Hue and cry over Chinese detergent ad

A screen grab of the commercial for the Qiaobi brand of detergent. The advertisement has provoked an uproar on US news websites, which cited it as an example of racist attitudes towards black people in China.
A screen grab of the commercial for the Qiaobi brand of detergent. The advertisement has provoked an uproar on US news websites, which cited it as an example of racist attitudes towards black people in China.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

Ad showing black man emerging from washing machine as Asian blasted as racist in US, but is little-noticed in China

BEIJING • A Chinese detergent commercial showing a black man stuffed into a washing machine and transformed into a fair-skinned Asian has provoked outrage, although more so overseas than at home, where it was greeted with apparent acceptance.

The commercial for the Qiaobi brand shows a black man whistling and winking at a young Chinese woman, who calls him over, puts a detergent pod capsule into his mouth and forces him head-first into a washing machine.

She sits on the lid while the man shrieks. Moments later, an Asian man emerges in clean clothes, and the woman grins.

The advertisement has provoked an uproar on United States news websites, which cited it as an example of racist attitudes towards black people in China.

"This ad is blatantly racist... it's also a reminder that attitudes over race and skin colour in China can be very bad," said Vox.com.

But it has attracted little attention in its home country, with few comments on social media and fewer than 2,000 views of it on popular video-sharing site Youku.

China has historically experienced almost no migration by people of African descent, although the population has grown in recent years as China has risen to become Africa's biggest trading partner.

Traditional attitudes prizing white skin in women have contributed to bias against dark-skinned people.

The Shanghai Leishang cosmetics firm, which produces the gel-capsule product, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

The ad, reportedly shown in cinemas earlier this month, uses the same music and sound effects as a previous Italian commercial showing a white man forced into a washing machine and transformed into a black man.

The Italian ad was followed by the slogan, "Coloured is better".

In 2014, a "racist" Malaysian insurance commercial drew similar outrage in Hong Kong for depicting a male Chinese actor as a Filipino maid. The ad was selling maid insurance.

Aimed at the employers of the city's 300,000 maids, who hail mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, the ad from Malaysia's Hong Leong Bank shows the Chinese actor wearing dark orange make-up and a curly wig as he plays clumsy maid "Maria". It was withdrawn after the outcry.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Hue and cry over Chinese detergent ad'. Print Edition | Subscribe