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French comic’s ‘Yellow Peril’ cover upsets Chinese paper

Fluide Glacial
4 min

A Chinese newspaper with close ties to the regime has condemned the “indecent” cover of a French magazine in the latest clash involving France’s cherished satirical press.


The cover of Fluide Glacial, a monthly comic book, features a cartoon under the headline “Yellow Peril; is it already too late?”

The comic strip, set in a visibly Chinese-dominated Paris, portrays a miserable looking Frenchman pulling a rickshaw with a Chinese passenger seated next to an adoring blonde.

Coined in the late 19th century, the racist term “Yellow Peril” refers to the theory that Asian peoples represent a threat to the West. It was first associated with Chinese labourers, and then applied to the Japanese during World War II.

More recently, it has been used by humourists to mock fears of an onslaught of immigrants – but, as is often the case, the irony is easily lost in translation or when taken out of context.

In this case, Fluide Glacial’s aim was to ridicule French clichés about the Chinese, but the irony was lost on many in China.

Following Charlie Hebdo

The Global Times, a Chinese daily with close links to the ruling Communist Party, has slammed the cover’s “indecency” in an editorial headlined “Free speech mania may intensify clashes”.

The February 2015 issue of Fluide Glacial mocking the supposed "Yellow peril" threatening France.
The February 2015 issue of Fluide Glacial mocking the supposed "Yellow peril" threatening France.

“The magazine possibly attempted to gain worldwide attention by following the example Charlie Hebdo set,” the article reads, referring to the French satirical weekly whose Paris offices were stormed in a deadly rampage by Islamist gunmen on January 7.

Twelve people died in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Among them were some of France’s best-known cartoonists, the scions of a cherished tradition of caricatures that goes back to the French Revolution.

Their murderers, who were later shot dead by police, said they were motivated by the magazine’s cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s holiest figure, which they considered blasphemous.

The brutal killings prompted an outpouring of solidarity in France and abroad, with huge crowds, media organisations and many state leaders around the world rallying in defence of free speech.

But the decision by Charlie Hebdo’s surviving staff to publish a new cartoon of the prophet just days after the terrorist attack has triggered a backlash, with violent protests erupting in many Muslim countries, where demonstrators burned French flags and effigies of President François Hollande.

‘Holy war’

In its editorial, the Global Times warned of the risk of a “holy war”, with “France's freedom of speech and Islam's freedom of faith (…) now in sharp confrontation”.

While professing to defend free speech, the Chinese daily adds: “What's advised now is that French society needs to restrain itself from portraying the prophet and prevent a pursuit of free expression from turning into a religion.”

Claiming that it is “more difficult for Muslims to change their faith than for Europe to adjust its understanding of free speech”, the Global Times urges France and fellow Europeans to “back off somewhat”.

Far from heading the advice, Fluide Glacial’s chief editor Yan Lindingre has reacted to the controversy with characteristic sarcasm.

Addressing the Chinese newspaper in an op-ed published by French weekly L’Obs, Lindingre wrote: “I have just ordered an extra billion copies printed and will send them to you via a chartered flight. This will help us balance our trade deficit and give you a good laugh.”

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