A top executive at German automaker Daimler's China operation has been fired after being accused of yelling insults about Chinese people and using pepper spray in a dispute over a parking spot.
Rainer Gaertner, chief executive of Daimler's Chinese truck and bus division, was accused of starting an argument in an upscale Beijing neighborhood last week. A post that circulated on Chinese social media alleged that Gaertner said that he had lived in China for a year and that he believed all Chinese were "bastards."
The post alleged Gaertner, who was named CEO of Daimler Trucks and Buses China in July 2015, then used pepper spray to disperse onlookers who had confronted him.
The alleged incident was covered by several state-run and domestic media outlets, and generated hundreds of angry responses online.
Daimler issued a statement Monday offering an apology for the incident, "irrespective of any comments alleged to have been made." It called what happened "detrimental to the standing of our company, unbecoming of a manager of our brand and prejudicial to our good name."
The company said Gaertner and the other person involved had resolved the issue privately.
China is the world's biggest automotive market, and Chinese consumers and media are particularly sensitive to stories about alleged Western arrogance and the perception that outside companies take advantage of Chinese consumers, a feeling rooted in the history of imperial powers carving up China for their own interests. Calls for boycotts of particular companies or even entire countries circulate frequently online in response to perceived slights to Chinese dignity, and can sometimes have a notable effect on sales.
One poster on the Chinese social network Weibo fired back with an insult directed at Germans, calling them "arrogant to the bone." The poster said he hoped that executives like Gaertner would "learn a lesson and go back in disgrace."