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“Seriously China?” – China’s ‘Completely Racist’ Qiaobi Washing Powder Commercial

A Chinese ad campaign for washing detergent brand Qiaobi (俏比) that recently aired on TV and in cinemas is making its rounds on the internet, and is drawing much controversy for being “completely racist”.

Manya Koetse

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A Chinese ad campaign for washing detergent brand Qiaobi (俏比) that recently aired on TV and in cinemas is making its rounds on the internet and is drawing controversy for being “completely racist”.

A commercial by Chinese washing detergent brand Qiaobi is drawing controversy outside of China. In the 50-second-commercial, a young woman turns a black man into a Chinese man by washing him using Qiaobi laundry tablets.

The ad starts with a young Chinese woman who is just about to do her laundry when a black man, carrying painting supplies and stained with (white) paint, steps into the room and whistles at her.

blackman

He steps forward as she flirtatiously motions him to come to her. Just as he is about to kiss her, she puts a washing detergent tablet in his mouth and pushes him into the washing machine.

motions

She sits on the machine as he is being ‘washed’ while there’s a close-up of the detergent brand Qiaobi. When the laundry is done, she opens the machine. Instead of the black man, we now see a Chinese man coming out. The woman smiles.

result

The commercial ends with the slogan: “Change Begins With Qiaobi” (“改变从俏比开始”).

final

See the full video here:

The topic was covered by Shanghaiist and Vox on May 26 and made it to the number one topic on social media platform Reddit, where the original poster published a link to the commercial with the text: “Seriously China?”.

Although Shanghaiist writes the commercial is new, it was uploaded to Chinese video platform iQiyi earlier this year, suggesting it has been around for some time already. The commercial seemingly has caused no commotion in the PRC. The video itself only got two likes and received no comments on iQiyi. It was also not published on the official page of Qiaobi.

Vox called the commercial “jaw-droppingly racist“. Many Facebook users have responded to the ad with shock and disbelief, saying: “That is really the most racist ad I have ever seen.”

[rp4wp]

On Reddit, one netizen wonders: “Why are Chinese people racist against black people?”. One person answers it is because of “really bad reputation,” and:

“A lot of Chinese going to America would give advice to other Chinese to watch out for the black people since they were known to be thieves, criminals, etc. This keeps getting spoonfed back to China by the American Chinese and then you have this bias start to show.”

Another Reddit user named I am A Cloud writes:

“Poor experiences [with black people] have something to do with it, but also the mentality that lighter = purer/better/prettier/cleaner. In Beijing, you will notice almost all of the ads feature light-skinned Asians or white people. Most of their skin products are touted as lightening, and Chinese people avoid direct sunlight like the plague. To be fairer of skin is seen as being cleaner, more civilized, and more wealthy (because you don’t have to work outside or get dirty). So then you bring along a black person, and they are the opposite of that ENTIRE mentality. One of my friends (half black, half white) grew up in Shanghai, and was often called ugly by the other children. Her hair wasn’t silky like theirs, so they thought something must be wrong with it. Her skin was darker, so they assumed she was always dirty. Her nose was bigger, which is something they often see as ugly in both white people and black people alike. It’s very deeply built into the culture that lighter skin is civilized.”

The Shanghaiist‘s Christopher Ivan points out that the Qiaobi commercial format is copied from a series of Italian laundry detergent ads from about 9 years ago. In this commercial, a white guy is pushed into the laundry machine to come out as black, with the brand saying that “colored is better” (see video below).

Reddit user Hockeycannon has pointed out that a similar sort of commercial appeared as early as the 1940s. A Swedish detergent brand then also showed a white woman ‘washing’ a black man after which he is white.

But also before this period, there were ads in 19th century Europe using the same idea, such as this British Pears’ soap brand ad.

soap ad

China’s Qiaobi washing powder ad thus far has caused far more controversy on English (social) media than on China’s social media platforms. On Sina Weibo, there has been no mention of the ad at all yet.

The brand Qiaobi itself is also not popular online; it only has 45 followers on its empty Weibo account. Nevertheless, there are many Weibo users applauding the effectiveness of Qiaobi’s products. “It works really well in removing stains,” one Weibo user comments – apparently Qiaobi is better at making laundry detergent than it is at making commercials.

Update May 27: this topic has now become a big topic on Chinese social media, too:

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. 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 hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Diandian GUO

    May 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    I think the racist reading of this ad departs completely from a western mentality, western referring to countries with history of slavery, colonization and other related activities. Discrimination against coloured people is a highly sensitive issue in some western societies exactly because of the historical relevance, because of self-reflection on past activities.
    However the discourse of race is not so much dominant in China, especially concerning people black skins, because historically Chinese interaction with African people are scarce. By the time China established amiable diplomatic relations with newly independent African countries in the 1960s, African people were depicted as a kind-hearted friend of Chinese people.
    As a Chinese saying goes: what is not in the speaker’s intention is in the hearer’s mind (说者无意听者有心). For Chinese, turning black skin into light one shows preference to the latter (which cannot be excluded from western influence and has not been existing forever). It does not mean that Chinese people are racist or tolerant of racism, but that the racist discourse does not register that sensitively, given that the society has no apparent motive to fight against racial discrimination.
    On the whole, the popularity of this video on English media is more a reflection of western mentality than a reaction to Chinese mentality.
    By the way, believing black is dirty is old fashioned, since people normally associate dark skin with the mud they got from field work. There is perhaps not so awful many black people in China for the general public to really get used to black as a natural skin colour, so they tend to explain from their own experiences. Discrimination from ignorance, I believe, is slightly different from intentional discrimination.

    • Avatar

      J

      May 27, 2016 at 2:41 am

      Most discrimination (if not all) is based on ignorance. It’s no excuse.

      Alternatively, how would you react if the ad depicted a white woman luring an Asian man into a washing machine for him to turn into a white man?

      • Avatar

        Qflux

        May 27, 2016 at 8:34 am

        People seemed fine with the white loser getting transformed into a black god. Cheered it on really. The *only* issue was ironically that they said “colored”. If they had skipped that and said “women don’t like pale pathetic little losers” instead of “women prefer coloured” it would have won awards (although fitting that tag line into a laundry context would be a trick)

    • Avatar

      Qflux

      May 27, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Chinese were discriminating based on skin tone while “white people” still lived in caves.

      Dark skin = works in sun = poor.

      Fair skin = always shaded = rich

      Sometimes it’s that easy, sorry. Although I know the reflex to blame “the West” for 150,000 years of human histories issues while simultaneously stripping credit for anything positive coming from “the West” because of all of that prior history is a well developed one.

    • Avatar

      Rebecca Webb

      May 28, 2016 at 3:51 am

      Diandian GUO,

      I absolutely agree with you!

  2. Avatar

    Ondra

    May 27, 2016 at 6:20 am

    The supposed commercial from Czechia is not a commercial – it’s a political satire reacting to increased xenophobic sentiments in mid-1990s. The brand is called “Arijec” (Aryan), resembling P&G’s Ariel brand.

  3. Avatar

    Qiu

    May 29, 2016 at 9:51 am

    What do you mean by “China’s” commercial. If Walmart makes a racist commercial would you label it as “America’s Completely Racist Commercial”??
    On one hand you are acting like a SJW and denouncing the commercial (which I agree is fucking racist.), but on the other hand you just generalized one fucked up company’s behavior to the entire country.

  4. Avatar

    Dan

    August 14, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Don’t worry white people the Chinese don’t like you either.

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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