So, it looks like China is totally cool with blackface. A state television program featuring Chinese actress Lou Naiming dressed up to look African sparked controversy on Chinese social media, with critics pointing out that it was racist AF. Understandably, news of the incident spread to Western media as well. On Thursday, China said the controversy was “futile.”
The program—a telecast of a stage performance—was part of a Lunar New Year television gala. Lou was in full-on face and body blackface, wearing colorful clothing and carrying a basket of fruit on her head. Another actor was dressed as a monkey. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang doesn’t see it that way, however.
“Recently many media, especially Western media, have reported on and commented on this matter," he said in response to reports on the performance. “I want to say that if there are people who want to seize on an incident to exaggerate matters, and sow discord in China’s relations with African countries, this is a doomed futile effort."
As The Root points out, the incident is part of a disturbing pattern in China. A couple of years ago Qiaobi laundry detergent caught heat for an ad that depicted a black man being “cleaned” into a light-skinned Asian one. Dialogues about race and discrimination are not a very common occurrence in China, as it is home to an overwhelming ethnic Han majority, but immigrant and minority groups continue to grow in the nation. For that and other obvious reasons (like basic decency), China also has every reason to be sensitive to these kinds of issues. The nation has come to increasingly rely on African countries to sell its commodities and further grow its economy.