In many cases, mainland Chinese show great admiration for foreign (i.e. non-Chinese) things, including foreign products and faces. In mainland China, foreign products are often instinctively perceived as having better characteristics (e.g. superior quality, greater brand recognition, etc.) in comparison to similar domestically-produced Chinese products.
Foreign people, especially those from Western countries who are Caucasian, seem to hold a special, elevated position in Chinese eyes, and so are featured prominently in Chinese advertising. Given the increased popularity of Korean television programs in China, Korean actors and models are also gaining popularity and prominence in Chinese advertising.
Product advertisements and packaging in China often feature images of young or elderly, white foreigners using (e.g. wearing, drinking, riding) domestic or allegedly foreign brands that upon closer inspection are identified as designed and produced specifically for domestic Chinese consumption.
National mainland Chinese clothing, electronics, and medicinal ads have prominently featured Western actors to promote products aimed specifically at the non-Western mainland Chinese consumer market. In these advertisements, these Western actors commonly engage in stereotypically Western activities such as giving a “thumbs up” sign or shaking hands after signing a seemingly important business contract.
Westerns in these ads may also engage in traditional Chinese postures or use common Chinese body language.
In addition to print ads and product packaging featuring Western faces and settings, television commercials often use Western models or personalities to pitch both domestic and foreign brands to Chinese consumers.
This category of television advertisements utilizes six separate “types” of foreigners:
1. The non-speaking foreigner.
2. The foreigner who speaks his/her own native language.
3. The foreigner who is overdubbed in Mandarin Chinese.
4. The foreigner who speaks basic, passable, standard Mandarin Chinese.
5. The foreigner who speaks (what seems to be deliberately) choppy, strained, non-tonally conscious Mandarin Chinese.
6. The foreigner who speaks authentic, tonal Mandarin Chinese that is non-discernible from the Mandarin spoken by a native speaker.
Many of the foreign participants in Chinese advertisements (as well as television shows) are not professional actors, spokespersons, or experts in the field in which they lend their support or endorsements. Foreign students studying Mandarin or other coursework in China are likely to be approached and asked to participate in advertising, modeling, or other work in which they may have no previous work experience or background.
Featuring foreigners in Chinese advertisements that are aimed at the mainland Chinese market plays on the mainland Chinese perception of themselves, their credibility, and their status vis-à-vis their foreign (i.e. non-Chinese) counterparts.