Earlier this week, a Chinese commercial for laundry detergent caused big controversy when international media exposed how it depicts a black man turning Chinese after a girl puts him in the washing machine. Many media and netizens deemed the commercial “horrible” and “completely racist”.
Although the commercial initially did not receive much attention in China, the storm of criticism from outside the PRC eventually also sparked discussions on Chinese social media. Different websites soon exposed that the Chinese commercial was copied from a 2006 Italian ad where a white man turns into a black man after being ‘washed’.
On May 30, Chinese media reported that Qiaobi had taken the commercial down and had apologized in response to the outrage it caused.
Qiaobi is owned by mother company Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics (上海雷尚化妆品有限公司) that was established in 2009. A spokesperson for the company stated that the commercial was filmed in the beginning of 2016 and later, on March 31st, was published on Qiaobi’s official WeChat account.
The video has now been removed from the Qiaobi account. On the evening of May 28, the company issued an official apology on its Sina Weibo account, where it strongly denounced racism and said they regretted the commercial had caused so much controversy. They also stated they had “no intention of discriminating against people of color” by making the commercial.
Many Weibo netizens, however, blame Western media for pointing fingers and deem an apology unnecessary. “What are they apologizing for?” one netizen writes: “It was just a commercial. Western media are crazy.”
“Western media have just taken their concept of ‘racism’ and applied it [to this commercial]. In reality, the great majority of Chinese people have no notion of ‘white’ versus ‘black’ or ‘Asian’, and any supposed inferiority in this,” another commenter says.
Many Weibo netizens are also not satisfied with Qiaobi’s apology for another reason; because it there is no mention of the fact that the commercial was copied from the original Italian ad. “How come you don’t say anything about plagiarizing?” one of the top comments says.
“Your problem is plagiarism, not racism,” one Weibo user says.
But others disagree, writing: “You really made China lose face with this blatant racism, do you have no human understanding at all?!”
“It’s good that it’s removed, not just for the racism, but also because it is plagiarized – it makes China look bad,” one netizen writes.
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