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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 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. 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 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.

Manya Koetse

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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.

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.

©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

Chinese Comedian Li Dan under Fire for Promoting Lingerie Brand with Sexist Slogan

Underwear so good that it can “help women lie to win in the workplace”? Sexist and offensive, according to many Weibo users.

Manya Koetse

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Popular talk show host and comedian Li Dan (李诞) has sparked controversy on Chinese social media this week for a statement he made while promoting female underwear brand Ubras.

The statement was “让女性轻松躺赢职场”, which loosely translates to “make it easy for women to win in the workplace lying down” or “make women win over the workplace without doing anything,” a slogan with which Li Dan seemed to imply that women could use their body and sex to their advantage at work. According to the underwear brand, the idea allegedly was to convey how comfortable their bras are. (The full sentence being “一个让女性躺赢职场的装备”: “equipment that can help women lie to win in the workplace”).

Li Dan immediately triggered anger among Chinese netizens after the controversial content was posted on his Weibo page on February 24. Not only did many people feel that it was inappropriate for a male celebrity to promote female underwear, they also took offense at the statement. What do lingerie and workplace success have to do with each other at all, many people wondered. Others also thought the wording was ambiguous on purpose, and was still meant in a sexist way.

Various state media outlets covered the incident, including the English-language Global Times.

By now, the Ubras underwear brand has issued an apology on Weibo for the “inappropriate wording” in their promotion campaign, and all related content has been removed.

The brand still suggested that the slogan was not meant in a sexist way, writing: “Ubras is a women’s team-oriented brand. We’ve always stressed ‘comfort and wearability as the essence of [our] lingerie, and we’re committed to providing women with close-fitting clothing solutions that are unrestrained and more comfortable so that more women can deal with fatigue in their life and work with a more relaxed state of mind and body.”

Li Dan also wrote an apology on Weibo on February 25, saying his statement was inappropriate. Li Dan has over 9 million followers on his Weibo account.

The objectification of women by brands and media has been getting more attention on Chinese social media lately. Earlier this month, the Spring Festival Gala was criticized for including jokes and sketches that were deemed insensitive to women. Last month, an ad by Purcotton also sparked controversy for showing a woman wiping away her makeup to scare off a male stalker, with many finding the ad sexist and hurtful to women.

 
By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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.

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

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