Chinese Company Ad unintentionally sets off Talk on Racism

  • A detergent advertisement by a Chinese company Qiaobi, invites criticism on the grounds of racism
  • A black man is ‘washed’ with the help of the advertised product to change into a fair, chinese man
  • Qiaobi formally writes an apoplgy statement, stating it expresses deep regret for hurting sentiments of the Black people

A seemingly simple advertisement by a Chinese company, Qiaobi, which was first released on Chinese social media in March, came under widespread scrutiny last week as foreign media fueled allegations of propagating racism against the company.

The advertisement shows a black man trying to flirt with an Asian woman, who, unimpressed by his efforts, tosses him into the washing machine to wash him with the company’s advertised product. In a short while, a fair Chinese man appears from the machine, who highly appeals to the woman, as is evident by her smile.

After the sudden attention that the ad received, many online comments surfaced, like, “It should be taken down. All in all, not only is it offensive, but the rest is a complete copy. It has really caused us Chinese to lose face’, referring to the allegation that it was copied from a similar racist Italian advertisement. A few comments, however, spoke in favor of the Chinese company, saying, “There’s no reason to apologize. Blacks aren’t part of the 56 minority groups in China, so how could it be considered offensive?”.

After careful assessment and to avoid further negative press to the advertisement, Qiaobi issued an apology statement, which reads:

On 27 May 2016 on Sina Weibo, media outlets and internet users shared American media reports with the following information: “China’s Qiaobi advertisement is accused of ethnic discrimination, incites controversy on YouTube.” Later, we verified that the ad has been reported on or circulated by American media outlets including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and CNN; the UK’s BBC; France’s AFP, and other media outlets. It has attracted public attention in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. We’d like to express that we have properly managed this situation and would like to add the following:

  1. We have no intentions to discriminate against people of color… Ethnic discrimination is something we strongly reject and condemn.
  2. We express regret over the controversy the ad has created and do not intend to shirk responsibility. We have already stopped the ad’s circulation and have canceled several online streaming links. We hope that internet users and the media will cease sharing the video.
  3. The advertisement and the surrounding controversy have hurt people of African descent. We express our apologies, and also sincerely hope internet users and media won’t overanalyze the situation.
  4. Qiaobi is a domestic Chinese brand of cleaning products. We hope that domestic brands can continue to thrive and go global.

Written by Saurabh Bodas. Saurabh studies Mechatronics Engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology.

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