Sprite’s advertising campaign in Hong Kong

Now, this is really amazing. (Be sure to read the captions under each photo.) Can you imagine a similar ad campaign on the Mainland? Or, come to think of it, in George W. Bush’s America?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 23 Comments

Although these Sprite ads acknowledge shibolleths that make some people feel uncomfortable, I don’t think Sprite intended any shock value. More likely, the ad writers realized that this is actually how most people think, and decided to connect that way.

January 30, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

I’m surprised that the Coca Coca Bottling Company would allow it.

January 30, 2005 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

Well, good for them. I guess this means Coca Cola management in Asia isn’t populated by American expats who try to impose their ideas of what works?

January 30, 2005 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

I guess this means Coca Cola management in Asia isn’t populated by American expats who try to impose their ideas of what works?

The Republicans that sit atop major U.S. corporations are different from the Republicans that worry that SpongeBob is turning their kids queer. Coca-Cola execs would do anything, no matter how immoral, to sell more soda. The amazing thing is that they can blame “liberals” for the downfall of morality in America as they do it.

What scares me is that China may be becoming more progressive than the U.S. Unreal…

January 30, 2005 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

Well, remember, this is Hong Kong, which is infinitely more liberal than the mainland.

January 30, 2005 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Richard,

Hong Kong is also more BRITISH than the mainland.

This is probably the European influence rather than a liberal American influence. There have been much more direct adverts than this in Europe for a decade or so. There have even been gay kisses etc on state run television during prime time.

I could easly imagine the last two advert cropping up on British or French television, and the first would certainly be OK to feature in a Magazine or in the cinema if it was run during a movie that kids wouldn’t be watching. These things aren’t seen as being big issues in Europe. People are more secure with teir own sexuality and their own identity, so they don’t worry as much about other people’s.

Hong Kongi s definetly not in the same mindset as China on these issues.

When I was last in Hong Kong, there were TV programs addressing transexuality in a sensitive and scientific manner, I can’t imagine seeing that in mainland China becasue “There are no transexuals in mainland China”, at least acording to the governemnt.

January 30, 2005 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

Err, I don’t need to read the caption underneath.

This is just another perfect case of taking advantage of language barrier. I doubt if Coke would do its English version in, say, San Francisco. It would be couragerous for them to do it (well, couragerous in marketing). Anyways, GWB is not the president in San Francisco.

January 31, 2005 @ 5:18 am | Comment

thehim:

The ‘progressive’ can mean very different things in China and the US.

In ‘conservative’ China, teenagers do not hesitate a second on morning-after pill or partial-birth thing. Yet they won’t challenge authorities like liberals here usaully do. And those ecstacy-happy folks don’t have a monolithic view on government spending or they don’t care.

American’s bundle sale of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is not necessarily the only option in the world. It’s even true in Europe. Therefore it’s very hard to characterize China’s social norm as progressive or liberal. It’s thouroughly secular, I can only say.

January 31, 2005 @ 5:29 am | Comment

The amazing thing is that they can blame “liberals” for the downfall of morality in America as they do it.

The poster child for this particular strategery is, of course, Rupert Murdoch — whose media empire was built on boobs (the ones IN his papers, as well as the ones reading them).

January 31, 2005 @ 12:19 pm | Comment

And that is perhaps the most delicious irony in all of Fox’s moralizing — the fact they’re part of a sleaze empire. Love your “boob” comment.

January 31, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Dear ACB,

You say that, according to the CCP, there are no transexuals in China, as if the CCP is somehow in denial. You also imply that there exists a huge gap between Hong Kong television’s treatment and acknowledgment of transexuals and that of the mainland’s.

You are WRONG!

I have been living here in China for a little over three years now, and my fiancee, who is Chinese, very often translates for me what is being discussed on mainland Chinese television, and what is written in Chinese newsapers and magazines.

I can thus assure you that transexuals are very often discussed, and often even interviewed, on mainland television stations. Stories about transexuals also often appear in magazines and newspapers – particularly where beauty pageants are concerned. The mainland transexual Chen Lili is now a celebritiy here on the mainland – she was accepted into the mainland pageantry in the lead up to the Miss Universe contest.

I have also, on numerous occasions over the years, viewed documentaries about sex change operations here on mainland Chinese television – and none of them treated the subject in a derogatory sense.

Not only this, but here in the Shenzhen/Zhuhai and Guangzhou areas, it is easy to pick up two Hong Kong television stations that broadcast in English (Pearl and ATV) – both of which also sometimes feature programs about transexuals, etc. I can even watch the American so-called “reality” TV show, The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, right here in the mainland. My fiancee loves this program – and no, she doesn’t view it in jest.

There are also a number of Hong Kong TV stations that broadcast in Chinese that you can easily pick up anywhere in the pearl Delta area. True – politically sensitive news items on these Hong Kong stations are often censored, but programs that feature stories on transexuals or homosexuality are never censored.

Attitudes towards sex and sexuality have certainly become far more liberalised here in China over the years. You can easily buy copies of Manbox (a mainland magazine for gay men) at most street-side newspaper and magazine stands, and there are now over 300 gay websites in the Chinese language operating out of the mainland. They have blossomed in recent years – and no, none of them are blocked.

Last year, one of my students in Shanghai even openly declared herself a lesbian in front of the whole class during an oral assessment. Only a few of the more immature boys in the class sneered and looked surprised. Most of the class didn’t bat an eyelid.

Also last year, at Fudan University, located just down the road from the university where I was teaching at, also in the Yangpu District, a conference on homosexuality was held which proved to be extremely popular. Many openly gay Chinese students attended the conference, and it was positively reported on in both The Guardian of London, as well as in The China Daily.

In fact, one of the lecturers at Fudan University, Professor Zhitong, is openly gay, is extremely popular with students, and even runs a regualr course called “Homosexual Health Sociology” as part of the medical faculty. His classes are extremely popular. Fudan launched the nationally unprecedented homosexual course last autumn semester for postgraduate students to help untwist the poor image of homosexuals in the country.

In fact ACB, just to prove to you how ignorant you are, China launched its first hotline for homosexuals in Beijing eight years ago, back in 1997.

And last April, Shanghai launched its virgin homosex line with volunteer operators promoting safe sex knowledge and now distribute condoms and health manuals on a regualr basis.

Since the policy of Reform and Opening Up in 1979, the CCP has been loosening its control over homosexual behaviour.

A notable change occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when sodomy was decriminalised in 1997, and the new Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses on April 20, 2001. The situation has continued to evolve.

An internet survey in 2000 showed that Chinese people are becoming more tolerant towards homosexuality: among the 10,792 surveyed, 48.15% were in favour of homoseual rights, 30.9% disapproved, 14.46% were uncertain, and 7.26% were indifferent. This survey no doubt represents an urban demographic only, but still, it does nevertheless signify a significant shift in social attitudes.

Just to give you another example of how liberalised China is becoming, last year in Shanghai my fiancee pointed out to me an advertisment in a Shanghai newspaper, it was in Chinese, so I wouldn’t have known this without her having pointing it out to me, but it was an advertisement for a major cinema, located near to People’s Square. The Hollywood movie, Cold Mountain was showing at that time, and every man who bought a ticket to see this film was given a free flavoured condom if he was accompanied by a female friend.

Even in conservative small town provincial Huai’an, where I spent my first two years in China, in the middle of Jiangsu Province, there were a number of condom vending machines located on the streets, near to colleges so that students would have easily 24 hour a day access to condoms should they need them.

O.K. China is not as liberalised as Australia yet. No high schools have condom vending machines installed in the student toilets yet, like they do back home. But in another generation’s time, well, don’t be surprised!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

January 31, 2005 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Mark Anthony Jones

It was actually meant to be a joke. Don’t be so rigid. I was making fun of the image that China denies things that it doesn’t approve of and calls them western problems. Hence the quote marks. I don’t actually believe that there are no transexuals on China, and neither does the Chinese government

Your taking things too seriously.

On the open minded issue. It is slightly different in other parts of China. My experience was that homosexual students were socially isolated by other students and that they were pretty much labeled as being mentally ill. People didn’t fully understand what transexuality and homosexuality where, and if another student were to come out, even a close friend, it would have a profound impact on the way that they saw them.

Shanghai is also very different from almost every other part of China. It is the most liberal city on the mainland and can’t be used as a barometer for wider public opinion.

January 31, 2005 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

Coming from my perspective of China in 1979, I was pretty stunned when I went back to Beijing in 2000 and was invited to a party at a tres groovy bar, which design-wise would not be out of place in NY or LA. This was for a 100 day party hosted by a well-known Chinese cinematographer and his wife. There were all kinds of film people there, including a woman who introduced herself as an underground lesbian filmmaker who was trying to line up festival distribution for her film on that topic.

On the same trip I had pointed out to me a popular gay bar.

Okay, I know it’s Beijing and that I was mixing with a more culturally avant crowd, but still…the changes are staggering. More recently I went to an arts festival at a gallery/artist residence space called 798, which is out at Dashanzi, the East 4th Ring road. This is an old East German factory that’s been colonized by artists. Now the big complaint is that the yuppies have taken over and it’s not a real artists’ space any more…but let me tell you, it was pretty trippy. Lots of good to bad performance art, some good photography, nice restaurants…

I know, this doesn’t have much to do with how the vast majority of Chinese people live…but still…in 1979 a girl in one of my classes got hauled off campus by PSB because she’d been seen “riding in a car with a foreigner…without a hat.”

February 1, 2005 @ 12:25 am | Comment

Yes Lisa – i agree! My point exactly!

As I mentioned in my last commentary, when I talked about the internet survey, these shifting attitudes towards sexuality, and towards homosexuality in particular, are very much an urban phenomenon. I did not, ACB, suggest otherwise.

But as Lisa has noticed too, from her experiences, there has clearly been a significant shift in attitudes towards sexuality in mainland China – even in more conservative, privincial towns like Huai’an, as I said.

Having Chinese directors who are openly gay does not surprise me at all Lisa. The Hong Kong director (one of my favourite directors in the world in fact) – Wong Kar-Wai, made his film “Happy Together” starring one of Hong Kong’s most popular actors, Tony Leung, as well as the well-known and much admired gay icon, Leslie Cheung. Both of these actors are also phenominally popular here on the mainland, as is Wong Kar-Wai himself, who is originally from Shanghai in fact.

Happy Together is a film about a male gay couple, who, not far in from the opening scene, are shown having wild sex (Tony Leung even spits on his hand and rubs his saliva onto his penis as a lubricant before anally penetrating Leslie) and yet this film was not censored here on the mainland. It is easily available on DVD too – once again, uncensored.

Almost every Chinese person that I know has seen this film, most love it, and most admire and adore both Tony and the late Leslie Cheung – who committed suicide in Hong Kong a few years ago, very tragically.

And ACB – you quite clearly were NOT joking when you said that, when you were last in Hong Kong, “there were TV programs addressing transexuality in a sensitive and scientific manner” – though you couldn’t “imagine seeing [this] in mainland China….” This does not sound like a joke to me ACB. It sounds like a serious statement to me. As I said, you are WRONG to think like this.

Regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Sex shops gallore!

One of the first things I noticed about small town conservative provincial Huai’an, in the middle of Jiangsu province, where I lived for two full years, was the incredible number of sex shops – shops that sell plastic blow-up dolls, battery-operated vibrating pen ises, artificial vibrating vir ginas, as well as condoms and viag ra pills.

These sorts of shops are everywhere in China. Some streets seems to even specialise in such shops.

It really does say something quite profound about the extent to which attitudes towards sex and sexuality have become liberalised here in this country as well.

Consider this: in the early nineties, a European businessman was thrown out of China when a package mailed from home (opened by ever-watchful customs agents) was found to contain a pe nis-shaped vibrator. The businessman was charged with the importation of an item “spiritually polluting” to the Chinese people, and was summarily given the boot.

So the fact that in August, 2004, well over 6000 people were wandering around the floor of the Shanghai International Exhibition Centre visiting booths displaying the latest in dil dos, vib rators, nip ple clamps, blow-up dolls, anal beads, pocket vir ginas and latex fetish gear is indeed noteworthy, not just to swing ers and fetishists, but to those monitoring the tremendous sea-change in China and the views of its people (and no less importantly, the Chinese government) regarding sex and the myriad products that enhance sexual pleasure.

I had to attend an education expo in Guangzhou last September, in the Tian He district, and just over the road, in a different exhibition building, was a Sex Toys exhibition – the same one that was was earlier held in Shanghai. My fiancee, Gao Ying and I ventured in during the lunch hour – it was absolutely packed.

This really does represent a revolution that began not so long ago, and with only baby steps. In the latter half of the nineties, shops selling sexual aids began opening up in China’s larger cities. Unlike sex shops in the West, these places were almost clinical in appearance, more often than not run by frumpy older women dressed in white lab coats. Some of the sex shops in Huai’an are still like this. There is one, near to the Huaiyin Institute of Technology where I used to teach, located across the road from a sex clinic in fact, whose English translation reads: “Pha llic Exuberance Centre”.

Anyhow, these sex shops do a booming business, which is why shops like these are now so widely spread – even in the smaller towns, stores selling marital aids have popped up everywhere. Items that were once taboo have become big business in the middle kingdom, both for domestic use and export.

One booth that I saw at the Guangzhou Sex Toy Expo, which, as I said, also took place in Shanghai, and which had a near constant crowd around it, was that of Jill Kelly Productions, a California based company that produces what might be called by aficionados as “the finest in hard core adult entertainment”. In the centre of the crowd, on a high stool that put her luscious figure on good display, sat a bona fide American porn star signing posters for an eager line of fans.

Cindy Crawford (she swore this was her real name) was the star of around 250 Adult films, and despite the fact that such films are highly illegal in China, Cindy told the audience that she’d developed quite a following in the mainland.

“When I got here,” she told us all, “I was greeted with a bouquet of flowers by a group of adoring fans who told me that they’d seen a bunch of my movies. All off pirate discs, I’m sure, since there are no legitimate channels to distribute work like mine. Still, it’s flattering to know that my films are being enjoyed here.”

There were other Western businesses with erotic wares on display – Pjur, a German company producing high end lubricants, and Sweet Supplier, who’s very lovely French business rep displayed a variety of lickable candies molded in the shape of equally lickable body parts.

But to get the real picture of how booming the sex toy industry in China really is you needed to check out the local booths. Many of these were small-time operators; Fuyin Medical Instruments, a company producing a three-piece ere ction-sustaining device whose instruction manual might best be described as “overly complex,” China Kama Industrials, manufacturers of S& M gear (“you’d be surprised at how many Chinese – men and women – enjoy being whipped,” said the owner), and manufacturers of condoms and lub es of all describable shapes, colours and flavours.

The biggest of these (both in market share and booth size) was Loves. In business since 1995, Loves is the venerable pioneer of the Chinese sex-toy industry.

And as for the possibility of morality standards relaxing enough to allow for China to jump into the lucrative world of porn ography, Cindy Crawford, who I mentioned earlier, said that she was hopeful she would one day soon be able to make a movie her in China. “I’d just love to come back to Shanghai and be able to shoot some scenes with some beautiful Chinese women,” she said, flashing a salacious smile at me as my fiancee snapped a picture of her on our digital camera.

Well, look, I have walked into many of these sex shops here in China – there is one on Nanjing Lu, just up a little from The Bund, in Shanghai, on the left hand side of the road, housed in the famous Peace Hotel (once the British colonial opium commission headquarters in fact) which nobody can but fail to miss. The English word “SEX” stands out very boldly above the entrance. The problem with all of them though, is that none of them sell handcuffs and blindfolds. None of them! Apparently it is illegal still to sell handcuffs here in China, which means I will have to go into Hong Kong to buy them. Not a problem, since I live in Shenzhen, and have to venture into Hong Kong often – but still……

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 2:31 am | Comment

P.S. Sorry – I had to split many words in order to be able to post this entry. Too many words are blacklisted. eg. pen is

Thanks for your understanding.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 2:33 am | Comment

Dear ACB,

The Chinese government does not pretend that there are no homosexuals in China. Ten years ago they may have publicly denied so, but not now – not since at least 1997 in fact – as I have already pointed out.

Your so-called “joke” is insidious, in that you imply that – no, you don’t imply, you explicitly state – that “China denies” these things exist and “calls them Western problems.”

“They” [and I assume by "they" that you mean the CCP in Beijing] do not deny these things exist, and they do not dismiss them as Western problems or imports. Ten years ago, maybe, but we are talking about China today, aren’t we?

Regards (again),
Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 3:07 am | Comment

Mark:

As for the condom vending machine, don’t worry, it will be there sooner or later. If they can hold up a condom application competition (for girls) in Qinghua (Tsinghua) last year, I don’t see why they can’t install a machine there. Then in elite high school.

But, Mark, when you use the word ‘ liberalised’ to compare China and Australia, you run a risk of misleading. I can assure you that soon China will have more social tolerance for all our sins. It’s reported that Guangzhou government is already considering free needles for public. Does that mean China is more liberalized than itself in the past? Yes. The social tolerance for GLT is a great progress, yes. But that does not bring along other freedoms that usually go hand in hand with it like in 60s’ America. Does that mean China is more liberalized than Australia? No. I don’t believe you intend to imply the other way; I just want to make sure.

The reason behind it, I believe, is that China is not a faith-based society. There is no counterpart for an oppressive church in China. Especially now, you can’t think of a more secular place than China.

February 1, 2005 @ 6:14 am | Comment

Talking about Rupert Murdoch, I don’t know how many of you are aware of an anecdote about his son.

In early 2001, Sino-America relationship was stressed by the mid-air collision dispute. At that time, the junior Murdoch was shuttling Hong Kong and Beijing trying to get a deal from China government on News Corps’ behalf. He made some harsh comments against US, and condemned the Pentagon to be ‘cold-blood murderer’, something like that. while Murdoch’s Fox News is at.

Buttom line: the junior Murdoch was hailed as a hero in China. They got the deal.

Very different aussies, Mark, very different!

February 1, 2005 @ 6:23 am | Comment

missing line:

… while Murdoch’s Fox News was at all-time high anti-China hype.

February 1, 2005 @ 6:25 am | Comment

1999 I saw my first “adult products” shop – it was a storefront right off Wangfujing in Beijing and had the official Beijing Municipality Seal of Approval (something about it being “socially correct” I think) posted by the door…

February 1, 2005 @ 11:24 am | Comment

Um, I just thought that the ads were cool, and are in a similar vein of what Sprite has done in the US for years (just, well, not as out there).

February 1, 2005 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

Mark

I was making fun of a common perception of China.

If it is percieved that China blames the west, it is OK to make a joke about it,

It’s liike making a joke about the British having stiff upper lips or American’s riding around on covered wagons.

February 15, 2005 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

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