Tuesday, June 13, 2006


China may not have had any advertising during the time of Mao but they’re making up for lost time. There are billboards everywhere, subway cars adorned in NASCAR like advertising both inside and out, abundant commercials on CCTV state television and even a cable shopping channel. Many of the faces used in advertising to the Chinese people are Cantopop or Taiwanese pop stars but a significant number of the faces used in Chinese advertising are Caucasian. Why? When I brought this to the attention of an instructor of a mandatory race and social justice class at work she explained that it was just another example of white racism and white privilege. But she’s never been to China and white racism seemed to be her answer to every question in the spirit of, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Here’s an example, on trips to China I bought a bag for my laptop and a small belt bag made by a company called Littlesheep. The bags were of good quality and very reasonably priced. Here’s the tag that I clipped off the computer bag, both front and rear (click to enlarge):

The couple in the picture probably don't live in China and they don't look like 99.9% of Littlesheep's target market. But my guess is that to the average Chinese shopper they represent the good life, one filled with lots of stuff and plenty of leisure time and after decades of suffering and sacrifice caused by the economic missteps of clumsy communism who wouldn't want that? Here's another example from Shanghai that I shot in November 2005 on HuaiHai Rd, Shanghai's main fashion street

Here's the webpage of Haagen-Daz China. See anybody Chinese there? It's not just foreign companies that do this either. Here's the website of a Chinese clothing manufacturer, Vider. No Chinese faces here either. Zhonghuacar is a subsidiary of Brilliance Auto, a Chinese company that makes BMW and Mitsubishi knockoffs as well as genuine Chinese made BMW’s. It’s definitely a Chinese company, Zhonghua in Chinese means China. Does anybody have an explanation for this?


ChinaLawBlog said...

Nice post. I'm going to link to it on my blog.

Fellow Seattleite.

motherhood@48 said...

When adopting our first daughter in China, I noticed that most products that had a person on the package, or the toys that were sold (such as baby dolls) were caucasion. I asked one of the facilitators why the Chinese products showed caucasions instead of Chinese people. She said it is because the Chinese think that anything advertised or sold with a caucasion on it is considered better than anything with a Chinese/Asian on it.
We were in Changsha and Guangzhou during our trip.

Go figure.