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Why Some Chinese Fail to See Racism in Qiaobi's Viral Detergent Commercial

Screen capture from the Ad. Via Hong Kong Free Press.

Screen captures of the Qiaobi detergent ad. Via Hong Kong Free Press.

A viral detergent commercial showing a black man being stuffed into a washing machine by his Chinese girlfriend and “washed” into a handsome, light-skinned Chinese man sparked outrage outside China this week for its overt racism.

The detergent company, Qiaobi, quickly apologized and withdrew the commercial, but its public statement accused foreign critics of overreacting. Many Chinese web users supported their defensive stance, saying the ad only reflects cultural differences rather than racism and proclaiming that it is impossible for Chinese to be racist toward black people.

在国外,可能是会被认为种族歧视,但是在中国,可能就不是这样,只是一则广告而已!这是每个国家的文化不同,所以会有不同的看法!

Outside China, people may find this ad racist. But in China, it is different. It is just an ad. Each country has its own culture, and viewpoints are also difference.

可以再拍一个浑身毛茸茸的白人塞进洗衣机洗一洗。告诉美国人,我们不仅歧视黑人,也歧视白人,你满意了吧。

The company can produce another ad and stuff a hairy white guy into washing machine. Tell the Americans that we discriminate against blacks and whites. Are you satisfied?

没觉得有什么问题,请不要把种族歧视政治正确强行引进中国

There is no problem with the ad. Please don't import the political correctness about racism to China.

黄种人没有搞过黑人奴隶制,没搞过强迫黑人奴隶劳动,没搞过大规模贩卖黑奴,也没有三K党,更没有种族隔离制度。所以,冤有头债有主,白人歧视黑人才是种族主义,黄人歧视黑人不过是文化差异。 白人才是天然种族主义者。

Yellow-skinned people have never enslaved black-skinned people, have never forced them into labor or sold them on the open market. [We] don't have the Ku Klux Klan or racial segregation. Go after your real enemy. Only when white people discriminate against black people is it racism. The discrimination against black-skinned people by yellow-skinned people is just cultural difference. Whites are born racist.

To prevent the avalanche of negative press from spinning into a diplomatic crisis, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying stressed that spot was an isolated incident and that the Chinese are “good brothers with African countries”.

Though the commercial is indeed an isolated production, the denial of racism against black people existing in China and the claim that the Chinese are nothing but “good brothers” to black people are inaccurate, two anthropology students argued on investigative journalism platform The Initium.

But, they said, such racism has become so normalized that many Chinese fail to even see it.

The Chinese Communist Party, after taking control of China in 1949, did attempt to unite with their “oppressed African brothers” against Western imperialism. And Chinese officials have used the “brothers” rhetoric to describe the current “One Belt One Road” plan to extend the reach of Chinese trade to Eurasia and parts of East Africa.

Nevertheless, China has seen a rise in racism against black people since the country began to open up economically and moderate its nationalism somewhat, the two students wrote. Throughout the 1980s, there were numerous racist incidents targeting African students at Chinese universities, they explained:

80年代的中國在今天令許多人心生嚮往,然而那個時代也有它被遺忘的黑暗一面。其中一例,便是驅趕非洲學生的校園運動。對「劣等民族」的偏見,加上對非洲人獲得留學生優惠的不滿,對愛滋病傳播的恐懼,和保護本民族「純正性」的呼籲一起,激起了綿延80年代的中非學生衝突。

1979年7月3日,上海的一名馬里學生被中國學生毆打,並因為膚色較淺而被後者一邊喊着「太淺了」,一邊不斷潑墨水。雙方在宿舍門口爆發鬥毆,導致50名外國學生和24名中國學生受傷。在此之後,一百多名非洲學生聚集到天安門廣場遊行,呼籲停止送非洲留學生到中國,因為中國「反非洲傾向非常嚴重」。而中國政府僅承諾加強上海學生的「國際主義」教育,否認事件與種族歧視相關。

1979年後,中非學生之間的衝突不但沒有停止,反而繼續擴大。1979到1989年的10年間,南京、合肥和杭州等地,陸續有反黑人事件發生,每次均有數百人涉及。如1988年12月29日,華中科技大學的300名中國學生向留學生宿舍扔石頭,並砸傷了一名斯里蘭卡學生。中國學生給校方寫信,要求驅逐非洲學生。因為「非洲學生和中國女生的交往破壞了中國社會的穩定」。類似這些事件,往往以女性和非洲黑人交往為導火索。與非洲學生交往的中國女生,也被污名化成了「漢奸」和「妓女」。

Many people see the positive developments of the 1980s but forget about its dark side. One example is the campus campaign against African students. The conflicts between the Chinese and African students in the 1980s were driven by prejudice against the “inferior race”, discontentment about the subsidies received by African students, fear over the spread of HIV and the call to protect the purity of the Chinese race.

On 3 July 1979, a student from Mali was beaten by a group of Chinese students. The Chinese students said the student's skin color was too light and poured ink on him. The scuffle outside the student hostel developed into a gang fight, with 50 foreign students and 24 Chinese students injured. Later, more than a hundred African students demonstrated in Tiananmen square, urging governments to stop sending African students to China because China had very serious anti-African sentiments. Chinese officials promised to improve the Shanghai students’ education on “internationalism” and denied the incident was racist.

The conflicts between Chinese and African students did not stop after 1979. Between 1979 and 1989, in cities like Nanjing, Hefei and Hanzhou, similar incidents took place. Every time hundreds of people were involved. For example, on 29 December 1988, 300 Chinese students from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan threw stones at foreign students, injuring a student from Sri Lanka. The Chinese students wrote letters and demanded the university expel African students because “dating between African students and Chinese girls had disrupted the stability of Chinese society”. The trigger for such incidents usually involved romantic relationships between Chinese women and African men, with the Chinese female students being labelled as “traitors of the Han Chinese” and “whores”.

Chinese authorities tightened their grip on university campuses after the Tiananmen pro-democracy student movement of 1989, and as a consequence racist campaigns came to an end. But clamping down on these very public displays of racism didn't eradicate racism, the authors argued:

然而枱面上種族歧視的消失,讓公開的反思變得更不可見。中國的種族觀念,不但沒有得到指出和討論,反而變本加厲地發展成了對「劣等民族」的鄙夷。

The disappearance of attention-grabbing racial discrimination marked an absence of public discussion, debate and reflection on Chinese racial prejudice. Such racial prejudice has now become normalized as discrimination against the “inferior race”.

They further pointed out that the internet has played a major role in this normalization of discrimination:

中國網民們,則激進地傳播反黑文章,把子虛烏有的黑人移民視為中國21世紀最大的危險——甚至上升到「亡國滅種」。在「小粉紅」發源的「晉江論壇網友交流區」裏,年輕女性為主的網民經常討論廣州「黑人圍城」的主題,熱度也不下政治討論。

中國民族主義也和種族階序的想象結合在一起。著名的民族主義動漫《那年那兔那些事》,就在第二季中用動物形象描述了非洲人——好吃懶做愚蠢不堪的河馬。中國援非的歷史也被簡化成了「第一世界不和我們玩」的無奈。而性和帶着生殖意味的種族想像,也仍然是排斥黑人的核心焦點。在百度貼吧,微信朋友圈裏傳播的反黑言論,乃至今天這則廣告中,黑人都像是目的不純,只想睡中國女人的渣滓;與黑人交往的中國女性被污名化為「重口味」或者「窮,沒受過教育」。

Chinese netizens have radically spread anti-black opinions online. They say the migration of black people to China is the most dangerous issue in the 21 century and call it “a matter of life and death for the nation and for the race”. On the online forum Jinjian, a virtual community for Chinese Communist Party supporters, the city of Guangzhou [where there is a sizable African population] having been “seized” by black people is a major hot topic among young female netizens.

Chinese nationalism is constructed according to racial order. The nationalistic cartoon Year Hare Affair depicts the African as a hippo — a lazy and stupid animal — in its season two series. China's aid for Africa has also been simplified as a last resort because “the first world refused to play with us”. Sex and reproduction is at the core of anti-black sentiment. On online forum Baidu, in WeChat circles and in the ad we're discussing today, black people are portrayed as scumbags who only want to have sex with Chinese women. Women who date black people are usually labelled as having “strong tastes” or being “poor and uneducated”.

Popular Chinese culture since the 1980s has also reinforced Chinese people's “yellowness” in contrast with scientific achievement and modernization. In the Chinese documentary “River Elegy”, for example, the Yellow River is used to represent China's stagnant, closed-door civilization, while the blue ocean represents the “democratic and open” Western society, the authors wrote.

All this has contributed to today's racism against black people in China, they said:

而到了「走向中華民族偉大復興」的今天,之前還是階級兄弟的亞非拉同胞已經被拋諸腦後,黃種人略差於白種人的自我歧視也被放棄,中國人開始要求和白人平起平坐。這一切如兩個世紀以前的白人們一樣,依然要騎在黑人的頭上來完成。

Today, as the country is approaching “the great revival of the Chinese nation”, the history of African brothers has passed and the inferiority complex about yellow skin vis a vis white skin has been abandoned. The Chinese want to be equal with white people, but like white people, they have to achieve their status by standing on top of black people.

  • real name

    so someone thinks there are no black slaves in Chinese history?

  • Pablo

    Wow this is terrible…and i am terrible for doing what i did in first year.

  • tarry_on

    Maybe we can export Trump to China.

  • tarry_on

    Maybe we can export Trump to China.

  • Pingback: Why Some Chinese Fail to See Racism in Qiaobi’s Viral Detergent Commercial | Freedom, Justice, Equality News()

  • joe foley

    no black slaves in China? well you can catch up now because China is going into Africa big Time . Seriously if you look at the big slavery picture it is more a class issue than a race issue which is not to deny that race and class are often linked

  • adg

    Chinese , indians and red indians in precolumbus america never enslaved blacks. Not that they were less racist compared to arabs or whites,rather these Asian people never had enough contact or capability to take black slaves. What the Chinese are doing to Tibetans a fellow mongolian people speaks enough of Chinese racism and implies their four thousand year old traditions.

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