On the eve of the Chinese New Year, China Central Television Station (CCTV), as it has done since 1983, conducted its annual Spring Festival TV Gala – a four-hour event watched by 800 million people throughout China.
Dozens of shows including singing, dancing, mini-drama, and martial arts among others were presented to the national audience on Feb. 15, culminating in the countdown for the end of the Year of the Rooster and the beginning of the Year of Dog.
As for the past 35 years, the annual Spring Festival TV Gala was meant to please all and cheer all. But to err is human. For one reason or another, the Gala event has never been perfect. Every year, there were moments from the Gala event which displeased or disappointed or even occasionally offended some people – sometimes these were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, both inside and outside China.
At this year’s Gala, one major blunder happened in a short mini-drama focused on a group of African friends working on a Chinese development project in Africa. Some of these “African” friends were actually Chinese performers with their faces painted dark. While the original intent of this mini-drama was to cheer for the closer interaction between Chinese and African people, some of the words and phrases used in this mini-drama could be construed as lacking sensitivity and understanding for the realities in Africa.
The African mother in the mini-drama is played by a Chinese actress with face painted black. / Reuters Photo
Many people – in and outside China – were disappointed, or even offended, by this mini-drama, including me personally. I sincerely hope the conductors and the scriptwriters of this mini-drama would profoundly reflect and make sure that such a lack of sensitivity would not happen again. I also sincerely hope that friends at home and abroad, especially those in African countries who feel disappointed or even offended by this mini-drama, can get over this unpleasant incident and focus more on the bigger picture of the China-African friendship and cooperation.
It is important to note that China has no institutionalized or politicized discrimination based on the color of one’s skin. Whereas many countries in the world have in their closets the ghosts of slavery, racial discrimination or apartheid and caste systems, China has no such history.
Since the 1950s, China has always supported the independence of African countries and has always dealt with people of all colors in African countries as brothers and sisters. China is, and will remain, a strong defender of racial equality and will not tolerate any form of discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. This is, and will remain, the big picture in China’s relations with African countries and with people of all colors in the world.
People cheering at the launching ceremony of Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, which was built and funded by China, Kenya, May 31, 2017./ EPA Photo
Any discrimination against people based on race or the color of one’s skin is wrong and should be condemned as such. As China is fully committed to promoting the One Belt, One Road Initiative and the common destiny of mankind, China should redouble its commitment to fighting against discrimination of all kinds, including those based on race or the color of the skin.
As for the next CCTV annual Spring Festival TV Gala, I hope they will improve their understanding of racial and cultural sensitivities and make sure their future performances will no longer be marred with unintended blunders.