Last week, a 49-second advert for “Qiaobi”, a brand of detergent manufactured by a Chinese firm set off a firestorm on various social media platforms. The advert features a black man attempting to flirt with a young Chinese woman. She smiles back at him but apparently thinks he could do with some improvement, so she loads him into a washing machine. After he has spent some time spinning, he comes out an “enhanced-looking” version of himself: a fair Chinese man.
In response to all the “noise” that trailed their advert, the makers of Qiaobi have come out to issue an apology. But it would have been better if they did not bother at all. The apology released last Saturday is even more offensive than the advert it seeks to redress. Their statement reads:
We express our apologies to the African people because of the spread of the ad and the over amplification by the media, we sincerely hope that the media will not over-read it.
There you have it. The company blames everyone except itself for the advert fiasco. First, it blamed the media for what it called the “spread” and “over amplification” of the ad.
This is as ludicrous an excuse as you would ever get. The manufacturers of Qiaobi are clearly a bunch of low lives pretending to be retards or something quite sinister. Their attempt to hide their face behind one finger would have been comical if it wasn’t so obnoxious. They have resorted to blaming an advert that they produced and sponsored on several media platforms for doing its job of “bringing something to someone’s attention”, which in this case is their loathsome detergent.
They claim they had no idea the ad would generate such a passionate reaction from black people all over the world. They then went on to issue a caveat to the viewing public that reads something like this:
Don’t over-read the contents of our advert, because it’s just an advert. It wasn’t made with you in mind anyway. It was created and designed solely for the Chinese market. Majority of our customers are Chinese and they think the ad is a really cool way to portray black people.
The manufacturers of Qiaobi apparently believe that black people are just so sensitive; why can’t they all just laugh at a really good joke?
Several days ago in its initial response to the advert, the firm suggested that critics of the ad were overreacting. In their opinion the commercial (which has been identified as a poor imitation of an Italian advert with equally racist themes) is a celebration of creativity and art.
The advert, however, is neither funny nor creative. It is just stupid and insensitive. Did the creators pause for a moment to think of how black people all over the world would receive it? Their excuse that the advert only targeted the local Chinese market is even more stupid. We live in a deeply interconnected world today, and whereas information travels fast, distasteful information travels even faster.
How creative would the Chinese public find a Japanese advert that includes among other military hardware, vulnerable-looking Chinese women (to serve as comfort women) as a standard part of the Japanese army’s wartime military supply and logistics. The Japanese could later come out to clarify that the advert was made exclusively for the Japanese audience, so any Chinese persons who goes ahead to view it only have themselves to blame.
Even though racism continues to be a problem in Europe and America, it exists in mostly subdued undertones, largely hidden away from polite society. No company or product would shoot itself in the foot by airing such an insensitive advert without expecting a harvest of boycotts and blacklisting that would effectively put it out of business for good.
Qiaobi detergent may continue to sell off the shelves in China without any danger to its brand or reputation, however. This just goes to highlight the fact that China, India and the rest of Asia remain far behind in matters of race relations. Asians, especially the Chinese, haven’t learned to treat black Africans with respect – a curious case considering the recent expansion of bilateral relation between China and many African countries.
This is a serious issue that will not go away just by playing the ostrich and ignoring it long enough. The voices of several activists speaking about it can only can only do so much; the countries of Africa must take this issue several steps further by speaking out with one voice to pressure the Chinese authorities and other governments in Asia to set about re-orienting their people towards positive race relations built on mutual respect.