers who “threaten national sovereignty.”

Perry has to know that such an intense political statement would be a detrimental business move, especially with a large audience like China. She either has very passionate feelings toward Taiwanese independence, or it was just a performance designed to please the crowd.

The singer hasn’t yet come out with a statement on the matter. This dress has appeared in other performances during her Prismatic World Tour (including Shanghai). However, there is a chance this wardrobe decision could damage Perry's relationship with her fans in mainland China.

Tell the reporter your view on celebrities taking political stances at randrew3@asu.edu or on Twitter @rachelandrewss

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