China’s biggest television show has been ridiculed after it featured a “racist” skit involving an Asian woman with a painted black face and large fake buttocks who was followed around by a “pet monkey”.
The comedy sketch was shown on the Spring Festival Gala, an annual variety show, which is said to be the world’s most watched television programme with an audience of up to 800 million people.
The skit involved the male Chinese host being asked by a young African woman if he could help convince her mother that he is her boyfriend, so that she would not have to go on a blind date.
The woman’s mother was an Asian actress with her face painted black who arrived on stage with a fruit bowl placed on her head.
She was followed around on stage by a man dressed as a monkey with a basket on his back.
— What's on Weibo (@WhatsOnWeibo) February 15, 2018
The sketch – which ended with the mother expressing in perfect Chinese Africa’s love for China and the Chinese people – may have been a well-intentioned attempt to highlight warm relations between African nations and Beijing.
However, it was lambasted on both China’s heavily censored social media and on Twitter.
“Cringeworthy at best, completely racist at worst,” said a Tweet from Parthepan.
“It’s Africa, so bring out tribal dancers & animals? And was that a Chinese woman in blackface with a fake posterior?”
ugh the sketch on Africa during the @CCTV Spring Festival Gala (possibly the most watched show in the world) was cringeworthy at best, completely racist at worst. It's Africa, so bring out tribal dancers & animals? And was that a Chinese woman in blackface with a fake posterior?
— Parthepan (@KTParthepan) February 15, 2018
Twitter user Krish Raghav said: “My first Chinese New Year watching the annual CCTV spring gala and they trot out a Chinese lady in blackface, exaggerated proportions and everything, with a pet “monkey” (played by a man from Cote D’Ivoire), shouting “I love China!” – I can’t even.”
My first Chinese New Year watching the annual CCTV spring gala and they trot out a Chinese lady in blackface, exaggerated proportions and everything, with a pet "monkey" (played by a man from Cote D'Ivoire), shouting "I love China!" – I can't even pic.twitter.com/n3J1YsRhmy
— Krish Raghav (@krishraghav) February 15, 2018
On Sina Weibo – China’s version of Twitter – there was a mixture of bemusement and ridicule towards the sketch.
“Foreign media are going to explode,” said one comment.
“I really can’t believe what I just watched. This show gets worse every year,” said another.
What’s on Weibo, a website which tracks hot topics on Chinese social media, said the actress playing the mother was well-known Chinese performer and producer Lou Naiming.
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) February 15, 2018
The Spring Festival Gala – which is also called the New Year Gala – is produced by China’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and would have been heavily vetted before it was shown.
Chinese companies have previously been criticised for their depictions of other races.
In 2016, Air China’s Wings of China magazine warned travellers to the UK that “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”.
It was carried in English and Chinese in an article about London’s attractions under the headline “Tips from Air China”.
Earlier that year, a Chinese laundry detergent commercial sparked outrage with its depiction of a black man being ‘cleaned’ in a washing machine before he came out as a Han Chinese man.