Chinese Corner: Dolce & Gabbana’s cultural appropriation and ‘China’s Elon Musk’

In this installment of Jiayun Feng’s weekly review of interesting nonfiction on the Chinese internet, she looks at Dolce & Gabbana’s long-standing racism toward China, Yu Minhong’s sexist remarks, single-child families in China, and He Jiankui, the man behind gene-editing babies.

Dolce & Gabbana, chopsticks, and cultural appropriation

From Dolce & Gabbana to Victoria’s Secret: How does the West imagine the East?
By Zhāng Zhīqí 张之琪
November 22, 2018

On November 23, after rolling out several ad campaigns accused of stereotyping China in a disrespectful way and blatantly calling a fashion blogger who exposed its racism as “eat dogs bitch,” Dolce & Gabbana finally admitted the error of its ways. In this video, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, two co-founders of the Italian luxury brand, ask for forgiveness and assert that they “have always been in love with China.”

The apology, to no one’s surprise, was tepidly received. And at this point, given its lengthy history of inflammatory behavior followed by lip-service apologies, it’s hard to predict whether the brand will ever learn from its mistakes.

But the brand’s jarring repetition of displaying cultural insensitivity toward Chinese culture speaks to a broader phenomenon in the West, where artists and fashion designers often unwittingly or intentionally appropriate Chinese culture in the disguise of paying “tribute,” a word Stefano Gabbana used when defending the racist video. “For them, orientalism is an exotic culture to exploit. What’s behind their appropriation is a strong and undying sense of post-colonialism and imperialism,” Zhang argues.

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Tit for tat — a reaction to Dolce & Gabbana’s marketing mess in China

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Yu Minhong will be remembered as a misogynist

Yu Minhong’s history of rising to power
By Yè Háng 叶航
November 19, 2018

When Yú Mǐnhóng 俞敏洪, founder of Chinese tutoring giant New Oriental Group, appeared in a high-profile conference called “The Strength of Learning” last week, no one expected him to talk beyond the subject of education. But during a speech about how the direction of the Chinese education industry hinges on evaluating students, Yu made a distasteful analogy: “It’s like if the only thing Chinese women value in their partners is financial stability, and they attach no importance to conscience, then Chinese men will become evil people who focus solely on accumulating wealth. And this is exactly how women in China select their partners these days.”

Yu added that the “depravity” of Chinese women has led to the nation’s decline.

Yu’s sexist remarks quickly raised eyebrows on the Chinese internet, with many blasting him for perpetuating a backward notion in ancient China that women are always to blame for men’s failures and a nation’s downfall. In the eyes of Yu’s critics, in the age of #Metoo, when gender equality is at the center of public discourse, what Yu said was particularly offensive and irritating.

In response to the criticism, Yu posted a clarification on WeChat, saying, “What I really meant was that women determine how great a country is. Wholesome women and mothers can produce wholesome children. If women pursue an intellectual life, men will become wiser. If women only seek money, men will largely be money-driven.”

The clarification, of course, didn’t register well. In fact, it only further exposed Yu’s sexist worldview in which a woman’s utility is limited to her breeding and education of men. And even though Yu later talked to the nation’s Women’s Federation, which helped him realize that he was “fundamentally wrong” about women’s roles in society, it didn’t stop observers from wondering how his caveman views about gender have been ingrained in his massive education empire, which, as the author discovers, puts men in the top of power structures.

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What you don’t know about single-child families in China

Facts you don’t know about only children
By GQ Report
November 20, 2018

In 1978, China first introduced the idea of family planning in several areas to curb population growth. Seeing positive results in pilot cities, the central government soon implemented the one-child policy across the nation, which lasted for more than 30 years before it was abolished in 2016. As a result of the policy, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed a generation of only children grow up as “little emperors,” pampered by their parents. Often criticized as spoiled, inconsiderate, and self-centered, these only children, now adults, have to shoulder the burden of supporting their single-child families as their parents age. Collectively, they have become a key pillar for the national economy.

In this series of articles, GQ Report zooms in on this generation of only children in China, shedding light on the massive pressures they face in various aspects of life.

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chinese corner logo 2He Jiankui

Who is He Jiankui, the man behind gene-editing babies?

Who is He Jiankui, the man behind gene-editing babies?
By Xiè Xīn 谢欣
November 26, 2018

Hè Jiànkuí 贺建奎 is very likely an unhinged scientist on the path to destroying humanity. That’s what people are concluding after looking at his crazy genetic experiments, such as a recent one in which he manually altered the DNA of a pair of twin girls to give them immunity to the HIV virus, a move that has stirred up an anguished discussion about the fine line between scientific advances and unethical misuse of technology.

But while most people didn’t know his name until very recently, He already had quite the reputation among human geneticists in China, according to a person who used to work with him. When asked about He as a scientist, his former colleague said, “If I have to use three words to describe him, they would be smart, crazy, and talented.”

Since He is bound to dominate headlines for a while, as a government-led investigation into his study is underway, now’s the perfect time to read this profile of the man described by an anonymous researcher as “the Chinese Elon Musk.”

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