China’s official news channel CCTV has come under fire over a “racist” comedy sketch showing actors in blackface.

The four-hour Spring Festival Gala is televised annually in celebration of the Lunar New Year. On Thursday, the Gala commemorated the establishment of a new Chinese-funded railway between Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya in 2017 with a segment set in Africa.

The sketch features an older Chinese actress in blackface and wearing enlarged buttocks, alongside actors dressed in monkey and giraffe costumes.

In the clip, a young woman asks the Chinese host to help dissuade her mother from matchmaking for her. The show then cut to footage of the older woman in blackface, who mistakenly believed that the two characters were engaged.

“I love China, China helped us build a railroad. I want to find a Chinese son-in-law.” she says.

racist cctv
Photo: CCTV screenshot.

When the fiancée of the Chinese host arrives to interrupt the festivities, the younger actress tells her mother the truth.

“Mother, I don’t want to get married so young,” she said. “I want to go to China to study abroad. I want to be like Chinese people – to roll up my sleeves and work, to earn the praise of the world.”


The segment drew ire from Weibo and Twitter users for its use of blackface and stereotypical representations of Africa. Blackface is a practice by which non-black actors darken their skin in order to mock the appearance and mannerisms of black people.

One Weibo user said: “The problem with this segment is its narcissism. To show yourself assisting Africa, making it out as if African people are extremely jealous of China – as if they should be grateful to China. Isn’t China’s construction project in Africa supposed to be a win-win situation?”

Another user said: “This episode is racist. It has exploded in foreign media. This is understandable.”

One Twitter user said: “CCTV’s racist show during Spring Gala shook me and made me so ashamed of China and my people.”

Not all perceived the sketch to be racist. SupChina writer Anthony Tao said it was not intended to offend but the producers “are guilty of laziness or ignorance or most likely both.”

In 2012, the Spring Festival Gala broke a Guinness World Record for the most viewed national network TV broadcast show, reaching a viewership on 498.7 million. Since then, the number has reportedly risen to 700 million.

CCTV removed the skit from their official YouTube channel.

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.