9 August Beijing China-Always capable of detecting commercial opportunities, Chinese expats have brought this skill to Africa – but who exactly does it benefit? Recently, video clips featuring dozens of African children reciting advertisements or words of blessing and good luck in Chinese can be easily found on Chinese e-commerce platforms. The clips, no more than 20 seconds in length, are shot by Chinese expats in Africa while their business partners take orders to sell the clips on China’s online platforms, including Taobao. Sometimes more than 100 orders are placed in one day.
Such videos sell for as much as 220 yuan ($32.82), and video vendors declare on their online store page that they only take the cost out of the revenue and the rest is used to buy food and other necessities for those African children. The video buyers gain a sense of satisfaction as they believe they are doing good by buying them. After all, when a large number of Africans live under the international poverty line on less than $1.9 a day, those children must be glad to make money to subsidize their households by simply shouting Chinese words and shooting videos.
The reality however turns out to be the other way around. According to investigations, those children only get paid in snacks or a few yuan from each video, and the majority of the revenue is shared by the Chinese photographers and businessmen. In other words, these Chinese are making money from African children.
Of more concern is that in some videos posted online, the African children were taught to shout rude language or advertise websites with pornographic content. And most advertisements have no relation to children or Africa at all. This violates Chinese law and must involve stepped-up supervision.
In fact, what lies beneath is Chinese people’s lack of confidence. Though they live in a strong and prosperous country, they cannot get rid of their curiosity about foreigners. Anything advocated by foreigners is superior and can easily catch the public eye. There used to be similar cases where Westerners were used to advertise products, and now they turn to African children.
As China rises, Chinese people need to avoid belittling themselves and meanwhile refrain from becoming arrogant. In the meantime, when Chinese businesses go global, there are some basic principles that they should adhere to. What has been done to these African children is very likely to trigger a colonialist association and jeopardize China’s image overseas. Chinese society must always keep vigilant to this and boycott it whenever this happens