In Romanticizing Ancient Chinese Wisdom at Sociological Images, Lisa Wade writes:
This 40-second commercial for HSBC bank, sent in by Michelle F., is an excellent example of the way that non-white and non-Western people are often portrayed as more deeply cultural, connected to the past, and closer to nature than their white, Western counterparts. Sometimes this is done in order to demonize a culture as “barbaric,” other times it is used to infantilize them as “primitive.” In this case, it romanticizes.
Running on both English and Chinese language channels, the commercial contrasts the wise Chinese man with the young, white man. The music, the boats, their clothing and hats, and their fishing methods all suggest that the Chinese are more connected to their own long-standing (ancient?) cultural traditions, ones that offered them an intimate and cooperative relationship to nature. Simultaneously, it erases Chinese modernity, fixing China somewhere back in time.
HSBC, which stood for “The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation”, was founded in Hong Kong, but now its headquarters are in London, UK. Regardless of who created the commercial, the Eurocentric/Anglocentric stereotype of white people (or whiteness) being “modern” is internalized even by Asian societies.
Here is a Fair & Lovely ad from India (via Racialicious) that conflates white skin with modernity:
- White people think that people of colour have more culture. by Restructure!
- The Orientalist Riff is an example of white culture and tradition. by Restructure!
- White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities. by Restructure!