China ordered a nationwide review of school textbooks after illustrations deemed ugly, sexually suggestive and secretly pro-American caused public uproar.
The drawings, found in a series of math textbooks that have been used by Chinese primary schools for nearly a decade, are controversial for various reasons.
Some Chinese internet users have criticized the pictures of children with small, drooping, wide-set eyes and big foreheads as ugly, offensive and racist.
Others have been outraged by what they see as sexual connotations in the drawings. Some of the pictures show little boys with a bulge in their pants that looks like the outline of their genitals; in one illustration of children playing a game, one boy has his hands on a girl’s chest while another pulls a girl’s skirt; in another drawing, a girl’s underwear is exposed as she jumps rope.
Internet users have also accused the illustrations of being “pro-United States,” because they show several children wearing clothes patterned with stars and stripes and in the colors of the American flag.
Outrage over the illustrations has dominated Chinese social media discussions since Thursday, when photos of the drawings first circulated online. Several related hashtags have racked up tens of millions of views on Weibo
Many expressed shock and anger that such “substandard” illustrations had not only made it into textbooks published by the state-owned People’s Education Press, the country’s biggest textbook publisher founded in 1950, but had gone unnoticed for so many years. The textbooks have been in use nationwide since 2013.
Amid the uproar, the People’s Education Press said it was recalling the textbooks and would redesign the illustrations — but that failed to quell the public’s anger.