Following international criticism over the Qiaobi laundry commercial depicting a black man being “whitewashed” into an Asian man, Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Ltd issued an apology, blaming the controversy on the “overamplification” of the issue by Western media.
“The foreign media might be too sensitive about the advertisement,” said a Leishang Cosmetics spokesman named Wang. “We meant nothing but to promote the product, and we had never thought about the issue of racism.”
To some, that may sound like a denial of responsibility, the key component of offering an apology. However, some media sources have argued that responsibility doesn’t lie with Leishang Comestics. In a recent rebuttal to the Qiaobi controversy titled “The West should be more realistic about it’s own racial issues”, the Global Times argues that responsibility doesn’t lie with Leishang but rather, that racism is a learned trait brought on by Western influence:
There is no doubt that from a Western perspective, Qiaobi’s ad is a blatant display of racism. However, unlike many developed countries that were brutal colonizers and engaged in the slave trade, racism is not an innate problem in Chinese society. From ancient times to nowadays, the country has barely been troubled by race problems. It has only emerged in recent years as China opens up to more people from overseas, and more Western viewpoints start to make an impact on Chinese social consciousness, which have caused some misunderstandings.
The racist ad is not based on intentional prejudice, but out of a collective unconsciousness of racism…
The Western hemisphere should be more realistic in addressing their own problems over race rather than seeking relief by exaggerating other people’s careless mistakes.
As it turns out, the Qiaobi controversy is such a “non-issue” that even China’s foreign ministry has issued a statement. FM spokeswoman Hua Chunying told the press that her ministry hasn’t received any diplomatic complaints over the commercial: “Everyone can see that we are consistent in equality towards, and mutually respect, all countries, no matter their ethnicity or race. In fact, we are good brothers with African countries,” said Hua.
Despite all of the statements of fraternity, it’s difficult to find a silver lining in the controversy. Even the Leishang spokesperson admitted that his company has no idea why people are so offended by the advertisement. Wang explained that the company had actually chosen an alternate version for broadcast: “Instead of using the full version of the commercial, we actually aired a five-second version which does not have the black character. We have no idea why the full version went viral online.”