Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Blackface in Chinese Lunar New Year sketch draws criticism

Published:Saturday | February 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
This is a screen grab taken from CCTV China yesterday showing a dance sequence in an Africa skit shown on state television. It shows an Asian woman who was made up to look black.


A comedy sketch that featured a Chinese woman in blackface has drawn accusations of racism after being broadcast on Chinese state television's Lunar New Year variety show, although some people in Beijing were left wondering why it would be considered offensive.

The skit was shown Thursday night on state broadcaster CCTV, and depicted the opening of a Chinese-built high-speed railway in Kenya. It featured actors in monkey and giraffe costumes, while the actress in blackface donned an exaggerated false bottom and a basket of fruit on her head.

The segment was meant to celebrate Sino-African relations, but many viewers blasted it online for cultural insensitivity.




The performance was part of CCTV's annual Lunar New Year gala, which draws an audience of up to 800 million and is said to be one of the most watched programmes in the world.

The 13-minute segment opened with a dance sequence set to Colombian singer Shakira's Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) featuring Africans dressed in zebra, lion, and gazelle costumes, and actresses playing attendants on Kenya's new Chinese-built high-speed rail line.

The skit then began with a black woman asking the show's host to pose as her husband when meeting her mother in order to avoid being set up on a blind date.

A Chinese actress playing her mother then strides in made up in blackface followed by an actor in a monkey costume.

The host's Chinese wife then appears, ending the deception. But the African mother says she can't be angry because "China has done so much for Africa."