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Friday, 27 May 2016

Racist Chinese laundry detergent advert sparks online backlash

A Chinese laundry detergent advertisement is causing widespread outrage online and is being dubbed the most racist commercial to be screened. But racist advertising has form - and not just in China.

A black man walks in and gets 'washed' a different colour...

The scene is a young Chinese woman doing her laundry. In walks a black man, with some paint stains on his face.

They look at each other suggestively. She puts a tab of detergent into his mouth....

 ...and then shoves him into the washing machine.
Hey Presto! He emerges a fair-skinned Chinese man.

The lady doing laundry is apparently delighted by this development.

"Change starts with Qiaobi," says the ad.

It is a month old but it is shocking the Internet now

It has appalled many on Facebook and other forums over the last 24 hours. But the ad itself is about a month old, having appeared on television and been shown at cinemas in China. At that time it didn't cause much of a furore with cinema-goers.

But then it was shared by US expat Christopher Powell, a musician with the Guiyang Symphony Orchestra, and by DJ Spencer Tarring.

The reaction on Chinese social media so far has been muted. One user @YY_CodingBear says "My lord. Do Chinese marketing people not have any racial education?"

The owner of the detergent has also commented

"I don't know much about the advertisement," the owner of Qiaobi laundry detergent, who identified himself as Mr Xia, told BBC Chinese's Grace Tsoi.

He said he did not realise it was racist until it was pointed out to him.: "To be honest, I didn't really pay that much attention to the advertisement."

It mirrors an Italian advert for detergent, equally fraught with ethical issues, that does just the opposite - by washing a white man to black to advertise "coloured" laundry powder.

It's not the first time we have seen racist advertising in China

In the 1990s, the Darlie brand of toothpaste was translated as "black man toothpaste" in China. Its earlier incarnation was as "Darkie".

The significance of the name change was lost on many, analysts say.

More recently in Hong Kong, an insurance advert showed a man dressed up like a Filipina domestic helper, with a blacked up face.

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