Company behind racist ad says media too sensitive

By Fan Lingzhi and Kou Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-27 23:03:04

A Chinese laundry detergent company that has been accused of "blatant racism" in a commercial showing an untidy black man being transformed into a clean-cut Asian said on Friday that it had no intention of being racist and "the foreign media might have been too sensitive."

In the commercial for Qiaobi-brand detergent, a black man with paint stains on his shirt and face is pushed into a washing machine by a young Asian woman after he tried to woo her. After suffering discomfort in the small confined space, the black man was transformed into a young Asian man with clean clothing and was accepted by the woman. 

The commercial has garnered more than 23,000 views on YouTube since it was posted on Thursday. The transformation of the black man has irritated many on social media, who called it "disgusting discrimination."

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Friday, a spokesperson surnamed Wang from the Shanghai-based Leishang cosmetics company, which produces the detergent, said the commercial was filmed in the beginning of 2016.

"We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism," he told the Global Times on the phone. "The foreign media might be too sensitive about the ad."

Foreign media including the BBC, CNN, Los Angeles Times, and many other outlets have run stories about the controversy.

The ad has been identified by some as a copy of a similarly-racist Italian original.

"Instead of using the full version of the commercial, we actually aired a 5-second version which does not have the black character. We have no idea why the full version went viral online, " Wang said, refusing to reveal information about the commercial's production and cost. 

This is not the first time Chinese media has been accused of racism. In December, the image of a black character in Star Wars movie was shrunk on a poster promoting the movie in China, which has drawn widespread criticism.

Although the detergent commercial was also criticized by netizens in China, many said that Chinese people were less aware of possible racist implications than the West.

Some Internet users termed it ignorance.

"Stupidity and ignorance than racism. The Chinese are academically smart but racially very ignorant as well as socially unsophisticated," Kim Bennett, a Youtube user commented.

Some were not too concerned. "It feels a little offensive at first sight, but I think the commercial is quite intriguing and doesn't bother me that much," Chata Racine, a student from Nigeria who now studies in Russia, told the Global Times.

Advertisement insiders also said the ad reflects Chinese people's insensitivity over race issues.

 "I think Chinese people will just take the ads as a joke and still buy the products, as most of us don't have a clear understanding of racism, but the product may be boycotted in Western countries though," Huang Jing, an advertisement designer from the Beijing-based PandaMobile told the Global Times.

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