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Trend of Shanghai “Blessing Videos” Featuring Africans Raises Dark Memories

Shanghai’s COVID lockdown is resurrecting a troubling trend in Africa-China social media. Online agents accept orders to create tailor-made videos to inspire Shanghai residents to persevere through the pandemic-related restrictions. The problem is that these videos include Africans, dancing and holding up signs in Chinese.

While the trend is a reworking of services offering bespoke videos of birthday wishes, it has a darker history. Over the last few years, online services have sold and circulated videos of Africans (including children) being paid a pittance to sing and utter phrases in Mandarin and to hold up signs. When it came out that some of these signs were racist, and that the payment and production contexts were highly problematic, the issue caused strong pushback on African social media.

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