Compared to everything else in the news, the weather is always more difficult to report because numbers and statistics never convey the human experience of it. And with a heat wave currently attacking the country, Chinese news organizations are finding the best way to describe the unbearable heat to their readers is to report local weather conditions are responsible for giving an African man a tan.

Yesterday, the Hebei China Fortune Football Club posted a photo of star player Stephane M'Bia to their official Weibo micro-blogging account in which M'Bia is seen acting with dismay as he reveals a tan line on his arm. The team said M'Bia — who is from Africa, according to the post — refused the offer to use sunscreen lotion during practice when temperatures reportedly hit 42.5 degrees Celsius.

The off-color joke quickly went viral, and eventually reached China Daily who posted the following:

High temperature on the attack! Little African brother, I've been sunburnt black!
The dog days of summer have arrived (according to the Lunar calendar), a heat wave has swept into many cities across China, and fiery heat maps of the country are peppered in colors of red and purple. Just how hot is it? A little brother from Africa says: I've unexpectedly been sunburnt black! He is by far not the first black little brother who has been darkened by the sun. China has been so cooked by the sun, foreign players originating from Africa have been sunburnt black! I have a beautiful dream; I want to plant the sun once I grow up. Ready, everyone... and sing! Beijing: 37 degrees Celsius, hot enough to turn us into barbecue duck.

Other Chinese news organizations equally amazed that an African man received a suntan include Headline News, Sina News, Global Times, and even China Weather.

To keep with the media frenzy over this story, Hebei China Fortune provided updates to this breaking news item. They then posted a photo comparison of M'Bia with another teammate displaying a tanline with the caption "You can now say we are brothers" before posting a video of M'Bia covering himself with copious amounts of sunscreen while dancing.

China Fortune player Ding Haijun told the first joke in what would prove to be a running gag about black humor, saying: "So, it turns out that you can be blackened" before Chinese netizens joined in. Recurring comments include "a black person has been burned black" and "if a black person can be sunburned black, then I don't have any regrets."

China's obsession with Africans during the summer has been a recurring theme on the Mainland.

In 2015, an international student from Kenya made headlines when he admitted he'd rather go back to Africa than endure Fuzhou's unbearable summer (shown below):

The same summer saw this same story repeated a number of times, like in this Chongqing front page:

There's been a number of these "Africans too fragile for China's summer," but they all seem to originate from this 2011 story from Wuhan:

Skin color remains a defining feature of social class in China. Young women in the cities use umbrellas during this sweltering season to avoid getting a dark complexion, something viewed as a negative trait associated with manual laborers and China's uncultured rural masses.

These feelings may linger when dealing with a poorly represented people in China. Unless they're seen in Guangzhou's diminishing Chocolate City, Africans and African-Americans are only visible in China on its championships basketball and soccer teams or performing on variety shows. Due to this lack of representation and cultural misunderstandings, some people may have it stuck in their heads that Africa must be the hottest place on Earth.

READ: Crossing the Border: When Does Culture Shock Become Racism?

Chinese media have been next to unrepentent about the country's antiquated views towards race. In the wake of the Qiaobi laundry commercial meltdown, Global Times insisted "racism in not an innate problem" in China because it never engaged in the slave trade.

But, as the Chinese media lack the ability to convey just how hot it is, Africans remain China's go-to metaphor, emphasizing that the differences between us are in fact skin deep.

More stories from this author here.

Twitter: @Sinopath 

Images: qqtn, sinmeg, 7edown


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