Bloggingheads and the Japanese election

On Sunday, Japan went to the polls and elected the right-wing Abe Shinzo as prime minister. Japan also bestowed a surprisingly large number of seats to the party of far-right contender Ishihara Shintaro, who thinks that French doesn't deserve to be an international language and who told a Playboy Magazine interviewer in 1990 that the extensively documented Rape of Naking was "made up" by the Chinese. On Friday, I spoke with Yuki Tatsumi, a security expert at the DC-based think tank The Stimson Center: Yuki described Ishihara as a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, and discussed the implications of the election for Japan's relationship with China and the United States. Video below:

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China Daily's African edition, 'Black People Toothpaste' and China's race problem

On Friday, China's largest English-language newspaper, China Daily, launched Africa Weekly, a supplement that "will look at the precise nature of Chinese involvement in Africa and also the prominent role many Africans play in China." The announcement on the government-owned China Daily featured quotes from Chinese and African diplomats falling over each other to praise how this initiative will improve mutual understanding, especially Africans' understanding of China: "Minister of Culture Cai Wu said the new weekly will give African people a comprehensive and reliable guide to China" and "Abdul'ahat Abdurixit, president of the Chinese-African People's Friendship Association, said the launch of an Africa edition by China Daily 'will surely help improve communication between China and Africa.'"

Improving African understanding of Chinese is a great goal, though it probably wouldn't hurt if Chinese expanded their views of Africans. During a China-Africa summit in 2006, billboards lining the road to the airport featured some purporting to "glorify" Africans, though at least one, featuring a tribesman with a bone through his nose, depicted a Papua New Guinean. A month before a 2012 China-Africa summit in July, Africans rioted in Guangzhou after a Nigerian was found dead in police custody; "the Chinese social media response to the latest protest in Guangzhou was dismayingly xenophobic," wrote Time's Hannah Beech, who also noted that the districts where Africans congregate in Guangzhou are known as "chocolate city."

While there's plenty of anecdotal evidence out there, it's hard to generalize about what Chinese think about Africans without being hypocritical, so I'll just quote what a Chinese English-teaching recruiter once told me in Beijing: "We try not to hire black people. They tend to scare the children."

One prominent example of the gulf in racial understanding between Chinese and Africans is "Black People Toothpaste," one of the most popular toothpaste brands in China, which I wrote a story about for Newsweek in 2010, and which a Colgate spokesman I spoke with on Friday confirmed is still 50 percent owned by his company. The logo features a minstrel singer wearing a top hat, backed by a white halo, and flashing a smile of blindingly white teeth. The brand is so widespread it's even engendered a popular knockoff brand, "Black Younger Sister Toothpaste."

Black People Toothpaste used to be called Darkie in English, but an outcry against Colgate when the news was reported in the United States in the late 1980s caused the brand to change the English name to the less offensive Darlie, and to change the logo from offensive and sinister to just offensive. "The only difference between black people and white people is that black people have whiter teeth," Wu Junjie, who works for a Taiwanese fast-food restaurant in Beijing, told me in 2010. Before China Daily and other state organs can successfully highlight the "prominent role" Africans play in China, it probably wouldn't hurt if fewer Chinese people associated black people with toothpaste.

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