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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”.

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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 editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. 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.

    • 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?

      • 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)

    • 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.

    • Rebecca Webb

      May 28, 2016 at 3:51 am

      Diandian GUO,

      I absolutely agree with you!

  2. 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. 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. 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 Fashion & Beauty

NIKE vs ERKE: Two Sportswear Brands Trending on Weibo for Totally Different Reasons

While domestic brand Erke is all the hype, Nike is growing increasingly unpopular.

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Domestic sportswear company Erke has recently become a top-selling brand in China. The American sports brand Nike, on the other hand, has seemingly lost its reputation in the Chinese market. This week’s trending Weibo topics relating to the companies are telling of the ongoing battle between domestic and international sportswear brands in China.

 
By Wendy Huang & Manya Koetse
 

American sportswear brand Nike and Chinese domestic sportswear brand Erke (鸿星尔克) both popped up in the Weibo trending lists this week, but for two totally different reasons.

While Nike got caught up in controversy, Erke was praised. The stark contrast between how the two brands are represented on social media today is telling of their recent position in the Chinese market.

 
Nike Store Employee vs Chinese Migrant Worker
 

The trending incident involving Nike this week was about a bad shopping experience at the Nike store in Kunming, Yunnan province. On August 13, the 44-year old migrant worker Mao Zhigao (毛治高) took his three kids out shopping in the Nike store to reward them for their good school results.

What was supposed to be a fun family occasion turned into an awful afternoon when a female employee at the store reportedly snatched Nike clothes out of the hands of the youngest son and put them back on the hangers again.

When the boy tearfully told his parents about what happened, the incident soon escalated. The boy’s father, Mr. Mao, believed that the Nike employees were treating the family badly based on their appearance. As a migrant worker working on a construction site, Mao had just returned from work and was in his work clothes.

When the young boy’s mother confronted the employee about what had happened, the altercation apparently turned physical when the Nike employee started scratching and hair-pulling. Local police officers eventually stepped in to mediate.

Although the Mao family demanded an apology from the Nike staff and also filed a complaint to Nike, they did not receive any reply. After six days, local media got involved and the story went trending.

Nike then responded to the issue with an apology and statement that the female employee was dismissed.

By Monday, August 23rd, some hashtags related to the incident received millions of views on Weibo:

On social media, the Nike incident was mostly viewed through the angle of unfair treatment and the international brand discriminating against a Chinese migrant worker.

 
Erke as ‘Patriotic Brand’
 

While Nike is being criticized, Erke, the Chinese sportswear brand by Hongxing Erke Group (鸿星尔克), is praised because it announced to donate one million yuan ($153,800) to Henan Museum to support the museum’s rebuilding project after the devastating flood.

A picture posted by Henan Museum on its Weibo account (@河南博物院)  shows that Erke put the donation in the name of “national netizens.”

The picture soon went viral on Weibo, with the hashtag “ERKE Donates One Million Yuan to Henan Museum” (#鸿星尔克向河南博物院捐赠一百万元#) receiving 450 million views, and “ERKE Together With National Netizens” (#鸿星尔克 携全国网友#) receiving 140 million views.

This is the second time that Erke made a donation to help Henan in light of the floods. Its first donation in late July of this year is actually what helped the brand back into the limelight.

The domestic sportswear brand then donated 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) to the Henan flood. This attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media since Erke was known as a relatively low-profile brand that seemingly has not been doing too well over the past years.

After people found out that the company donated such a high amount of money to help the people in Henan despite its own losses, its online sales went through the roof – everyone wanted to support this generous ‘patriotic brand.’ While netizens rushed to the online shops selling Erke, the brand’s physical shops also ran out of products with so many people coming to buy their sportswear. One female sales assistant was moved to tears when the store suddenly filled up with so many customers.

Image via Ellemen.

Lei Jun, the founder of the electronics company Xiaomi, also joined the Erke hype. He published a picture of him wearing Erke shoes on Weibo, the hashtag dedicated to this topic then received about 200 million views (#雷军晒鸿星尔克鞋#).

 
Consumer Nationalism and Sportswear Brands
 

It is not just Nike that has seemingly become less popular in China. Earlier this month, one hashtag about another global sports brand, Adidas, also went viral on Weibo. The trending hashtag was about the brand’s revenue growth of Q2 in China dropping by 16% (#阿迪达斯在华收入下跌16%#), receiving more than 110 million views.

During its Q2 2021 conference call, in response to a question about the current consumer demands regarding global brands vs domestic brands in China, CEO of Adidas Group Kasper Rorsted said: “We continue to see a strong demand for products in China, [but] we believe right now that demand has been scooted towards Chinese local brands more than global brands.”

On August 24, news about the online sales of the Chinese Anta Sportswear brand topping those of Nike and Adidas received over 200 million views on Weibo alone (#安踏线上首超耐克阿迪#).

It seems that international sports brands have to look for new ways of winning over consumers in the Chinese market. This shift partly relates to two issues.

The first major issue that has impacted the popularity of brands such as Nike and Adidas has to do with the fact that they are members of the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), which came under fire in China earlier this year after it had announced it would cease all field-level activities in the Xinjiang region with immediate effect due to concerns over the alleged use of forced labor.

The BCI ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’ led to an online ‘Xinjiang Cotton Support’ campaign in China. The BCI member brands boycotting Xinjiang cotton were soon labeled as being ‘anti-China.’ Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded during live streams, and photos of people burning their Nike shoes soon started circulating on social media.

Another trend that has impacted the influence of foreign sportswear brands in China relates to the rise in popularity of local, Chinese sportswear brands. Domestic brands such as Anta Sports and Lining have been active in Chinese since the 1990s and are now profiting from changing consumer sentiments in a new era that is all about “proudly made in China.”

Besides incorporating more Chinese elements into their product design, Chinese celebrities also play a crucial role in the marketing of these domestic brands. Chinese actor and singer Xiao Zhan (肖战) was praised on social media for becoming the new brand ambassador of the Chinese sportswear brand Lining. When celebrity Wang Yibo became the spokesperson for the domestic brand Anta Sports, one Weibo hashtag page on the topic received over one billion views (#王一博代言安踏#) in late April of 2021. The promotional poster featuring Wang Yibo shows him wearing a t-shirt with “China” on it, including the national flag – profiling Anta as a ‘nation-loving brand.

On social media, it already became clear earlier this year that a distinction was being made between foreign, ‘anti-Chinese’ brands, and domestic, ‘patriotic’ brands (read more here).

Erke indirectly profited from these existing consumer sentiments when, as a relatively smaller domestic brand, it was hyped as the no 1 patriotic sportswear brand for donating so much money to help out during the Henan floods.

Although Nike and Adidas each also contributed 20 million yuan ($3 million) toward Henan floods relief efforts, their donations barely received online attention. In fact, Nike was even condemned online for donating “zero yuan” at a time when it had already announced donating 20 million (more about that here).

The Erke hype even went so far that Chinese livestream sellers of Nike and Adidas notified their viewers that they actually supported the domestic Erke brand.

Adidas livestream sellers supporting Erke.

These nationalistic consumer sentiments also surfaced during the Olympics, when Chinese sport shooter Yang Qian was criticized for her collection of Nike shoes. One Beijing Television journalist wrote on social media: “Chinese athletes, why would you want to collect Nike shoes, shouldn’t you take the lead in boycotting Nike? Aren’t our domestic brands such as Erke, Li Ning, and Anta good enough [for you]?”

During the Tokyo Olympics, Team China’s podium uniform was designed by Chinese sportswear brand Anta, which will also be the Official Sportswear Uniform Supplier for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Anta x Olympics.

In light of everything that happened during the past few months, it is likely that for the time to come, domestic brands such as Erke will continue to flourish while foreign brands might see their China sales slump.

Meanwhile, on social media, netizens continue to express their support for domestic brands while denouncing Nike.

Multiple commenters wrote: “Erke is like ‘I’ve gotten wet, so I want to give others an umbrella too.’ Nike is like ‘Put down those clothes, your dad looks dirty, how you can afford to buy?'”

“I’ll support domestically produced products,” many others write: “Brands that are not patriotic should get out of the country.”

 

By Wendy Huang & Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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