First tell me where are you from

I always use Spanish to write in this site, but this time I will use English, because I think the topic I am addressing today would better be read by British and American people, rather than only Spanish or Latin Americans. As English is not my mother language, I will probably make a lot of mistakes in every paragraph, so any editing will be appreciated.

My thoughts today start with a picture of a football player called Ezequiel Lavezzi. He is a famous Argentinian footballer, he plays for a Chinese team, and recently he was photographed doing this:

(Apparently the picture was taken in Spain, by a Spanish photographer)

Several media, specially in Britain, accused Lavezzi of insulting Chinese people with that gesture, so he and his club (Hebei China Fortune) had to apologize.

For people who have been living in China for a long time, like me, this case for sure reminds another very similar that happened in the middle of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. At that time, it was the Spanish national team, both mens’ and womens’ squads, who was photographed doing the same gesture:

Those days, much more media (specially British newspapers, again) accused the «ÑBA» of «insulting» the Chinese people. Some Spanish players had to apologize as well, saying they just wanted to look «funny».

This two cases are fine examples of cross cultural misunderstandings, because in Spain or many countries of Latin America this gesture is not offensive at all. In Spain, doing the «Chinese eyes» gesture is much more a childish play than an offensive insult. I remember doing that gesture when I was 5 or 6 years old, while singing a silly childrens song called «Soy el Chino Capuchino Mandarín» («I am the Chinese Capuchin Mandarin»). After a visit to YouTube, I can see that the tradition is still well kept, more than 30 years later:

If you are British, American or you live in some other countries where this gesture is offensive, you may think «OK, Spanish and Latin Americans are not doing that with bad intentions, but the fact is that they are offending China». And you may think that because that gesture it really is offensive in your country.

The fact is that… the gesture in China is not offensive at all as well. Nor in Japan, South Korea or South East Asian countries. It only offends countries where Asians are an important minority and they have suffered insults or offensive actions from non-Asians, sometimes using that gesture.

Spain didn’t have an important Asian community living in the country until recently, so there was not many cultural clashes between Spanish and Asians, thus the gesture still doesn’t have negative meanings in our country. The same happens in Latin America, I believe, but countries where Chinese or Japanese were important minorities already in the past, like Peru or Brazil, may be an exception. Philippines may be another exception, but the fact that the country was colonized by the US after Spain has erased many common memories between Spanish and Filipinos, both good and bad.

Think this carefully: is the imitation of a physical attribute of another ethnic group bad per se? I don’t think so… If a black guy paints his skin in white for Carnival, I wouldn’t feel offended. If a Japanese uses his finger to pretend he has a big nose as an European, I wouldn’t feel offended.

Let’s see… no, i don’t feel anger, just wanna laugh.

A gesture like those starts being offensive when many people repeat it against you, and at the same time you receive some kind of discrimination, so you link the gesture with the discrimination. That’s what happened in countries like United Kingdom or United States: Asian minorities there suffered discrimination (sometimes as much as black people and other minorities) and they may identify the Lavezzi or the Spanish basketball team gestures with insults in school, people laughing at them in the street, or many other bad memories. That’s totally fair, it’s absolutely understandable, but it doesn’t work the same in a country like China.

In China, obviously, Chinese are the majority, thus they haven’t suffered that much discrimination for being «Asian» if they have lived all their life in their own country. And they probably don’t even know the gesture, because it does not make sense for a Chinese to make it in front of another Chinese. Maybe in cities with important foreign communities, like Beijing or Shanghai, they have encountered that gesture. Maybe a foreign friend making fun. But the incidence of this is that small, that most of Chinese respond to the gesture -that many of them not even know, or don’t relate with their eyes- with total indifference.

The proof of all this is visible in the two cases that have prompted this text, the let’s say «Lavezzigate» and the «ÑBAgate». Most of the news saying that they had insulted China started in the English media. In 2008 Olympic Games, most of Chinese population not even heard about the photographies that according to foreign media made them so angry. Spanish media asked about it to Li Ning, the famous Chinese sportsman who owns the brand that at that time was the uniform of Spanish national team, and he said that Chinese don’t feel angry with that kind of gesture, because «it doesn’t mean anything to them».

Sorry, I just have the Spanish version of that interview.

To add more proof: I attended as journalist many matches of Spanish national team in Wukesong stadium during the 2008 Olympics, including the one against host China. Spanish team was hailed by Chinese public as their own team: they like to support favourite teams, and Spain was one of them (we won silver, by the way). Nobody in the public wooed them, or said something against them. No anti-Spanish banners. We felt like home.

In the more recent Lavezzi case, the main reports came from foreign media as well. I must admit that there were some comments expressing anger in social networks like Twitter or Weibo (Chinese equivalent to Twitter), but its numbers were not too big to consider them part of a «national scandal», only a few thousands (when Chinese netizens get angry with some foreign news or comments against them, the number of comments reaches the millions). The worst criticism against Lavezzi was on comments in Twitter, a social network that is blocked in China, so not many Chinese use it. Most of those tuits were written in English, and I guess some of them were written by Asian Americans, or Asians living in the UK, or Chinese that live in foreign countries and start to feel offended by the gesture much more than the Chinese that live in China.

The so-called «insult» by Lavezzi has not appeared in most of the Chinese media, with some exceptions of newspapers written in English, like China Daily or Global Times. Those media have foreign journalists and editors, and its readers are specially foreigners living in China.

There has been even a Chinese media, the very popular sports newspaper Titan, who published an article showing anger… but not towards Lavezzi, but towards English media who decided what is and what is not offensive for Chinese people!

In 2008, when the first «scandal» appeared, I wrote about it here, but just to make fun about it. I even used Photoshop to disguise the Spanish basketball players with bearskin hats and kilts to mock a little the British media.


This second time, seeing that the misunderstandings are still there nine years later, and realizing that they are going to repeat again and again, I decided to write something a little more serious, and using English to try to reach more people. I hope you understand (understand both my opinions and my English).

I can clearly see that this «Chinese eyes gesture» controversy is going to repeat in the future, as more Spanish and Latin Americans come to China, specially famous sportsmen. British or American media may feel «offended» again and use it to reinforce an idea that many English speaking people have: the idea that Spanish are more racist than other Europeans or Americans.

That idea, ironically, it’s a bit racist in itself. Is a bit of a continuation of the black legend, but that’s a more complicated issue and this website is not deep enough to touch upon it. Of course, there are many examples of racism in Spain, but no more than in other neighbouring countries, and for sure not directed to the same minorities that consider themselves discriminated in other countries. Gipsies, for example, are a minority that has suffered the discrimination of Spanish people. I am not here to tell you that Spanish are perfect, because we are not.

Something that proves that Spain is not that racist is that in the current global crisis -both economic and political- there is not any important Spanish political party defending that immigrants should be kicked out from our country. Some of our neighbours in France or United Kingdom (or United States, with Donald Trump threatening with new walls) cannot say the same.

PD: By the way, you may notice that I haven’t used the expression «slanted eyes» to describe Lavezzi’s and basketball players’ gestures. That’s because I also have discovered, thanks to these controversies, that the expression may be offensive for English speakers. Again, this proves the cultural difference between Spanish and English culture: the Spanish equivalent, «ojos rasgados», is not offensive at all, we even use it with a poetic meaning. Actually, I have used a few times in this website (here and here, for example). Nobody complained.

In a few words: remember, not everything is offensive to everyone. People is very easily offended in this confusing world of Twitter and internet controversies: let’s not create new and fake ways of offense.

28 Comentarios

  1. Thanks for your take on this and you make some very valid points. I think we probably disagree on three main points (in reverse order):

    1. Historical racism in Spain (irrelevant in Lavezzi’s case because he is ARG). Two football incidents spring to mind: Spain vs England at the Bernabeu in 2004, large sections of the crowd making monkey noises when England’s black players touched the ball; Spanish coach Luis Aragones referring to Thierry Henry as a «black shit». Of course there are some racists in England, but the feeling is that these incidents were not condemned either immediately or strongly enough by the relevant people (authorities, media etc) in the way that they would have been if they had happened in England. You may disagree, but this is, I think, the pervading English view, which colours the way these later incidents are seen.

    2. Your point that Chinese people in China were generally not offended. I had several people independently reach out to me unprompted and thank me for posting the photo. Some of the Chinese I spoke to didn’t care, but others were offended. It is perhaps more likely that these people had travelled or lived overseas, and so were more aware of some alternative viewpoints, but millions of millions of Chinese are travelling and living around the world each year, so the trend is against you on this one.

    3. The final point, which I think is the most important, is your assertion that «the imitation of a physical attribute of another ethnic group» is not bad per se. I think anytime someone does this, it is effectively pointing out «you are different from us in a physical way». I can think of very, very few examples when this is done in a friendly way and many, many examples when this is not done in a friendly way. Exploring this further, the fact that you are not offended if a black person paints his face white, but many people are offended if a white person paints his face black suggests that it is because of the historical persecution of those minorities – largely by whites. Black people have been persecuted *for being black* (eg slavery), Asians have been persecuted *for being Asian* (eg the Chinese Exclusion Act) etc. Does it matter which countries these persecutions took place in? You would say yes. I would argue – more than ever in today’s globalized world – that it does not.

    A final thought about our friend from Titan Sports, whom you mentioned in the piece. If his intentions are to promote cross-cultural relations and to dispel racial tensions, then he should be roundly applauded. I wonder, though, if there isn’t a small subconscious part of him trying to appease those living in his environment, making allowances for gestures that at least some of his countrymen do find offensive to avoid rocking the boat in Argentina. Look up the Asian guy in the Miley Cyrus «slanted eyes» photo. Does his presence make the image ok? Perhaps it’s just my UK/US viewpoint again, but speaking as someone who has never been racially offended *myself*, I do try to be as objective as possible on this. Again, perhaps we’re too sensitive, or too politically correct, but I don’t think I’ll be on the wrong side of history here.

  2. Thanks for the comments, here are mine:

    -Lavezzi’s case is related with Spain as well, because the photographer is from a Spanish media, and the picture was taken in Spain. It’s just a guess, but I think that during the photo session the photographer, or some PR, suggested Lavezzi to do the gesture as a funny salute to Chinese fans.

    -Luis Aragonés was a very peculiar guy. We loved him in Spain because he made Spanish team great again, but we know that he was not a kind or very polite person when talking in public. He made many controversial remarks during his career, and he was not in any way a representative of all Spanish coaches in his behaviour. He was a great coach, but not a great example in other aspects.

    -Spanish hooligans may be cruel, but I don’t think they reach the level of English hooligans yet. Maybe that event you mentioned, that I don’t remember very well, was not criticized enough by press or authorities, but some others have. Samuel Etoo was insulted many times by Real Madrid hooligans when he was playing in FC Barcelona, and that was hugely cited and critiziced by Spanish media. And keep in mind that some hooligans in Real Madrid belong to «Ultra Sur», a very ultra right group that also doesn’t represent at all Spanish society, and is despised by many.

    2-It may become offensive to them in the future, but currently it’s not in a massive way, as I explained.

    3-You made the point: it depends on the friendliness of the gesture, which it could be clear in the pics by Lavezzi and the basketball team (they are smiling in a friendly way). The imitation gestures only became something offensive when there is a history behind, which I think happened in UK or the USA, so I understand why there is a problem with the gesture in those places.

  3. No sabia nada de esta movida, gracias por explicarla.
    Me recuerda que hace unos años cuando estuve en varias ciudades chinas con otro español nos pasó algo similar en sentdido inverso. Casualmente, tenemos nariz prominente y ojos saltones (no tanto como Marty Feldman) y llamabamos la atención de los locales al punto que algunos nos pedian fotos con ellos. Yo comentaba que eramos los «monitos» de los chinos y que en sus casas seguro que comentaban: «Mira me he hecho una foto con unos monitos europeos». En cualquier caso, nos lo tomabamos a broma y entendiamos que la atención generada era por las diferencias en la fisonomia. Total, y resumiendo, que lo diferente nos llama la atención, y luego hay formas más educadas que otras, no creo que el estilo español sea maleducado, es quizá, a su vez llamativo, espontáneo y natural. Lo que me lleva a decir que aunque sé inglés (mira: «My taylor is rich» ja ja ja me parto), prefiero escribir en español. A mí los que no me acaban de caer bien son los británicos por su incapacidad para reconocer y gestionar las emociones propias. Eso les genera cierta incomprension y confusión con lo español porque es justo lo opuesto, pura espontaneidad y naturalidad, aunque también tienen mucha guasa para hacer series donde reirse del típico camarero español con poca cultura. Vamos, que hay para todos. Saludos y gracias por el blog

    • Un caso curioso es el del término «laowai». En teoría es una forma de reverencia ante un extranjero, pero con el tiempo se ha vuelto una forma normal de llamarnos a los extranjeros en China. En sí la palabra no me molesta, me la pueden decir sin problemas, lo que no me gusta nada es cuando me la dicen cuando yo estoy de espaldas, como si me la tiraran. Es un ejemplo de que lo que molesta no es una palabra, o un gesto, sino el cómo te lo digan. Y en todo caso yo no montaría un pollo por un «laowai».

      Por cierto que hace unos días Global Times nos preguntó a los laowais si nos gusta que nos sigan llamando laowais, ¿señal de que estamos todos sensibilizándonos un poco demasié?

  4. Hi Antonio,

    I think in the United States, it wasn’t in the past considered racist to make this gesture. But in the US from the late 19th through the mid-20th century, American culture at large and US government policy discriminated against Asians, in particularly the Chinese. The Chinese Exclusion Act – which was renewed several times after it’s passage in 1882 – officially banned all immigration from China, though some Chinese immigrants did arrive in the US. And of course, during WWI, Japanese-Americans, many of whom had lived in the US for several generations, had all of their property confiscated and they were interned in what were essentially concentration camps on the American west coast. Because of the deeply entrenched racism in America’s past – and even bursts of it today (look at whose in the White House) – Americans are ultra sensitive to anything perceived as racist. Political conservatives in the US belittle this by calling it «political correctness,» but the reality is African-Americans, Asians, Native-Americans, Hispanics, as well, just pretty much any group that isn’t Anglo-Saxon protestant, has been the recipient of xenophobic and racist taunts by the white majority (which I belong to). But I totally understand this gesture not being considered racist in other countries. We often look at the world through our own personal lens, and the English-language newspapers around the world will use the American/British mode of thinking to interpret events in other countries.

    • Thanks David, what a coincidence reading you today because I am copying one by one all the posts from my old blog to this new one, and just now I copied the one about Bukit Lawang, with the orangutans, one of my best memories in the last years.

      Anyway, I am happy to see that an American like you shares my point of view. BTW have you ever talked about this with your Chinese family? Do they consider offensive the «chinese eyes» gesture?

  5. Qué bien te explicas en inglés .
    Yo creo que más que los gestos, lo que importa es la intención con que se hacen las cosas.
    Espero que algún día se deje de diferenciar a las personas por su aspecto. Y se las valore por la esencia de lo que realmente somos. Cuando te da igual como tengamos los ojos o la nariz todo esto serán tonterías.

    • ¡Gracias! Me de pereza escribir en inglés y seguramente me he equivocado en muchas expresiones, pero algún angloparlante ha comentado, así que creo que algo se me entendió…

      En efecto, no es el qué sino el cómo lo que ofende. También entiendo que si durante décadas un qué se ha usado despectivamente, por ejemplo contra comunidades emigrantes, al final se convierte por sí sólo en algo detestado. No hay problema con ello, sólo que en España o China, con el gesto que hemos tratado en este post, aún no ha ocurrido, creo que por suerte.

  6. Totalmente de acuerdo en líneas generales, pero no se olvide que de tanto usar un término que se creó como despectivo acaba haciéndose natural En España tenemos muchos dirigidos a otras nacionalidades e incluso a personas que viven en otra autonomía cercana y no lo hacemos con desdén, simplemente no queremos dañar. Posiblemente si tuviéramos un pensamiento más empático no lo diríamos, sí. En fín, no es lo mismo el qué sino el cómo.

    Ah!… porfa, escribe en español…

    • No te apures, esto de los artículos en inglés ha sido un paréntesis porque quería llegar específicamente a algún angloparlante precisamente en el tema que nos concierne… A partir de ahora, vuelvo al castellano!

  7. Part 1:
    My dear friends,
    Thanks to Antonio who wrote a long and valuable article on the Lavezzi issue and opened the discussion on his own blog.
    I’ve always been a victim of racism and a fierce fighter against it, in China, in UK and in Europe.
    When I arrived in Beijing at the age of 18, the French faculty director told me that for decades they didn’t want Sichuan students because they had “difficulties with their local accents”. That meant, people speaking Chinese with Beijing local accents were considered to have better capacities to learn French than us Sichuan locals.
    I was offended and I answered back with my school results. I think they were shocked by my capacity of learning languages. It was something to be considered as “big talent” in that prestigious language institute. Very coincidentally, since then they’ve always been recruiting students from Sichuan.
    Since 14 years I’ve been living in Europe, travelling about for football. Is it necessary to argue which country has less racism? Or let’s say, less vulgar vocabulary referring to races? The Luis Aragones case reminded me of Ron Atkinson, the famous English football manager who said, «I can’t understand why there is such a population problem in China as they have the best contraception going: Chinese women are the ugliest in the world.»
    My newspaper contacted the British Embassy, but they were reluctant to define it as racism and said that they couldn’t make comments because they had to respect each individual’s freedom of speech. See, so long as it’s not an official discourse, it’s not a shame for UK.
    Years ago my wife was running a small renting apartment in Italy and a French guy (supporting Le Pen) wrote a negative comment on Tripadvisor and the only reason was that she wasn’t “an Italian by root”. We phoned Tripadvisor’s office in London and an Englishwoman (typical North London accents like the singer Dido) picked up the phone. She told me that it was not racism because “the tone is mild”. My wife failed to remove the racist comment. She was just glad that later on many other French people answered back to that Lepenist.
    Mark, you admit that you’ve never really been a victim of racism and above I wrote how it was.
    I can cite many, many examples from my experiences. When I am a victim I always react. When I am not a victim, I avoid imaging myself to be. Besides language and culture studies, probably also “thanks” to such experiences, it’s easier for me to tell which is racism and which is not.
    Believe me, I fight every day. Many racists today are those speak and act politically correctly and hide themselves behind a vote for Trump and Le Pen. Weeks ago someone knocked on my car window and told me that only residents could park in that zone. I told him he was a racist because he thought that an Asian couldn’t be a resident of that zone. He said he wasn’t racist and I started shouting: If you aren’t a racist, go and tell the same thing to an Italian driver. He ran away.
    But talking about racism globally, there is more than Trump/Le Pen voters. The basis of racism is that someone feel superior to others. That really hurts. English media act in name of universal values, picking up photos around the world to denounce racism, but when they think their values are superior to others’ sympathy, human touch and sense of humor, refusing to understand cultural differences, interpreting good intentions into bad ones, “teaching” one nation to be angry with another, they are disguised racists themselves.
    Mark, you said that the trend was on your side. Yes, I agree, racism, antisemitism, and nationalism used to be pervading and overwhelming trends as well, and it’s not remote history. How horrible you have such a conformist point of view!
    As the word I invented during our discussion, the new world trend is En-ignorance: making profit of English language and media hegemony, insisting that the UK/US values are universal, refusing to learn, study and understand the rest of the world.
    We can be enough pessimistic about this new trend. It’s harder to overcome than racism or nationalism because better disguised, because people like to conform. Many Chinese today become fervent followers of this new trend. They believe that learning English is enough for them to understand the world, that applying UK/US values to the world will make it a better place. They don’t know that by participating in such useless cultural war against Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil incited by English media, they become victims of history again, more invisibly, but nevertheless victims, like in the racist golden times.
    Mark, you suggested that I tried to avoid rocking the boat in Argentina. Again I agree: Argentina is just a boat, Italy a boat, Spain a boat, the whole Latin world a big, shabby, I-love-sunshine-so-lazy, racist people-calling-each-other-negro boat. But for me the true threat is English-media hegemony, and it’s an aircraft carrier. I think by going against an aircraft carrier, I am not as cowardly as you think to be.
    Tomorrow I will write more and talk about Lavezzi.

  8. Part 2
    My dear friends, we must thank Antonio for letting us write such long comments here, so that we can express our ideas in a more accurate way. I will always be trying to write something here in the next few days, every day about a different aspect.
    Today I want to talk about how I got involved in the Lavezzi case.
    I had to defend my daughter.
    In April, my daughter was born in Florence, Italy. I was in half-vacation status since then.
    When the Lavezzi case exploded in China, my newspaper didn’t give it much importance immediately. We have several colleagues who are experts with Latin America and they confirmed to my director that it wasn’t racism. So, we believed that it would pass quickly.
    But it didn’t. Lavezzi had to apologize and English media brought the news worldwide. I read on Italian media: Lavezzi apolozied for imitation of Occhi di Mandorla, an expression considered offensive in China.
    I was shocked.
    Antonio said that ojos rasgados is a poetic expression in Spanish. It is the same in Italian.
    Occhi di Mandorla is exactly the same expression that we Chinese use to call our eyes, or to call the most typical and beautiful oriental eyes. When we describe the angry face of a beautiful girl, we say: 杏眼圆睁。Another similar expression is 丹凤眼。
    Occhi di Mandorla is also an important cultural element that China has always been exporting to the world. See the Beijing Opera masks, see the contemporary Chinese films, see our traditional paintings, etc. We aren’t ashamed of our eyes.
    Like ojos rasgados in Spanish, occhi di mandorla doesn’t refer to the dimension of eyes, but the form. It’s opposition is round eyes. Latin people always admire foreign and exotic beauties, the Swedish blond, the Arabic “mora”, and the Chinese occhi di mandorla. If you search “Occhi di Mandorla” in internet, you find experts teaching Italian women how to make up Occhi di Mandorla on their round eyes.
    So, it’s a very positive comment that my daughter receives every time we bring her out for a walk. To be honest, she receives much more compliments and congratulations than the local Italian babies.
    “Guarda come sono belli quei occhi di mandorla!” (someone pulls his/her own eyes by saying this)
    “C’è una bimba bella come finta!” (this refers to her tender and smooth oriental skin)
    12 years ago, I asked the Chelsea football legend Gianfranco Zola, “in London, which aspect of Italy did you miss the most?”
    “The human touch”, he answered me.
    I agree. In Latin countries, we celebrate the differences. In Latin America, many nicknames refer to physical characteristics, let’s take the footballers as example: Cabezon (D’Alessandro), Pulga (Messi), Paton(Edgardo Bauza), Piojo (Lopez), Chino (Recoba).
    The best example is el Chino Recoba. His eyes are big, not those “slanted eyes” defined by English-speaking people. But he and people who have the same ojos rasgados are frequently nicknamed “Chino”.
    Mark, if we forbid people from referring to physical characteristics as US/UK values, we all become racists by calling Recoba warm-heatedly “Chino”.
    I decided to write an article to tell the difference between “slanted eyes” and “Occhi di Mandorla” (or “ojos rasgados”).
    English media never know how stupid and harmful they are. Most Italian and Argentinian media (which don’t have correspondents in China) got information from the article of Associated Press and they now believe that in China not only this gesture is offensive but also the Chinese are ashamed of having such eyes. It’s a world misunderstanding! If the world follows this misunderstanding, the compliments my daughter receives will become racist insults. Our pride of having typical oriental occhi di mandorla must become a shame.

    I wrote a first article trying to explain the language/cultural differences. My director told me that in his friend circle (so, yes, educated people circle) everyone was convinced by my version.
    However, the insults and cyber-violence went on, towards Lavezzi, towards the Football Association which didn’t punish him, and towards me. People made up rumors that I was paid by Hebei Fortune F.C, or my newspaper was bought, or I always had a salary from the club……
    Among the insults, someone wrote in quite moderate tone:
    “Even if there are some villains among the angry people, can you completely deny this national wakeup? You may define it as exaggerations by nationalism, but within the context of international conservative movement, to which extent are we wrong? How do you explain the fact that populism and nationalism are increasing in this world? Isn’t it a good bargain just to use the Lavezzi case to wake up the whole nation? ”
    This is complex. I decided to investigate more into the case and I found……
    Let me continue tomorrow.

    • Thanks to your story, it’s nice to read about it! I tried to contribute a little with my own ideas about it. I am pessimistic, I think the controversy will sprout again in the future, but anyway, this article will be here for all to read… keep on fighting!

  9. Part 3 Hay un sentido ser hispano
    My dear friends, today let’s begin our discussion from Brazil.
    See how Brazilians firmly defended Lavezzi. Brazilians, not Argentinians.
    The most recent comment is: some days from now they will forbid people to smile because it’s offensive to the toothless.
    The Brazilian newspaper/website O Globo made an independent report, not taking news from English media. They didn’t make the mistake of saying the gesture is offensive in China and they said the accusation was from the English journalist Mark Dreyer.
    This gesture is probably most frequently used by Brazilians. Ronaldo, Kaka, Robinho, Pato all demonstrated their “simpatia” to the Japanese in the same way. We can find their gestures in Japanese TV and Japanese were obviously pleased than offended.
    There are many Japanese immigrants across South America and they enjoy a high esteem there. They have integrated very well. In Brazil there is a famous half-Japanese TV host called Sabrina Sato. She is considered by many as a “perfect mixture”, curvy body, oriental facial contours and oriental eyes, tanned skin…..and Brazilian character, alegria, alegria!
    To see how Lavezzi’s gesture is regarded as “lovely” in Brazil, you may search on YouTube a song called “Lig Lig Lig Le” by the poet/musician Adriana Calcanhotto. It’s a children’s song that every single Brazilian kid knows.
    The singer made the gesture of Lavezzi on the stage, in front of thousands of kids. The song’s title is imitation of how in a newly-arrived Chinese immigrant spoke, and there are words like “Chinese only eats once per month and he doesn’t go to Shanghai to look for Butterfly”. At the end, the Chinese immigrant settled down in Brazil and “found his faith in love with a dark-haired girl”.
    According the political correctness that English media want to impose on the world, the song and the singer are for sure “racist”. But it’s not at all considered so in Brazil, it’s just lovely, because that’s the spirit of Brazilian racial integration—–welcome and celebrate the difference with the Latin-African alegria. I will for sure teach my daughter this song because it’s the best way for her to understand the curious part of human nature: we construct (deconstruct) myth around our differences and at the end all is for a big laugh.
    One may argue that it’s just Brazil. OK, just Brazil, just Argentina, just Latin America, just Spain, just Italy. We must also say: just China.
    Chinese love Latin people. We love them for what’s in common and what’s different between us. Just talking of celebrating physical characteristics, it’s something in common. Chinese fans collect nicknames of Argentinian players and they invent nicknames for them as well. Juan Martin Del Potro is called (monkey king) 大师兄, because he looks like the Monkey King in our famous TV series 西游记. We nickname Sergio Ramos 水爷 (water fellow) because he always has wet hairs by sweat. The “worst” is Max Allegri, we call him (ugly and poor uncle) 囧叔, just because his face looks like the Chinese word 囧. So it’s an insult? We don’t think so. Some fans even made big and comic poster of Allegri and he autographed it with a smile.
    These examples confirm that Chinese and Latin people can establish their own basis of communication without interference from US or UK. And they must do so. When people never associate physical differences to racism, it’s a very positive point to insist on, not to discriminate and ruin.
    The English media try to impose on the whole world their solution to the racial problems: hysteria and hypocrisy with political correctness. This is nothing more than continuation of colonialism, imperialism and white supremacy, disguised in name of globalization or globalized world. Behaving like this, they deny that other countries (like Brazil) can have even more peaceful and more successful racial integration model.
    White supremacy is wrong, not only because of the crimes it led to, but because it’s based on ignorance over other races. The English media are doing the same thing: they just impose their values, but they refuse to understand the difference, they defend their own ignorance, or their world-widely exclusive rights to be ignorant.
    If the UK/US anti-racism model works, how could they elect an Hispanophobic and Islamophobic guy to be the US president?
    Our English or American friends might have a reason to give, but if they do so, it’s double-standard, because they don’t allow Lavezzi or Latin America to give their own reason just for a lovely gesture.
    Around 6 months ago I read a big interview title on a Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias: “We should be proud that in Portugal there isn’t Islamophobia”. Isn’t there something for the world to explore, to study, to learn from? Certainly not, the anti-racist English media would forever forget about such existence, such social model, such mentality, such philosophy, such way of life which is not theirs. For the English media, Portugal has no more significance besides Cristiano Ronaldo, Mourinho, Ryanair destination, cheap vacations and Madeleine McCann.
    There is something premeditated, or at least with intention. By declaring Suarez, Spanish Basketball teams, Lavezzi (now they can also add some Brazilians) “racists”, English media are thus able to imply that “hispanos” “latinos” are rude, impolite people without education.
    Señoras y señores, hay un sentido ser hispano, said Antonio Banderas. English media lead wars against our existence. Time to give an answer, time to make a choice: in this world, do we need the UK/US arrogance hysteria and hypocrisy, or a little bit human wisdom?

    Looking back to the Chinese society, there has always been an admirable force that counterbalances the ignorance, extremist tendency, injustice or prejudice in the society. There are always people who write funny and interesting articles to convince the Chinese not to be ignorant, or not to go to extremes. Mark argues that millions of Chinese travelling abroad so they are learning more, it’s a pathetic cliché, a foolish idea that Chinese used to be ignorant, closed-minded and an expectation that now they are starting to travel and will finally get “modernized” as English world wants. Even during those most difficult years, Chinese have always been learning a lot. They just didn’t have the chance to express themselves.
    The Lavezzi photo was available since months and no Chinese journalist/editor said anything about it. For some it made no effect, for others just because they knew the world better than an average English journalist. But when it was posted and accused by an English journalist in social media, the situation changed.
    In many forums and weibos, you can find people quote Mark saying “in most of the West” it’s racist, or the other English guy GzFuligans (he says: it’s not acceptable in Europe).
    A basic problem in China is that a “minority” can be tens of millions in number and many ignorant people think “the West” is one country named waiguo, and “laowais” have the same nationality. Any small social movement can seem to be a big event.
    So, for numerous ignorant Chinese, if two laowais said it was racism, it must be racism. Too bad we didn’t know! Our journalists were national traitors! Anger soon spread around. And this time more violent than ever. They started insulting journalists for keeping silent (before I got involved, at least two famous journalists, Xu Jiang and Zhao Zhen, were already in war with the attackers). The attackers used Mark and GzFuligans’s words to argue: Most Europeans say it’s racist, just most Chinese don’t think so—-Let me not repeat the dirty and violent things they said in Chinese to us.
    It’s not astonishing that the ultranationalists took active part in insulting Lavezzi and those who defended him. However, it was a surprise that the incident became a war between different club fans. More than 30% of insults I got were from football fans. Fans of Jiangsu Suning, Guangzhou Evergrande, Guangzhou Fuli were among the most violent groups. They invented stories that Lavezzi was racist towards his African teammate, or I had a salary from Hebei Fortune F.C., etc.
    This is exactly the “globalized world” Mark talks about. GzFuligans (it means Guangzhou Fuli Hooligans) is obviously an English guy without big knowledge about culture, history, etc. But he could influence a lot of people, using his identity of Westerner and Chinese team fan-club member.
    When I joined the debate on Twitter, I immediately found GzFuligans a weak and stupid rival. He kept on saying “it’s racism”, he insulted me, and nothing else, typical British childishness/ignorance/arrogance in front of cultural/international differences. I immediately thought of Nigel Farage who screamed in European Parlament for the Brexit bill, “we just want to go home! We just want to go home! Why we can’t go home? Why we can’t go home?”
    It’s funny that later GzFuligans deleted all his comments. But this is again a demonstration of hypocrisy. The Spanish basketball teams apologized just because English media didn’t like it. They were decent and sincere people. The same from Lavezzi.
    But anyone of our English friends would ever apologize for their wrong accusation that harmed not only Lavezzi but also Chinese people in the following aspects?
    -incited ultranationalism
    -incited cyberbullying
    -created deep misunderstanding between China and Latin countries
    -made some Chinese believe that in front of all Westerners they must ashamed for their “small and ugly” oriental eyes

    • Thanks for the story again… I didn’t actually realize the controversy became so big in China, It was important to me personally but I din’t reach so many places and clubs and journalists.

      We only can expect that the next time this kind of false «Chinese offended» story starts again, we have arguments against it. Sometimes I may fall in the mistake, I could think that Chinese are angry about something that actually just makes me or Spanish angry, but I will try to be careful on this.

      This kind of problem would have a better way to solve if China makes surveys more often, in that way we could see a little more what’s China public opinion in every matter. Sometimes it’s too difficult what’s general opinion in China about many topics.

  10. Just as a curiosity, all this controversy remind me when I was young and in Euro 96 Spain and England palyed together at the quarterfinals (England won, Spain played better). In the previous days, British tabloids like Daily Mirror made a lot of jokes about Spain, which offended a little Spanish, like this one:

    «Why do Spanish man grow moustaches? To Look like their mothers»

    You have the complete scan of that articles (in a joking style, fair to say) here:

    (And finally, after more than one year, a post reaches finally the 20 comment mark… hooray!)

    Hi, Antonio, there is a small survey at the end of this article. You can make a click and you will see the result.
    It was written by a columnist from and his readership is not only football fans. He can only read in English but his point of view is quite neutral and his main idea is that this should not be defined as racism.
    It’s also interesting to read the comments to articles like this. It’s so easy to see that the angry people are so rude and without education, whereas people who don’t think it’s racism behave very calmly and speak in moderate tones. So, it’s NOT «Chinese are opening up their mind to know it’s racism». If one day most Chinese think it’s racism, we might be already in the hell of extremism.

    • I’d say a few comments to the above, in no particular order:

      1. I think it’s in an exaggeration to say that this controversy exploded in either Chinese media or in English-language media. Yes, it was a bit of a story for a few days, but not even vaguely close to some of the other stories with national elements we see here (eg Japan, South Korea, South China Sea etc).

      2. Thanks, again, for the «credit» for stoking the controversy, but I’m simply posted the picture on Twitter with a short comment which implied what I thought about it. I wasn’t the first to post the picture (you can search on Twitter and check the time stamps), nor the last. I don’t consider myself a judge of morality, but I did think the picture was newsworthy to some extent, and I do think I am entitled to express an opinion.

      3. Respectfully, Alain, while I can see your point, I largely disagree with it for reasons that have been stated over and over again. I would simply ask that you are equally respectful and acknowledge that it is possible to disagree on this issue, without having to somehow «win» the argument and declare victory on social media. I understand that you are passionate about this issue – and I applaud you for that – but I don’t think it’s helpful to regularly use words like «insane», «foolish», «pathetic» etc. In my experience, that sort of language is not going to convince the other side to your way of thinking. It is only likely to lead to more entrenched views, as we see in the US political debate right now, which leads to a shut down of debate.

      4. I am not Asian. Perhaps that does not, in your mind, give me the right to an opinion on whether or not this is/was offensive to Asians. But among the many responses I received unprompted, here are four from Chinese people:
      -«Great effort. Well done!» [Professor]
      -«Good one calling Lavezzi out» [Journalist]
      -«Lavezzi is a damn fool! I don’t think he means it, but he is so ignorant.» [Journalist]
      -«This is incredible and shows how little and ignorant our people are when it comes to racism against Asians who are always the least vocal race in the world.» [CFA employee]

      Now, of course, you disagree with me and them. That’s fine. I respect their opinions, just as I respect yours. But I think people are still entitled to express their own opinions. That way leads to more productive discussions and leads to fewer cross-cultural misunderstandings.

  12. Dear Mark,
    -Very strange that you enjoy compliments and thanks on one hand, well done, great effort, and on the other hand you don’t want to enjoy the credit of stoking the controversy, by saying Most of the West or joined by your compatriot GzFuligans’ «In Europe it’s not acceptable», two phrases that became bible for people who attacked Lavezzi. I am glad that you say it’s controversy. It’s already something for you to recognize.
    -Nice to see that there is a CFA official who has different opinion from the Discipline Committee or other officials. The CFA at least dealt the problem without English interference or just-speak-some-English Chinese. They consulted people who knew Latin America as my director did and they didn’t accept the racism definition. To applaud.
    -Your request of «respect» to others’ opinion is indispensable in general lines of all kinds of debates, but it’s very dangerous when our discussion has arrived at this stage. It is a definitive refusal to understand the rest of the world if not English value. This demonstrates that you are totally in the lack of intercultural sensibility, a BASIC value for global-mindedness. When I accuse somebody for cultural difference that I don’t know, I feel embarassed immediately and I am obliged to say sorry. You are never sorry for being a serious ignorant of the Latin world, of the human touch that has naturally existed between Latin countries and China. This is the typical British arrogance/ignorance/snobbishness, or the En-ignorance as i named. I won’t respect anyone’s ignorance or arrogance, no matter in which different opinion it’s disguised.
    -Sorry my tone is quite harsh, but it’s because you don’t know or refuse to know the true damage. Me too, I was a victim of cyberbullying and ultranationalism for Lavezzi, as Lavezzi.

  13. See the examples in Part 1 and Antonio’s Daily Mirror joke. When it’s racism practiced by British or their customer, they never say it’s racism.
    As victim, do I have to respect British Embassy’s opinion that Ron Atkinson has his freedom of speech?
    Do I have to accept that a racial disdain expressed in «moderate tone» isn’t racism?
    I repeat: refusal to understand cultural differences is racism in its basis and in its depth.

    • It’s honest to say that almost nobody in Spain remembers that ’96 controversy, at that time Spanish newspapers (specially the sports media) critiziced a lot but time made us forgive and forget.

      And specially in days like this, with such terrible events in Britain, one can only feel sad about what’s happening there, putting aside this discussions… Moreover, I have relatives living in London, so I feel kind of at home there too 🙂

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