Siobhan O’Grady |
A Chinese woman stands in an immaculate kitchen, preparing a load of laundry, when she’s interrupted by a black man covered in paint. He winks and whistles at her, and she beckons him toward her and leans in for a kiss. Then she shoves a packet of detergent into his mouth and forces him into her washing machine.
When he comes out, he’s clean and Chinese.
So goes the latest commercial for Qiaobi, a Chinese laundry detergent company that is now confused by international outcry at its racist commercial. By Friday, a YouTube version of it had garnered more than 3 million views.
But in an interview with the state-funded, China-based Global Times newspaper, a spokesman for Qiaobi said “The foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad.”
“We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism,” the spokesman, who was identified as Wang, told the newspaper.
As more and more Africans flock to China to set up businesses or trade deals with people back home, many of them fall victim to overt racism. As Foreign Policy contributor Nancy Tang wrote in a December 2014 report about anti-black China, “from the Nanjing anti-African protests in 1988 and 1989 to the current discrimination, distrust, and harassment facing Africans in China who live in high concentration in the southern provincial capital Guangzhou, many Chinese have shared and will continue to share anti-black sentiment.”
But for Wang, there remains confusion about why anyone would see the 49-second commercial as racist. “Instead of using the full version of the commercial, we actually aired a five-second version which does not have the black character,” he told the Global Times. “We have no idea why the full version went viral online.”