Anti-China Superbowl ad?

I really don’t like the sound of this ad, which played locally in Michigan during the game. It plays off of stereotypes and the growing paranoia about the rise of China. I’m calling it ill-conceived at best, racist at worst. The explanation of the ad sounds pretty feeble, too.

The campaign of the Michigan Republican hit racial notes as a new advertisement argued that the policies of incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) were helping China to the detriment of the United States.

The advertisement, which will run in Michigan during the Super Bowl and afterward, features an Asian female with a conical straw hat riding a bike through a rice paddy field.

“Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good [sic],” the actress says, in broken English.

“Thank you Michigan Senator Debbie ‘Spend-it-now’. Debbie spend so much American money [sic],” the actress says, without a Chinese accent. “You borrow more and more, from us… we take your jobs. Thank you Debbie ‘Spend-it-now.’”

The Hoekstra campaign called the advertisement “satirical” and explained the broken English in the video as a reflection of China’s increasingly competitive education system.

“You have a Chinese girl speaking English – I want to hit on the education system, essentially. The fact that a Chinese girl is speaking English is a testament to how they can compete with us, when an American boy of the same age speaking Mandarin is absolutely insane, or unthinkable right now,” Hoekstra spokesperson Paul Ciaramitaro told POLITICO. “It exhibits another way in which China is competing with us globally.”

You can see the ad at the link above. I find it racially charged and plainly “anti-China.” As if the fact that the Chinese girl is speaking English tells viewers China’s education system is superior (that’s what the Hoekstra camp is claiming). Nonsense. This ad is designed to instill fear and touch a racial nerve.


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: 67 Comments

Yes I agree completely. The figures for net worth are consistently worse than they are for income. Inequality in America is way worse than anyone can imagine. While income figures across states and cities and races are relatively “close” (half-joking) there is HUGE chasm when it comes to net worth.

What it basically says is that if the average black or “Latino” family runs into surprise medical problems, they go broke or they go dead.

February 9, 2012 @ 6:58 am | Comment

Other Lisa, since when has making an empirical observation ever been “hateful” or “racist”. Will you accuse me of “hurting the feelings of the American people”? The U.S. census shows the household income of Black families, likewise it also shows that of Hispanic and White households. Needless to say they are not one and the same. When the proportion of households in the economy shift away from Whites, this reduces the mean household incomes for America in addition to increasing inequality levels by bifurcating the a standard distribution into a multimodal one.

I liked your cute little explanation too and I cannot say it is entirely incorrect. Rather it is woefully incomplete.

Well Richard, I am one and the same (When did Mark Anthony Jones stop posting?) and if you met me, you’ll come to understand I am still a “nice” guy as it were. Suffice it to say I have managed to deprogram myself of more than a decades worth of Marxist indoctrination. Looking back, I find it so intriguing that an individual’s entire weltanschauung can be so intrinsically changed by the re-evaluation of a single belief. In my case, it was my rejection of the Enlightenment fiction of Tabula Rasa, and the mutability of man. Once that changed I experienced a cognitive cascade wherein I began to re-evaluate everything else. Now I attack the old order with the zeal of an ardent apostate.

To paraphrase my intellectual transformation; I once was a Jedi, possessing the gnosis of the Frankfurt and Gramscian schools; skilled in their arts of rhetoric, sophistry, and dissimulation. Now I am Sith, cutting through their lies like well worn parchment with an edge backed by the force of truth.

February 9, 2012 @ 7:58 am | Comment

Oh dear.

Jing, I think you’ve got some prescriptions you need to refill, fast.

February 9, 2012 @ 7:59 am | Comment

Jing, I’m very sad to read this. There’s just no point in being a racist.

And Mark Anthony Jones, sadly, passed away from cancer last year.

February 9, 2012 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

(or a sexist, I should add)

February 9, 2012 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

And the “argument” you’ve presented here has no evidence to back it up. You’ve got your causation backwards. I’m frankly flabbergasted.

You know, racists and conservatives of rigid ideology tend to have lower than average intelligence. While I don’t think that’s true of you, for a smart guy, you’re still pretty damn stupid.

February 9, 2012 @ 2:05 pm | Comment

To Jing,
your #46 and the first paragraph of #52, when taken together, make no sense. I guess that’s becoming par for the course for you.

First, you assert that income equality has gone down because the proportion of whites has gone down. How do you figure that? If you are trying to suggest that “whites” disproportionately make the higher incomes, and you have fewer whites (and therefore fewer of those higher income data points), income equality would actually go UP.

Then in 52, you suggest that relatively fewer white people (who again presumably have disproportionately higher incomes) results in a lowering of mean income levels. That part is fine. But how does that increase inequality? What you’re referring to might be akin to the standard deviation, and SD does not increase when you start removing high end data points. Besides, since when did income follow a “standard distribution”?

Looks like you caught a virus when you went about deprogramming yourself, and now you’re no better than a Vista machine that crashes all the time. And the only force you possess now is akin to the contents of a hot-air balloon.

February 9, 2012 @ 2:50 pm | Comment

[…] will find all these descriptions across this commenting thread on the Peking Duck. They refer to a Superbowl Ad approved by a certain Peter Hoekstra, a Republican […]

February 9, 2012 @ 7:51 pm | Pingback

Richard, why should Chinese react to this ad? Even if that’s your wish, it won’t happen. The things she’s saying are not deemed controversial in the perception of an average Chinese person, nor is anything else, what upsets so many people here, including you. I can only say thank god I’m not (North) American. You guys tend to overreact so fast, you just love to make big nontroversies out of very innocent things, which then doesn’t help the cause at all. You made a mistake by quickly instilling the race in this and make the post emotional instead of rational. It didn’t take too long for others to react the same way and when I saw the reactions, I was disappointed. My comment was left in hope, that it could stir the discussion in another direction. And to my luck, Justrecently got the point. Maybe that’s because we are of similar background. This ad will have no consequence on anything whatsoever, there will be no popular wave of indignation in China, nor in USA and especially not anywhere else.

But you have a chance to add another word with “gate”-suffix to this list:
Maybe one of your followers can write a short explanation of “Hoekstragate” 😉

February 9, 2012 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

Richard, why should Chinese react to this ad? Even if that’s your wish, it won’t happen.

It’s not my wish. But I would understand if they did.

February 9, 2012 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

From yesterday’s Global Times:

California State Assemblyman Mike Eng issued a statement Tuesday, saying: “I am astounded and outraged by the Hoekstra campaign’s use of negative Asian stereotypes for their Super-Bowl ad.”

“Such blatantly racist and anti-Asian fear-mongering, such as that raised by the Hoekstra ad, has had a long and sad history in the United States, going all the way back to the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th Century and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It is the 21st century and such divisive rhetoric has no place in American politics,” Eng said.

On Monday, Judy Chu, the country’s first Chinese-American Congresswoman and chair of the US Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said in a statement: “I am appalled at the Hoekstra campaign’s offensive and insensitive Super Bowl ad that relies heavily on negative Asian stereotypes.”

US Congressman Mike Honda also issued a statement Tuesday: “Pete Hoekstra’s Super Bowl campaign ad is a despicable example of Republican race-baiting cloaked in the guise of genuine political debate and, quite simply, is offensive to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

“Hoekstra stoops to using racial stereotypes and fails to engage honestly and credibly on the issues. Hoekstra merely offers the kind of ignorance and intolerance that harms every single family in Michigan and beyond,” Honda said.

Bel Leong-Hong, the Democratic National Committee’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus chair, said in a statement Tuesday: “Ads like these that play on fear and racial stereotypes must never be tolerated. Our nation deserves better representatives in Congress who can stick to the issues and not use harmful, divisive measures for political gain.”

Also, some excellent reporting in the New Yorker.

February 10, 2012 @ 12:34 am | Comment

Their ignorance is astounding. America should embrace its different ethnics as should China to make both countries stronger. But incredible racists like Jing and Cookie Monster have no quality to speak on this matter.

February 10, 2012 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

Poland should have embraced its different ethnics in the 1930s too, like Nazi Germans!

I have no problem with any of China’s true minority groups like the Tibetans, Miao, Manchu, Zhuang, etc.

February 11, 2012 @ 5:12 am | Comment


Yes they should have. If any of those countries truly embraced different peoples the tragedies would not have happened.

That is easy to say, until minorities assert themselves in political and ethnic interests and promote their differences. That is the difficult part of tolerating to swallow. And from your previous comments, you are not sounding convincing.

February 11, 2012 @ 9:30 pm | Comment

Yes, fully embrace people driving tanks into your nation trying to exterminate you. What a good idea.

February 12, 2012 @ 5:23 am | Comment

Or your own nation’s tanks driving into your capital city to try to exterminate you. That sucks big, hairy balls!

February 12, 2012 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

I noticed an article the other day, stating that the young Chinese-American actress has rethought her participation in the ad and has issued a general apology.

February 24, 2012 @ 4:29 am | Comment

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