The rage against ‘racist’ China

Stephen Beard

Topics Politics

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A Chinese detergent advert has sparked outrage across the Western world, with critics branding it ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’. The advert depicts a black man and an East Asian woman flirting in a kitchen. The woman proceeds to stuff the man into a washing machine and he later emerges as an East Asian man, apparently ‘cleansed’ by the power of this detergent.

Yes, the advert is pretty awful. But it’s curious that we in the West are even hearing about it. Is this not just a case of the Western media fishing for outrage, giving self-righteous Westerners an opportunity to pat themselves on the back?

Maybe race just isn’t as sensitive an issue in China as it is here. The ad was supposed to show the detergent would make clothes whiter. And maybe using people to illustrate that is acceptable in China. I don’t know. But neither do this ad’s critics. Projecting a petty, offence-taking morality on to other cultures is just another form of intolerance.

Perhaps China can teach us a thing or two. The company behind the advert slammed its foreign critics as ’too sensitive’. It was refreshing to see a company refuse to bow down to the offence-seeking mob, as Western companies so often do.

We shouldn’t be surprised to find out that other cultures have different views on race than us. And just because certain offence-seeking Westerners see racism everywhere doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In fact, these outbursts of righteous indignation only prohibit the sort of constructive, unfettered discourse that can provide a path towards mutual tolerance, respect and understanding.

Stephen Beard is a writer and researcher based in Liverpool.

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Topics Politics


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