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Chinese New Year

About the CCTV Spring Festival Gala’s ‘Racist’ Africa Comedy Sketch

A CCTV Gala segment emphasizing good Sino-African relations has drawn criticism for being racist.

Manya Koetse



First published

One of the skits performed during the 2018 CCTV Spring Gala has rubbed a great many people the wrong way for being racist and offensive. “Foreign media are going to explode,” one Weibo user wrote.

The annual Spring Festival Gala, produced and broadcasted by the state-run CCTV, has come to an end. The show, that draws some 700 million viewers every year, is central to the evening leading up to the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Every year, there is bound to be an act that draws controversy, and this year was no different. The comedy sketch titled “Share the Same Joy and Happiness” (“同喜同乐”) struck the wrong note with many social media users, who deemed it ‘inappropriate’, ‘offensive’, and ‘racist.’

According to the official CCTV Gala Weibo account (@春晚), the skit was supposed to represent a scene in Kenya, where a Chinese host (played by Zheng Kai 郑恺), local people, and railway staff are celebrating the opening of the deluxe rail line between Nairobi and Mombasa, built by China.

As explained by SCMP, the scene opens with a performance by African dancers and then moves on to a conversation between the host and his African friend. She asks for his help to get out of a blind date arranged by her mother.

It is this ‘African mother’ that has caused consternation online. The role was played by the Chinese actress Lou Naiming (娄乃鸣), who was wearing a fruit basket on her head and was padded with a large bottom. She also arrived at the scene accompanied by an actor in a monkey costume.

The scene ends with Zheng Kai’s Chinese bride arriving, making it impossible for him to play his friend’s blind date anymore. The mother, as SCMP notes, then states she can’t be angry over the issue ‘because China has done so much for Africa.’ She says: “I love Chinese people! I love China!”

Image via Twitter user Kaisa Kantola (@kaisa_kantola)

Besides its Chinese actors, the skit was also performed by actors from Gabon, Kenya, and Ivory Coast.

Lou Naiming (1951), the woman wearing blackface, is a renowned actress, playwright and producer in the PRC.

The main idea of the comedy sketch fitted the narrative of the overall theme of the CCTV Gala, which stressed China’s (international) development and the One Belt, One Road initiative.

Although the segment was likely meant to emphasize good Sino-African relations, the performance seems to have backfired.

On Weibo, reactions to the performance were mixed. Although some people said they liked it, many also called it the most “awkward” segment of the night.

“I just think this is awkward, isn’t the Gala inspected thoroughly [before airing]?”, one person wondered. Other people also raised the topic of China’s strong censorship, asking why a performance such as this would have been accepted.

“I think it’s a bit racist (种族歧视),” another Weibo user said. “What do our African friends think of this?” others wondered.

“This is plain racism, the foreign media are going to explode,” another micro-blogger wrote.

While “awkward” was the key response to the skit on Weibo, “racism” was mostly mentioned on social media platforms Twitter and Reddit.

“OMFG anyone watching this racism right now in the gala?” was a topic that became top trending on the Reddit China page during the airing of the CCTV Gala (live blog of the Gala here).

But there were also other opinions on Wechat, where some Chinese commenters said that if it were not for the many Chinese lines the ‘mother’ role had, the CCTV Gala would have used an African actress to play this role – suggesting that it was more an issue of language practicality than racism.

The CCTV Gala controversy reminds of the 2016 Qiaobi commercial issue, when a Chinese washing powder ad drew much controversy outside of China for being “completely racist.” The commercial, that showed a black man being put in a laundry machine and coming out as Chinese, was later taken down by the company.

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

For the CCTV Gala, there is no way to ‘take down’ its controversial sketch. By now, more than 700 million people will have seen the event, which is the world’s biggest live televised show.

Some people on Weibo, however, are already placing bets that the controversial segment will not be included in the finalized online edition of the Gala.

We’ll keep you updated.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar


    February 16, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    oh man chill the fuck down this is china not fucking us with their diverse shit

    • Avatar


      February 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Shut the fuck up.

  2. Avatar


    February 16, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Disgusting, racist. Do Africa a favor, China, and leave.

    • Avatar

      Wang Chu

      February 17, 2018 at 6:32 am

      Shut up, white American. This is our country, we don’t have your racist history. We never enslaved Africans, that’s your history not ours. We never mocked black people, that’s your history not ours. We never oppressed black people, your ancestors did and you do today. Go look in the mirror at your racist self and see how you keep blacks down on a daily basis without even realizing it.

  3. Avatar

    Fu Xi

    February 16, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    Wow… someone on the internet said that?!? I don’t think I will sleep tonight. This is China lady, no-one cares and no-one ever will care about your sensitivities.

    Media uproar, the journalist’s weapon of choice.

  4. Avatar


    February 25, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Oh, I get it. As long as Africans appear in a skit, it’s racist. Wow. Just wow.

    Political correctness is killing modern society.

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China Insight

“Chinese Spy Balloon” Versus “Chinese Civilian Airship” – The Chinese Words That Matter in the Balloon Incident

On Chinese social media, the Chinese balloon is seen as a weather device that ended up measuring the temperature of China-US relations.

Manya Koetse



A day after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast, the ‘balloon incident’ is a hot topic on Chinese social media, as official media are publishing about the incident and social media users are discussing it.

At 8:17 in the morning on Feb. 5, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its response to the shooting down of the Chinese balloon on Weibo.

They expressed “strong discontent and protest” over the American use of force to attack the “civilian unmanned airship” (民用无人飞艇) after Chinese officials recurringly informed the U.S. side that the balloon – described as a weather device, – had accidentally entered the U.S. and did not pose any threat to the U.S. whatsoever (#外交部就美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇发表声明#).

On Chinese social media, as also described in our earlier article on the incident, the balloon has come to be referred to as the “Wandering Balloon” (流浪气球) in the context of the box-office hit The Wandering Earth II.

At the same time, China celebrated the Lantern Festival (元宵节) which marks the first full moon of the Chinese New Year. It is tradition to eat glutinous rice balls and enjoy lanterns floating in the sky.

The balloon incident set the Chinese social media meme machine in motion, in which the balloon, The Wandering Earth II, and the Lantern Festival all came together in various images that circulated on Weibo and beyond.

The balloon, featured in ‘The Wandering Balloon’ movie produced by ‘US Government’, wishes everyone a happy Lanern Festival.

Another meme titled “Wandering Balloon” drawing comparisons between the ballloon and rice balls traditionally eaten during Lantern Festival.

The Weibo hashtags used to discuss the incident were mainly initiated by Chinese (state) media outlets, such as “The U.S. Side Claims to Have Shot Down Chinese Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “America Uses Military Force to Attack Civilian Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “The U.S. Side’s Insistence on Using Force Is Clearly an Overreaction” (#美方执意动用武力明显反应过度#).

“Is it a balloon or an airship? The American official and media side all claim it is a spying balloon; the Chinese side claims it is an civilian unmanned airship,” one blogger wrote, showing the different media contexts in which the incident is being discussed and emphasizing the importance of the vocabulary used.

Words matter, and at a time when there is a lot of speculation about the incident, the seemingly humorous way in which Chinese netizens have responded to the international dispute also relates to the language that is being used to describe the event.

On Chinese social media, the majority of commenters see the balloon as a weather device that went wandering and, unexpectedly, ended up measuring the temperature of Sino-American relations – which turned out to be icy cold.

Some examples of the kind of phrasing that matters in the Chinese media context:

Civilian Unmanned Airship
民用无人飞艇 Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The balloon in question is described as a “civilian unmanned airship” in Chinese official and state media texts. The word ‘civilian’ (民用) is included in the clarification about the balloon being a civilian meteorological balloon, and thus not serving any military purposes (民用 ‘civilian’ versus 军用 ‘military’).

Attack [on] Civilian Unmanned Airship
袭击民用无人飞艇 Xíjí Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The U.S. military shooting down the Chinese balloon is also phrased as an “attack” (袭击) in many Chinese media reports as well as in the official Foreign Ministry post.

Completely by Accident
完全是意外 Wánquán Shì Yìwài

The expressions “completely by accident” (完全是意外), “unexpected circumstances” (意外情况), and “force majeure” (不可抗力) are used in official Chinese media texts describing the balloon incident to underline that the circumstances in which the device floated into American skies was not only unrelated to military / government purposes, but that it was also unintentional.

Stay tuned for more updates.

By Manya Koetse 


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China Insight

‘Divorce Day’: Queuing Up to Get Divorced after Chinese Spring Festival Holiday

The first day after the Spring Festival holiday is a busy one at the Bureau of Civil Affairs as couples are lining up to register a divorce.

Manya Koetse



On the first day after the Chinese Spring Festival holiday (Jan. 21-27), there are long lines at the Civil Affairs Bureau in several places across China.

In Jiangxi, one resident shared how couples were queuing up to file for divorce on the first day the local Bureau of Civil Affairs reopened its doors. The lines were allegedly so long that people had to wait outside. Another video showed similar scenes at a local bureau in Anhui province. A third video showed crowded scenes of people lining up to register a divorce in Henan.

Chinese media accounts such as Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Vista (@Vista看天下), and Phoenix News (@凤凰周刊) all posted about the long divorce lines on Jan. 29, with one post about the topic receiving 70,000 likes.

“I thought they were lining up to get married, then I watched the news and saw they were actually lining up to get divorced..,” one commenter wrote. Others wondered if the busy lines for the divorce registration office might have something to do with the Covid outbreak over the past weeks, with some couples finding out that their partner actually is not very sympathetic when they are sick (also read this article).

The Chinese media outlets posting about the divorce registration lines mentioned how the ones who suffer the most in a divorce are the children, but many commenters did not agree with this statement, arguing that children suffer the most when parents stay together for the sake of the children and then continue fighting.

The divorce trend after the Chinese Lunar New Year has also been discussed in Chinese media and on social media in previous years (“春节后离婚潮”).

In Western countries, it is a known fact that divorce rates increase after Christmas time; the Monday after Christmas break is also dubbed “Divorce Day.” Some sources claim this is often due to quarrels that occur during Christmas and the financial pressures that come with the festive season.

It is arguably not much different for the Chinese New Year, when incidents taking place during family gatherings could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The Spring Festival is like a big marriage minefield,” one commenter wrote: “When you return to your family home, it doesn’t just mean reuniting with your close relatives, there are also various tests of human relations and etiquette. A careless moment can cause conflicts between a married couple, leading to quarrels or even divorce. Is your marriage good or not? You will know during the Chinese New Year. After the New Year, there will be a wave of divorces.”

But the pandemic situation of the past years, in including the lockdowns, mental stress and financial difficulties, inescapably also play a role in the recent divorce wave.

In December of 2022, this Chinese blog article already predicted that more people would file for divorce after the Chinese New Year since the end of the holiday would coincide with the end of the Covid peak. In times of lockdown, and especially in times of sickness, couples easily get annoyed with each other and their love is put to the test.

Earlier this month, some Chinese media also reported that three years after the pandemic began, cities were already seeing a “divorce wave” (#疫情后一线城市离婚预约爆满#).

Some netizens comment that the ‘cool-off’ period that was introduced to allow couples a month’s time to think and revoke their divorce does not seem to have much effect.

Some people sympathize with those standing in line: “Celebrating the New Year can bring about a war in some families. The divorce season has started.”

By Manya Koetse 

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

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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