Recently, a laundry detergent advertisement depicts a light-skinned Chinese woman throwing a black man covered in paint into a washing machine after a bit of flirting. After undergoing a wash, the man emerges as a light-skinned, clean Chinese man.
This staggeringly offensive advert is attracting outrage on both the Chinese and wider web, with users blasting it for being racist.
"My god," wrote one user on Weibo, China's version of Twitter. "Don't Chinese marketing people get any education about race?"
"This ad is so regressive, if it had US citizenship it could be Trump's pick for VP."
"If you don't understand why it's racist, congratulations, you're a racist," wrote another, after some commenters tried to defend the ad.
However, some internet users held the view that "the advert was made intentionally so that it could go viral. Marketing strategy. "
Different from the furious attitudes of the public, an African user made joke of it, "false advertising though. As a black man I tried washing myself in machine & I'm still black, African & not Chinese. "
Another one added, "Nothing to do with racist. It's the face score that matters most for Chinese. "
A user even associated the event with another well-known brand, "today, there is toothpaste still marketed as 'black man toothpaste'."
The ad isn't even original. It seemingly rips off a similar, and also offensive, Italian advert, in which a slim Italian man is washed with "color" detergent and emerges a muscular black man with the slogan "Color is better".
Under great pressure from the growing outrage on the web, Qiaobi, the company behind the ad, issued an apology – but said the international media are exaggerating the reaction.
"Due to the harm that has been caused to members of the ethnic African communities as a result of the advertisement's circulation and the over-dramatization by the public opinion, we hereby express our apology and sincerely hope that the internet users as well as media will not over-analyze," the company said in a statement. "We strongly oppose and condemn racial discrimination."
The company also said it has removed traces of the ad online and hopes "that internet users and media will not continue to circulate it."
This wouldn't be the first time ads in China have been accused of racial insensitivity, there was considerable criticism online after the Chinese posters for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" seemed to downplay black actor – and co-lead – John Boyega.
While a large number of Africans live in China, particularly in southern Guangdong province, many have complained of facing discrimination and prejudice from locals due in part to a widespread stigma against dark skin.
That stigma also exists in other Asian countries, a Thai beauty company was forced to withdraw an ad and issue an apology after it released a commercial saying "just by being white, you will win".
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