Blackface skit in China's lunar new year gala sparks racism accusations

People watch the CCTV Spring Festival Gala TV show on a screen at the Beijing West train station in Beijing

Putting it into a larger context beyond the specific history of blackface, one user asks "if an American white person painted yellow, says I love the US and recites some Trump quotes while pulling his eyes, how would you feel?"

Apparently meant to promote Sino-African friendship and Beijing's growing infrastructure investments on the continent, the skit on state television CCTV also featured a group of black dancers wearing grass skirts and feather headdresses alongside actors dressed up as zebras, giraffes and lions.

Although the skit, titled "Same Joy, Same Happiness", was meant to celebrate Sino-African relations, many viewers condemned it online, with some calling it "cringe worthy" and "completely racist".

Last year, during the military standoff between India and China near the Sikkim border, official news agency Xinhua released a racist video mocking and parodying Indians. But the African mother says she can't be angry because "China has done so much for Africa".

"CCTV's racist show during Spring Gala shook me and made me so ashamed of China and my people", a woman tweeted.

Another posted: 'How narcissistic must they be to think it was a good idea to have an actor in blackface praise China?'

The skit was shown Thursday night on state broadcaster CCTV and depicted the opening of a Chinese-built high-speed railway in Kenya.

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Traditionally, hundreds of millions gather around their televisions to watch the "CCTV Spring Festival Gala", a more than four-hour showcase of skits, music and dance that has been a TV staple since the first edition was broadcast in 1983.

But the reaction on the streets of Beijing was muted, with some saying the criticism was overblown.

"It's normal for Chinese actors to dress up like foreigners when performing a foreign play", said 80-year-old Zhou Hengshan.

Several songs praised the "New Era", a reference to President Xi Jinping's political theory about making China even stronger through socialism, cemented since late previous year in the party's constitution. "This wasn't meant to demean any specific ethnic group". "If there was any racism, then it would have already been cut".

A skit on China's largest Lunar New Year TV show on February 15 has sparked widespread criticism and accusations of racism.

While the use of non-black actors using make-up to appear dark skinned is widely criticised in Europe and the USA, in China there is less awareness of the offensive connotations of the practice.

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