Normally quite a low-key airline, Air China has been receiving a lot of heat this past week for a racist article published in its inflight magazine. A travel tip at the bottom of the cover story on the city of London warns passengers that “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”. The racist magazine excerpt was first discovered by a CNBC journalist who posted it online and caused quite a ruckus. Virenda Sharma, a member of parliament, actually felt very offended by the article and wrote to the Chinese ambassador demanding an apology. Doubt he’s going to get a response.
Now the big question being asked here is “Which muppet in Air China’s editorial staff decided it would be acceptable to publish such a racist remark?” The reality is, the answer to that is not as elusive as it may seem. China differs from the west in that it has a very small minority population. The vast majority of China’s population is comprised of a single ethnicity, with the exception of a few African immigrant communities in Guangzhou and the various Uyghur communities spread out across the country. Thus, political correctness is virtually non-existent in China. Most people lack interaction with those outside of their own ethnicity group, and therefore are oblivious to the idea of political correctness and the social issues that the west is currently facing. In China, stereotypes like the one seen in the article aren’t necessarily considered to be bad or racist mainly as there’s no one to speak up and tell people that they are. This is why I’m not at all surprised by this little slip or scandal, whatever you’d like to call it. Until China is caught up to speed in the world of social justice, I’m also expecting some repeat offences.