Ad where black man ‘washed whiter’ sparks race row

Advertisement for Qiaobi washing detergent sparks multiple complaints about racism

A controversial advert for a Chinese detergent brand 'Qiaobi' has caused outrage online with some referring to it as 'racist'.


A black workman, ill-shaven, covered in paint and wearing a dirty shirt, wolf whistles and winks flirtatiously at a Chinese woman tending the washing machine.

She summons him over and as he leans for a kiss, she slips a tab of detergent into his mouth and pushes him into the washing machine.

There are yells and complaints from within and she sits on top of the machine. Once the wash cycle is over, a white-shirted clean-shaven Chinese man emerges.

Romance blossoms.

The new advertisement for Qiaobi detergent, revealed on the Shanghaiist website, has caused a major stir online in China with many complaining about its almost unbelievable racism.

One commentator on the Sina Weibo social media wrote: “This is how you can tell it’s racist. Put a Chinese man in the washing machine and have him come out as white.”

Another wrote: “Oh my God, isn’t there any education about race in China’s marketing departments?”

Tang Bing Xiaolian wrote: “What a low, vulgar racist ad. Does this black man in the ad know the meaning?”

According to Shanghaiist, the ad appears to be based on an Italian detergent commercial campaign, with the same music and sound effects, but in that version, the person who is put in the washing machine is white and emerges as a muscular black man.

Black people complain of racist attitudes and there are extreme prejudices against dark skin tones in China, mostly class-based as dark skin is associated with too much exposure to the sun, which suggests manual labour.

“Thanks to traditional beauty standards valuing white skin, many Chinese people have a well-established phobia of dark skin which unfortunately also breeds racist attitudes towards people of African descent, who are viewed by some as ‘dirty’ simply because of their skin tone,” Shanghaiist wrote.

The highest concentration of Africans in China is in Guangzhou in the south and there are frequent complaints from black people there about xenophobic attitudes, including among the police.

In 2008, before the Olympic Games, black people were rounded up by police in Beijing on suspicion of being drug dealers. Many bars banned black patrons for the duration of the games.

Chinese women in particular spend billions on skin-whitening creams and a common compliment is “you’ve gotten whiter”.

The advertisement has run on TV and also been shown in cinema chains this month.

Chinese ads are closely monitored for inappropriate sexual or political content by the country’s main media authority, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

However, the media watchdog is less stringent on race matters.

Last year the posters for Stars Wars: The Force Awakens featured a much smaller picture of John Boyega, a black British actor who plays a stormtrooper turned rebel in the movie, than in the western posters.