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BBC’s ‘Racism for Sale’ Documentary Triggers Discussions and Censorship on Chinese Social Media 

Weibo discussions on ‘Racism for Sale’ documentary: “BBC is maliciously hyping up the issue.”

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A video in which a group of African children dressed in red are happily chanting Chinese slogans made international headlines back in early 2020. Although the video might have seemed cheerful at first to those who don’t know Chinese, it is actually racist and exploitative.

The children are energetically repeating what someone else is telling them to say, while holding up a blackboard with the phrase they are chanting written out: “I am a black devil. My IQ is low” (“我是黑鬼, 智商低”).

The video was initially posted on Chinese social media on February 10th, 2020, sparking some controversy within China. It later started to attract international attention after Ghanaian vlogger Wode Maya, who studied in China, spoke out about it on his YouTube channel in a video on February 16th which has since been viewed nearly 200,000 times.

The video featuring the African children shocked people from all over the world and led to some media outlets looking further into the context. In April of 2020, France 24 Observers reporters investigated the video and shed light on a wider Chinese market for videos recorded in Africa with locals.

These type of videos are reportedly made by Africa-based Chinese nationals who give the children some money or food in return to perform for personalized videos, which are then sold via Chinese online platforms.

The videos often include birthday greetings or other personalized messages, but as the aforementioned example shows, sometimes also contains far more sinister content. In another video, the children were made to say they promised they’d never go to China.

There had been controversy over these kinds of videos before. As reported by France 24 Observers, such videos have been circulating on Chinese social media since 2015. In 2017, Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao already closed a few accounts selling such content.

This month, the racist video issue has been brought back to the forefront again due to BBC Africa Eye releasing its “Racism for Sale” documentary, in which reporters Runako Celina and Henry Mhango further investigate and expose the Chinese video-making industry that exploits vulnerable children across Africa. They traced the Weibo video and dozens of others back to one Chinese national living in Malawi, and then confronted him (watch the BBC documentary here).

Image of the Chinese national making the videos. (Via Yahoo).

On Weibo, the ‘Racism for Sale’ documentary also triggered discussions, but instead of focusing on the racist videos, they were generally more focused on the BBC documentary’s narrative and its intentions, and about anti-Black racism within China.

The influential Weibo channel Diba Guanwei (@帝吧官微), which has over 1,5 million followers, called out the documentary in a Weibo post for purposely wanting to meddle in China-Africa relations. It said that the Chinese man recording such videos and insulting African people was indeed a problem, but that it was too much to suggest that this is all about Chinese people exploiting Africans.

Other Weibo users denounced the Chinese man for making such videos, with one popular account suggesting that this person might have intentionally shot these videos to “hurt the friendship between Africa and China,” and that he should be severely punished for it.

One thing that some people jumped on is how a racist Weibo account named “Black People Joke Club” (黑人笑话社) is featured in the documentary for being the first Weibo account to post the video of the African children. Popular nationalist blogging account Guaguashuashi (@呱呱傻事) suggested that BBC Africa used the supposedly insignificant account to make a big story and stir up anger among Africans. Moreover, the account also claimed that the man identified as ‘Lu Ke’ (卢克) who was making the children chant and dance for the video actually had a Taiwanese accent. Guahuashashi’s post received over 2000 likes and more than 300 comments.

The “Black People Joke Club” (黑人笑话社) Weibo account was previously shut down. In light of the recent BBC documentary, other accounts publishing racist content have also been removed, including an account titled “That Guangzhou Guy” (那个广州人). Words such as ‘black devil’ have also been censored and come up with zero results on Weibo now. Images included in discussions of the BBC documentary have also been censored.

Censored images in a post about BBC’s ‘Racism for Sale.’

At time of writing, some content related to the “Black People Joke Club” or other racist accounts is still available on Weibo due to other social media users previously tagging these accounts when posting their own content. There are also still many Weibo groups, topics, and hashtags where people share racist jokes and memes. Many of these posts feature racist jokes about the N-word, blackface, or other stereotyping and derogatory content.

Although some Weibo bloggers blame the BBC for attracting more attention to the old racist video, there are also those who point out that there is indeed a problem with anti-Black racism among Chinese: “Some people in China are really discriminating against black people. Whenever there are women online who post about their happy life with their black husband, they are often cursed on by some men. I think there are really a lot of racist people in our country,” one Weibo commenter wrote.

Another popular comment by a Weibo account from Jiangxi said that some Chinese are hypocritical to deny their own racist rhetoric against black people and are loudly calling out America for anti-Black racism, while also being quick to call something ‘discrimination of Chinese people’ whenever they feel something is insulting to China.

The issue of anti-Black racism on Chinese social media has often popped up, turning into trending discussions, especially when it is about foreign media reporting on it. In 2021, a Chinese influencer came under fire after a video of her doing a blackface makeup tutorial resurfaced online. A Chinese Vtuber (virtual influencer) on Bilibili also stirred controversy for being blatantly racist and forcing her (virtual) ‘slave’ to go and pick cotton.

In 2016, social media exploded in light of a Chinese ad campaign for washing detergent brand Qiaobi (俏比) which featured a black man turning into a Chinese man after being ‘washed.’ Although the commercial initially did not receive much attention in China, the international media coverage eventually sparked major discussions on Chinese social media for being racist.

An Africa-themed skit performed during the 2018 CCTV Gala was meant to promote China-African relations, but instead it received backlash for featuring a Chinese actress wearing blackface and being accompanied by someone costumed as a monkey.

The Chinese Qiaobi commercial drew much controversy for being racist in 2016.

The ‘Racism for Sale’ video has not just triggered discussions on Weibo, it has also become a diplomatic issue. On June 13, Malawi’s Foreign Minister Nancy Tembo shared a video via Twitter addressing the matter, adding that she felt “disgusted, disrespected and deeply pained” because of the video industry exposed by BBC Africa.

The Chinese Embassy in Malawi condemned the videos in a Twitter post on June 13. Wu Peng, China’s Director-General of the Foreign Ministry Department of African Affairs, met with Minister Nancy Tembo a day later, and stated on Twitter that both China and Malawi have “zero tolerance for racism” and that China will continue to crack down on such racial discrimination videos in the future.

A Weibo account dedicated to the overseas Chinese community in Malawi has not posted anything about the BBC documentary nor the videos discussed in it.

Also read: Chinese social media responses to the Western anti-racism movement after Floyd’s death.

By Federica Giampaolo and Manya Koetse

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  1. Richard Merlin

    June 24, 2022 at 5:02 am

    The characters on the blackboard are traditional Chinese characters, which have been replaced by simplified characters on the Chinese mainland since the 1950s but remain in use in Taiwan and Hong Kong. People from mainland China of “Shushu”s age will not write that way.
    His accent is typical Taiwan while Lu Ke has a Jiangsu or Zhejiang accent. It would be inconceivable for Lu Ke who makes a living filming in Africa to make such a disgusting, offensive and politically incorrect (in both China and Africa) film to destroy his own business AND himself.
    The Chinese people have been extremely sympathetic for the African people. After all, the Chinese have been discriminated against, abused, exploited, and bullied by Western powers like the African people for almost two centuries.
    The Chinese government has been sending aid to Africa since the 1950s, totally trillions of dollars even while the Chinese people were suffering from hunger en masse themselves. For emotional reasons and cold calculation, the Chinese government won’t tolerate anything that will undermine its huge investment in Africa.
    In conclusion, this appears highly likely to be part of special operations by Taiwan’s intelligence agency to smear the Chinese people and to poison relations between Africa and China at the same time.
    Chinese as well as people from all over the world of all political conviction and affiliation should do everything they can to expose and condemn such evil and hideous smearing attempts against all Chinese people.
    黑板上写的都是繁体字,这个年纪的大陆人不会写繁体字。卢克的口音是典型的江浙口音。可领着小朋友们喊侮辱性口号的“叔叔”的口音明显是台湾人。卢克再愚蠢,也不会拍那种极具侮辱性的视频自断财路甚至自掘坟墓,而且拍了以后竟然还胆敢留在当地。推测很可能是台湾军情局的杰作 – 一方面败坏中国人的国际形象,同时离间中非关系。全世界的华人中国人无论何种政治信仰,无论身在何处,都应团结起来,揭露声讨谴责这种极其卑劣的、败坏全体中国人华人国际形象的无耻恶行。

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China World

Reversal Seen as Step Back: Chinese Social Media Responses to U.S. Abortion Ruling

“Now we can all have eight children and a bright future,” one Chinese commenter sarcastically wrote about the U.S. reversal of abortion law.

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As the end of constitutional protections for abortions in the United States is making headlines worldwide, the Supreme Court’s overturning of women’s right to abortion is also trending on Chinese social media.

On June 25, the hashtag “U.S. Supreme Court Cancels Constitutional Right to Abortion” (#美国最高法院取消宪法规定的堕胎权#) attracted over 640 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The hashtag “U.S. Supreme Court Overthrows Roe v. Wade” (#美国最高法院推翻罗诉韦德案#) garnered over 120 million views.

Roe v. Wade refers to the United States Supreme Court decision on abortion, which recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus (generally estimated to be about 24 weeks).

The plaintiff in the 1973 case was the then 21-year-old Dallas waitress Norma McCorvey (1947) – publicly known under the pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’ – who filed the case after she was denied the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. McCorvey eventually won the case (although she had already given birth by then), and the Roe decision thereafter granted the right to abortion for nearly five decades.

That decision was overturned on Friday, removing the federal constitutional right to an abortion in the United States and making the procedure illegal or heavily restricted in at least 11 states, with more states expected to follow. The reversal came in a dispute over a Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and directly challenged Roe v. Wade.

As states began to enact abortion bans and clinics stopped offering abortion procedures, the Roe v. Wade reversal led to protests in cities across the United States.

On Weibo, media posts about the issue received thousands of shares and comments and triggered many discussions.

“Reasonable abortion is a recognized basic human right,” one popular comment said, receiving over 57,000 likes. “In the world’s most developed nation, women can’t fully make decisions about their own wombs,” another comment with hundreds of likes said, with other commenters calling the decision “historical” and “insane.” Various commenters also wrote: “I just don’t understand this” or “I don’t dare to believe it.”

Chinese media reports about the Roe v. Wade reversal have also generated online discussions about whether or not China could implement tighter restrictions on abortions in the future, and if that would be a good development or not – a decisive issue.

“Such a law in China could have prevented the abortion of many girls,” one Weibo user wrote, reflecting on the non-medical, sex-selective abortions that occurred in China during the One Child Policy (1980-2015).

Although abortion is legal and widely available in the People’s Republic of China, policy guidelines were introduced in September of 2021 to restrict the number of abortions performed for “non-medical reasons” at a time when the country is seeing the lowest population growth in six decades.

But while some commenters used the American case to reflect on China’s potential future legal changes, there were also many who took this opportunity to reflect on and praise the basic personal freedom Chinese women currently have to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Many saw the U.S. move as a step back for women’s rights (“is this really 2022?”), lamenting the state of women’s rights internationally and also mentioning the recent Tangshan incident in China as a sign of a supposed international decreased level of (legal) protection of women.

“Perhaps you can’t empathize, but there’s also nothing to cheer about while you’re watching the fire burn from afar and are grateful to be Chinese – American women lose their right to abortion, and Chinese women have seen their wombs become nationalized. Now we can all have eight children and have a bright future,” one commenter from Shandong wrote in a sarcastic voice.

There were also some commenters who wrote that it was non-sensical for Chinese web users to argue over American abortion laws, saying the controversial U.S. decision has everything to do with an ongoing war between American Republicans who oppose legal abortion versus Democrats who favor it, and nothing to do with China and its family planning policies.

But regardless of whether or not American policies have anything to do with Chinese modern-day society, the U.S. Supreme Court decision is just a sign for many that policies could always turn around and that there is no guarantee that current rights and freedoms will last forever. “The wheel of history is moving backwards,” one Weibo user wrote on Saturday, with another person adding: “Will the next step be a ban on contraception?”

Overall – perhaps surprisingly in light of a rise in online anti-American sentiments over the past few years – most comments on Weibo at time of writing show solidarity and sympathy for American women over the Roe reversal.

“Those in charge of society are unavoidably making plans for women’s wombs,” one female commenter said, perhaps reflecting both on Chinese family planning policies as well as the recent American developments.

For more related to abortion in China, check our previous articles on this topic here.

By Manya Koetse

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Featured image: Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

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China and Covid19

These Are China’s Ten Brand-New Stadiums That Will NOT Be Used for the 2023 Asia Cup

Billions were spent on the venues to host the Asia Cup, what will happen to them now that China will no longer be the host country?

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China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host leaves netizens wondering: “Will these newly built stadiums become Covid quarantine centers instead?” These are the ten stadiums that will not be used for next year’s Asia Cup.

News that China will no longer host the 2023 Asia Cup due to the Covid situation has left Chinese netizens wondering what will happen to the mega venues constructed especially for the event.

On Saturday, May 14, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released a statement saying that, following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), they were informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup due to circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was planned to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023, across ten Chinese cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou.

On Weibo, one popular post listed ten stadiums that were renovated or newly built to host the 2023 Asia Cup, adding the alleged (staggering) construction/renovation costs.

1. Xiamen Bailu Stadium: costs 3.5 billion [$515.5 million].
2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium: costs 3.2 billion [$470 million].
3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium: costs 2.7 billion [$397.7 million].
4. Xi’an International Football Center: costs 2.395 billion [$352.7 million].
5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium: costs 1.88 billion [$277 million].
6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium: costs 1.865 billion [$274.7 million].
7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena: costs 1.807 billion [$266 million].
8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium: costs 1.6 billion [$235.6 million].
9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium: the renovation cost 320 million [$47 million].
10. New Beijing Gongti Stadium: renovation cost 280 million [$41.2 million].

All of these stadiums were built or renovated for the Asia Cup on a tight schedule, as there was just a three-year timeframe from design to construction completion. In the summer of 2019, it was confirmed that China would host the Asia Cup.

Now that these venues will not be used for the Asia Cup, many netizens are wondering what will happen to them.

One of the most popular answers to that question was: “Perhaps they should be turned into makeshift hospitals [fangcang].”

Fangcang, China’s ‘square cabin’ makeshift Covid hospitals, are seen as a key solution in China’s fight against the virus. Together with mass testing and local lockdowns, the Fangcang have become an important phenomenon in China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Since every city needs quarantine locations to be prepared for a potential local outbreak, many people half-jokingly say the venues would be more useful as Covid isolation points if they are not used for the Asia Cup anyway.

“So many great stadiums, what a waste,” some commenters write, with others suggesting the stadiums should be opened up for the people to use and enjoy.

In response to China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host, another popular comment said: “China has taken the lead in achieving Zero at the level of major sports events,” jokingly referring to the country’s Zero-Covid policy that currently impacts all aspects of society.

For others, the announcement that China would not host the Asia Cup came as a shock. Not necessarily because of the cancelation of the event itself, but because it made them realize that China’s stringent measures and Zero-Covid policy can be expected to continue well into 2023: “How did it get this far? I thought the country would open up after the general meeting,” one person wrote, referring to the Communist Party National Congress that is set for autumn 2022.

Another Weibo user wrote: “They finally said it. The Asia Cup will be hosted by another country because our Strong Country will continue to stay sealed, the money spent on building all these venues is going to go to waste.”

“The point that many people missed is that the Asian Cup is no longer being held in China because China refuses to hold the event in ‘full open mode’ as requested by foreign countries,” another commenter wrote. Some people praised the decision, calling it “courageous” for China to persist in handling the pandemic in its own way.

Others are hopeful that all of the money spent on the venues won’t be in vain, and that China can use these venues to still host the World Cup in the future.

Below is the list of the ten brand-new venues where the Asia Cup is not going to take place.

 

1. The Xiamen Bailu Stadium (厦门白鹭体育场)

The Bailu Stadium in Xiamen is an impressive construction with a steel structure similar to that of Beijing Bird’s Nest, and, like most of the stadiums in this list, it was designed especially for the 2023 Asia Cup.

Expected to be finished by late 2022, the building does not just offer a beautiful sea view, it is also fully multifunctional and has a floor area of 180,600 square meters and a capacity of 60,000 seats. It is the first professional soccer stadium in China that can switch from a soccer field to an athletic field. The inner and outer circles of the seating area can be moved to transform the stadium.

 

2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium (青岛青春足球场)

The Qingdao Youth Football Stadium, a high-standard soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people, is the first major professional soccer stadium in Shandong Province.

The stadium, located in the city’s Chengyang District, started its construction in 2020 and the entire stadium with a floor area of 163,395 square meters, is expected to be finalized by late 2022.

 

3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium (重庆龙兴体育场)

Like most of the other stadiums on this list, the Chongqing Longxing Stadium started to be constructed in 2020 and the 60,000-capacity football stadium is expected to be finished in December 2022.

The design of the stadium is based on a twirling flame, meant to convey the hot image of Chongqing (the city of hotpot) and the burning Asian Cup football passion. Aerial photos published by state media in March of 2022 show that the construction of the roof and decorations has come to the final stage.

 

4. Xi’an International Football Center (西安国际足球中心)

The Xi’an International Football Center is a Zaha Hadid project, which is the same architects office to design prestigious buildings in China such as the Beijing Daxing International Airport or the Galaxy SOHO.

On their site, they write that the Footbal Centre, which started construction in 2020, is a 60,000-seat stadium in Xi’ans Fengdong New District. Besides the arena, the stadium will also provide recreational spaces for the city.

 

5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium (大连梭鱼湾足球场)

Located on the Dalian Bay, this is a spectacular new 63,000-capacity stadium that was, obviously, also meant to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 and to provide a home for the Dalian Professional Football Club.

An animation of the design for the Dalian Football Stadium can be viewed here.

 

6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium (成都凤凰山体育场)

The Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium consists of a a 60,000-seat stadium and an 18,000-seat standard arena. The large open-cable dome structure is reportedly the first of its kind in China.

Besides football, the venue will also be able to host other major tournaments, including ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball, and gymnastics.

 

7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena (上汽浦东足球场)

The Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, currently named SAIC Motor Pudong Arena, was supposed to be one of the stadiums used for the AFC Asian Cup, but it was not necessarily built for that purpose.

The 33,765-seat stadium, which is supposed to remind you of a Chinese porcelain bowl, is home to the football association Shanghai Port FC and was the first football-specific stadium designated for a club in China. Its construction, which started in 2018, was finished by late 2020.

 

8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium (苏州昆山足球场)

The Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium is the first professional soccer stadium in Jiangsu. With a total construction area of ​​135,000 square meters, the stadium can accommodate about 45,000 spectators.

The design of the building is inspired by the Chinese traditional “folding fan.” More pictures of the venue can be seen here.

 

9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium (天津滨海足球场)

The TEDA football stadium in Tianjin has been fully renovated and upgraded to host the 2023 Asia Cup. The stadium, build in 2004, originally could hold 37,450 people. The renovations of the original stadium started this year and the construction work was expected to take about six months.

 

10 . New Beijing Gongti Stadium (新北京工体)

Beijing’s old Workers’ Stadium or Gongti was closed in 2020 to be renovated and reopened bt December 2022, in time for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Beijinger reported on the venue’s renovating process, with the stadium’s capacity increasing to 68,000, with the venue getting an all-new roof structure.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

For more articles on hot topics related to architecture in China, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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