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Racist videos of Africans fuel a million-dollar industry in China

Racist TikTok videos depicting life in certain African countries have found a market in China
Racist TikTok videos depicting life in certain African countries have found a market in China Copyright OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP or licensors
Copyright OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP or licensors
By Sophia Khatsenkova
Published on Updated
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The recent arrest of a Chinese vlogger in Malawi for exploiting schoolchildren for racist social media content sparked global outrage -- but it is not an isolated case.

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On 18 July, Chinese filmmaker Lu Ke was charged with five counts of child trafficking after a viral BBC investigation found that he was exploiting schoolchildren in Malawi. 

The filmmaker made the children recite racist messages in Mandarin that they didn’t understand, such as “I'm a black monster. My IQ is low”. He then sold these videos to Chinese social media websites.

The report sent shockwaves across Malawi and other African countries that have seen a recent influx of Chinese migrants.

Foreign Minister Nancy Tembo said that Malawi felt “disgusted, disrespected and deeply pained”.

China's top diplomat in the region, Wu Peng, promised to put an end to these racist videos.

Soon after the BBC documentary was released, Chinese social media platforms blocked users from searching video accounts containing the term “Africa”.

However, multiple racist videos appear on the top pages and are still accessible despite the ban. 

For example, this video on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is called “African Red Mud Tribe is living a primitive life". The vlogger even jokes that there are no work opportunities in the village. 

This Chinese Youtuber adopted a child, calling him “little monkey” and telling him not to watch the local channels because “they’re not educational enough".

According to Sheng Zou, a Chinese digital media expert and researcher at the University of Michigan, this content is popular in China because "it satisfies a fantasy of the outside world and also confirms pre-existing stereotypes for certain people." 

"It then bolsters their self-image as more modern and affluent people," he added.

Many in Malawi have called for a strict crackdown on Chinese nationals in the region to find out whether they are more vloggers that are exploiting and humiliating people with these racist videos. 

As for Lu Ke, the vlogger that was arrested, the court is expected to rule soon on whether he will be granted bail or not.

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