A Chinese detergent maker has apologised for a television advertisement that many in China and around the world called racist, but also blamed the media for causing the public outcry.
In the ad for Qiaobi laundry detergent, a black man wolf-whistles at an attractive Chinese woman, who beckons him over. She then stuffs a packet of detergent in his mouth and shoves him head-first into a washing machine.
A moment later, the woman opens the lid and a fair-skinned Asian man pops out.
State media reported the ad had first appeared in April but went viral after being posted on YouTube last week, where it racked up millions of views within a few days. Some Chinese and foreign internet users condemned it as racist.
“We express our sincere apologies and sincerely hope that the many internet users and the media will not read too much into this,” the company said in a statement at the weekend.
The company deleted an online version of the ad in response to the outcry, the state-backed Global Times reported, citing an interview with the firm. However, versions of it could still be seen on Chinese and foreign video platforms, including YouTube, on Monday.
Public discussions of racial discrimination are unusual in China, which is dominated by the ethnic Han majority but is also home to dozens of minority groups as well as a growing influx of foreign residents, including from African countries.
“Even though the people who shot the ad may not have realized it, it really is racist,” wrote one user of the popular microblogging platform Weibo. “Those who planned the ad strategy should really have read up first.”
The Global Times, a popular tabloid known for its nationalistic op-ed section, said in an editorial on Monday that Western media coverage was “too extreme” and that China had no problems with ethnic discrimination.
“There have been many evils during the development of the West in this era, and racism is one of them,” the paper said. “China’s social process hasn’t been the same experience, so using the same yardstick to measure China’s performance will lead to results that are inevitably absurd.”
The company that owns the Qiaobi brand, Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics, could not be reached for further comment on Monday.