No matter how much time passes and how close we have become with China, discrimination against people of Chinese origin in Argentina can be clearly seen in some local media. It is striking how certain journalistic products continue to appeal to negative stereotypes to “humorously” portray the Chinese community living in the country.

One of the most striking cases occurs in El Destape Web, an online media outlet with a wide reach in Argentina at the audience level. He has almost 700 thousand followers on IG, almost 600 thousand on Twitter and his shows broadcast via streaming are followed from many points in Argentina and beyond. Without a doubt, it is one of the online media with the most influence and popularity on the internet, which in 2021 entered the Top 5 of the most read digital media in Argentina.

In one of the channel’s most watched programs, “Navarro 2027”, which is broadcast in the morning in prime time, and hosted by the founder and CEO of El Destape, Roberto Navarro, there is a case that generates some confusion. Several times a week, in a block dedicated to humor, the host talks with a fictional character, Mi Jean Lee, composed by the talented comedian Agustín López Núñez, who is much more offensive than funny. And this is not just the opinion of the writer: in conversation with Alejandra Conconi, executive director of the Argentine China Chamber, which brings together both Chinese and Argentine companies, we learned that she shares this view.

Speaking about the presentation of the character, Mi Jean Lee is a Chinese supermarket, an area in which a large part of that country’s community in Argentina is involved. Lee is represented through a frozen, fixed image and can be seen as an aesthetically shocking, unprepared, out of place person.

Several times a week, in a block dedicated to humor, the host talks with a fictional character, Mi Jean Lee, composed by the talented comedian Agustín López Núñez, who is much more offensive than funny.

The imitation of the way of speaking that Chinese migrants have, many of them with difficulties in learning to speak Spanish fluently (as once happened with European migrants), and as sometimes happens to the locals themselves, is also offensive. , and at times, embarrassing. Let’s say that the character is taken to a high level of grotesque in all its aspects.

Likewise, it is generally implied that the Chinese merchant does anything for money, is selfish, malicious, avoids compliance with rules and laws, is clever in developing dark businesses, etc. At times, the character also “pretends not to understand” the instructions and comments made to him by the host and other panelists, deceiving them about what he really understands about the Spanish language for his own benefit. That is to say, the character summarizes a number of negative stereotypes about the Chinese community that, with these efforts to continue promoting them in local imagery, will be difficult to eradicate.

The character appears during the programming of El Destape Web.

Alejandra Conconi, executive director of the Argentine-Chinese Chamber, who is also an anthropologist, commented at the beginning of our conversation that: “From the Chamber we see with great concern these ways of representing people of Chinese origin and any other individual, no matter their profile. cultural. This is not an excess of political correctness on our part: rather we see a discriminatory practice that is masked through humor, in theory, but what we see is more similar to mockery and a form of underestimation.”

From his position, Conconi has offered countless intercultural talks to members of Chinese companies with projects in Argentina to improve their adaptation to living and working in Argentina. She is a specialist who has been related to Chinese companies and the community of that country in Argentina for more than 20 years, who lived in China to do postgraduate studies.

And of course, as he stated, the issue of discrimination is present among the contents he develops in those talks: “Happily, although it exists, we understand that Argentina is not a country where discrimination reaches the levels that can be seen in other nations, where after the Covid-19 pandemic many people of Chinese, and Eastern descent in general, were even physically attacked. In our country, the Chinese community is very integrated with the Argentine community, which is made up of people of all origins and cultures. If you remember, in the celebrations for the 2022 World Championship, many Chinese were seen excited, waving the light blue and white flag as if it were their own.”

“But the media and social networks are echo chambers that have an effect on the statements of public officials, on public opinion and on the sayings that are promoted about China,” he maintains.

“On the one hand, we must understand that China is the fourth migratory force in our country, providing great value to Argentina. Many of them have children born here, who are Argentine. So, promoting this type of mocking representations from the media validates them socially, as well as encourages them to be imitated, and encourages a type of dialogue in which these forms of mockery are allowed,” he emphasizes.

Conconi has offered countless intercultural talks to members of Chinese companies with projects in Argentina to improve their adaptation to living and working in Argentina.

On the other hand, the specialist comments that at this moment a smear campaign against China is being observed, “in which we must ask why two countries separated by thousands of kilometers came to have so much cooperation, and this is because of the force of the free market, of business, which has led many companies to buy products manufactured there and the Chinese to buy from us.”

To illustrate the importance of the Asian giant in the Argentine economy, Conconi highlights that 79% of the meat in the months of January and February of this year was destined for China: “All this solidity must be protected. And this is not only in the face of these types of devices that are supposedly humorous but are reproducing a type of imagery that is not real, that is offensive, that ridicules.”

Of course, Chinese supermarkets can be portrayed in many ways. The one that Uncover Web chooses is one. But as a group, Chinese supermarkets are no longer the incipient organization that was born in the late 1990s and grew strongly since the 2001 crisis due to the arrival of thousands of migrants, especially from the southern province of Fujian, who knew little about the country in South America to which they had just arrived. Regarding those years, Conconi brings up the work “El Nudo” by journalist Carlos Pagni, “a highly recommended book, which tells how Chinese supermarkets were then targets of looting and physical attacks and how they had to defend each other to to be able to save oneself.”

Alejandra Conconi Executive Director of the Argentine Chinese Chamber

All that changed. Today its authority in the Food and Retail sector is undeniable: according to data from the Federation of Commerce and Services Employees (FAECYS), Chinese outlets represent 54% of the total self-service stores in Argentina, while it is estimated that There are 10,788 supermarkets managed by people of Chinese origin throughout Argentine territory.

These are entrepreneurs who are currently diversifying their business cores, turning towards sectors such as real estate, agribusiness, logistics, wines and wineries, tourism, and who are also a link for the development of projects between both countries.

As Conconi establishes, between both countries there are many personal experiences of success, beyond the barriers imposed by languages: “Behind business and collaborations there is a dialogue that is free of prejudices, biases, and that above all is enriching. . “It particularly allows me to expand my horizons and my possibilities of understanding what the power of the human being can achieve, and the things we can achieve together.”

Finally, the executive director of the Chamber suggests not clinging to preconceptions and instead appreciating the opportunities that the Chinese as a culture represent: “I admire and constantly learn from their resilience, their capacity for reinvention, which is a very Chinese characteristic. , and its flexibility to adapt to contexts. I also learn from its economic growth, which, multiplied in millions of cases, has made China what it is today: the second power in the world. I believe that China is also a learning opportunity for us, individually and as a nation.”

Co-founder of ReporteAsia.


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