Singer announces plans to launch merchandise for upcoming 1989 live tour – a date censored by Chinese authorities since 4 June massacre


Taylor Swift on her 1989 world tour in Bossier City, Louisiana, in May 2015. Photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for TAS

Taylor Swift may have inadvertently walked into a political maelstrom in China with merchandise soon to be on sale there displaying a potentially subversive message.

The singer is launching her own Taylor Swift-branded clothing line next month, on the platforms of local e-commerce giants and the Alibaba group, with t-shirts, dresses and sweatshirts featuring the politically charged date 1989.

The date – as well as being Swift’s year of birth – refers to her album and live tour of the same name, which she will perform in Shanghai in November.

But the date – and the initials TS – are particularly sensitive in China, as they signify the Tiananmen Square massace in 1989, when hundreds of students were killed in pro-democracy protests.

A promotional video featuring Swift posted to Weibo. Photograph: screengrab

A promotional video posted to China’s microblogging site Weibo by Heritage66Company, the Nashville-based branding company that is representing her in China, features Swift introducing the clothing line to her fans and greeting them in Chinese.

“Ni hao, it’s Taylor Swift. Be sure to check out my new authentic merchy [merchandise], now available in China,” she says.

The video also features a number of models, and Swift herself, wearing official merchandise emblazoned with 1989.

Taylor Swift 1989 merchandise to be sold in China. Photograph: screengrab

So sensitive is the date that censors have blacklisted any consecutive combinations of the numbers 6, 4 and 89 on Chinese social media sites. Chinese internet users have proved adept at using coded language to refer to the politically sensitive event, often referring to it as “May 35” instead of “June 4” to avoid the censors’ attention.

Swift’s US website features bracelets, bags and hairties emblazoned with “T.S. 1989”. For Chinese consumers, the initials could stand for Taylor Swift or Tiananmen Square. It’s not clear whether these items will be made available for Chinese fans.

So far Swift has managed to shake off China’s censors – already sells the1989 album on its online store.

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