‘We Must Wake Up!

Source: China Media Project (9/20/22)
“We Must Wake Up!”
The fatal crash of a quarantine transport bus in Guizhou province over the weekend has galvanized anger over China’s Covid policies. One private post from a well-known journalist yesterday was shared widely on social media before being deleted. It spoke of 1.3 billion Chinese held “in bondage” over irrational fears of contagion.
By David Bandurski

An image widely shared on China’s internet shows the quarantine transport bus in Guizhou on the night of the fatal accident, the driver in full hazmat gear.

As anger flared across Chinese social media yesterday following the deadly crash in Guizhou of a passenger bus transferring positive Covid cases, Gao Yu (高昱), the deputy executive editor and head of investigations at Caixin Media, posted a reflection on the tragedy to his WeChat friend group that was subsequently shared outside the chat.

In his post, Gao urged an end to China’s zero Covid policy, which he argued was unscientific, pursued out of unnecessary fear, and out of step with the rest of the world. “We must wake up! We must return to normalcy!” he wrote. Continue reading

Deadly crash triggers Covid trauma

Source: NYT (9/21/22)
‘We’re on That Bus, Too’: In China, a Deadly Crash Triggers Covid Trauma
A bus heading to a quarantine facility crashed, killing 27. The Chinese public saw themselves in the victims: a country being held hostage by the government’s harsh policy.
By Li Yuan

Waiting in line for a routine Covid test in Beijing. China has faced nearly three years of constant lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines under its “zero Covid” policy.

Waiting in line for a routine Covid test in Beijing. China has faced nearly three years of constant lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines under its “zero Covid” policy. Credit…Andy Wong/Associated Press

After a bus accident killed at least 27 people being transferred to a Covid quarantine facility on Sunday, the Chinese public staged a widespread online protest against the government’s harsh pandemic policy.

It was a moment of collective grief and anger, with a heavy dose of shame, guilt and despair. After nearly three years of constant lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines, people asked how they could give the government the power to deprive them of their dignity, livelihood, mental health and even life; how they could fail to protect their loved ones from the “zero Covid” autocracy; and how long the craziness would last.

They quoted a 1940 poem by Bertolt Brecht, the German poet and playwright.

This is the year which people will talk about.
This is the year which people will be silent about.
The old see the young die.
The foolish see the wise die.

They shared on social media an old article with the headline, “Evil is prevalent because we obey unconditionally.”

They asked themselves, “What can I do so I will not end up on that bus?” Continue reading

New viral game that WeChat is going bonkers over

Source: The China Project (9/16/22)
Sheep a Sheep is the new viral game that WeChat is going bonkers over
A nearly impossible mobile game that only took a team of three to make is making millions of people in China lose their minds.
By Zhao Yuanyuan

Sheep a Sheep

Remember Jump and Jump (跳一跳 tiàoyītiào)? The one-touch mini game within the Chinese ubiquitous social app WeChat that was a cultural phenomenon in 2018? Neither do we. Because now there’s a new mobile game that has taken China by storm, one satisfying tile merge at a time.

Enter yánglegèyáng 羊了个羊, which, loosely translated into English, means “Sheep a Sheep.” Accessed via WeChat’s mini program platform, the ridiculously addictive game was released in early September, but it wasn’t until this week that its popularity exploded. As of this morning, Sheep a Sheep has amassed over 60 million players. For comparison, Genshin Impact (原神 yuánshén), the popular action role-playing game that was developed and published by Shanghai-based developer miHoYo in September 2020, currently enjoys an international player base of approximately 60 million users, a number that Sheep a Sheep achieved in just a few weeks.

Elsewhere on the Chinese internet, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the game. On Weibo, Sheep a Sheep has spurred nearly 20 trending hashtags, with the most popular one generating more than 2.6 billion views. On short-video app Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese twin, videos about the title have racked up north of 3.7 billion plays. At multiple points in the past few days, the game crashed as it was overwhelmed by an excessive number of players. Continue reading

Sisters Who Make Waves

Source: The China Project (9/7/22)
Same-sex ‘ships’ on the summer’s hottest talent show in China
By Nathan Wei

‘Shipping,’ a once-niche fan fiction practice of pairing two celebrities or fictional characters in a romantic relationship, has become something of a national pastime in China this summer, thanks to a popular reality show with an all-female cast.

As one of the most talked-about talent shows in Chinese television this summer, the recently finished Sisters Who Make Waves, Season 3 (乘风破浪的姐姐) has gained popularity among both women and LGBTQ audiences for weaving feminist and queer themes into performances. This is a defiant feat in an age where China has greatly stepped up its censorship of LGBTQ content on screens large and small.

Produced by Mango TV, a video-streaming site under the Hunan Broadcasting System, the show features 30 female celebrities competing against one another and fighting for a position in an all-women band to be formed at the final. While its format is nothing new, Sisters invites only contestants who are above the age of 30 and have established their careers in respective fields. However, while on the show, they were assigned new challenges that required skills beyond their expertise. Famous singers were asked to learn K-pop choreography, while veteran actors were made to sing onstage. With this novel perspective, the show branded itself as focusing on all-age women’s self-exploration and growth.

When the first season of Sisters came out in 2020, the show received many positive reviews from female audiences who praised it for being refreshing, empowering, and carrying an implicit feminist message. Many considered its cast of middle-aged female stars as diverging from the conventional preference for younger women in the entertainment industry. Its showing of competitors’ mutual support during training sessions was also praised as encouraging the idea of “girls help girls” and challenging the stereotypical display of fights between women that prevails in reality television. Continue reading

Gen Z tries on Communist cadre look

Source: NYT (9/7/22)
So Square It’s Hip: ​​Gen Z Tries on the Communist Cadre Look
Why are some Chinese youth dressing like middle-aged civil servants? It might be ironic, or a longing for stability in uncertain times.
By Joy Dong

President Xi Jinping in his trademark blue jacket with oversize trousers during a July visit to Urumqi, China. The understated look has become surprisingly popular with some younger Chinese.

President Xi Jinping in his trademark blue jacket with oversize trousers during a July visit to Urumqi, China. The understated look has become surprisingly popular with some younger Chinese. Credit…Li Xueren/Xinhua, via Associated Press

A dull blue jacket, oversize trousers, a Communist Party member pin adding a splash of red on the chest, a small briefcase in hand. It’s the typical dress of the typical Chinese official, and has long been the very opposite of the look that many young Chinese strive for.

But now the cadre look is cool.

On Chinese social media platforms where trendsetters trade fashion tips, young people — mostly men — have been sharing pictures of themselves dressed like their strait-laced, middle-aged dads working in Communist Party offices. They call the trend “ting ju feng,” or “office and bureau style” — meaning the working wear of a typical mid-rank bureaucrat.

The paragon of this determinedly dull look is China’s top leader, Xi Jinping. He is highly likely to win another five years in power in October, when about 2,300 delegates gather for a Communist Party congress in Beijing. Many of those officials will be wearing Western-style suits and ties for that special occasion. Back at the office, though, countless officials now sport the dark blue wind jacket favored by Mr. Xi. Continue reading

WeChat warns users their info is being sent to China

Source: Radio Free Asia (9/8/22)
WeChat warns users their likes, comments and histories are being sent to China
The message is sent to users overseas, despite claims that a separate, ‘international’ version of the app exists.
By Yitong Wu and Chingman for RFA Cantonese

WeChat warns users their likes, comments and histories are being sent to China

The WeChat app is seen on a smartphone in a file photo. Reuters

The Chinese social media platform WeChat is warning users outside China that their data will be stored on servers inside the country, RFA has learned.

A number of overseas WeChat users received a notification on Sept. 6, warning that “personal data [including] likes, comments, browsing and search history, content uploads, etc. “will be transmitted to China.”

The notification also reminds users that their behavior while using the app is subject to WeChat’s licensing agreement and privacy policy.

A YouTuber living in France who gave only the pseudonym Miss Crook said she was shocked to receive a French translation of the same message.

“I clicked through and … this message popped up, so I automatically clicked cancel,” she said. “It’s becoming clear what the difference is between a democracy and a dictatorship.” Continue reading

Women in China become ‘invisible and absent’

Source: NYT (9/6/22)
Battling Violence and Censors, Women in China Become ‘Invisible and Absent’
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The Chinese Communist Party has long promoted gender equality as a core tenet, but as cases of gender abuse make headlines, Beijing has tried to squelch dissent and control the narrative.
By Alexandra Stevenson and Zixu Wang

Government censors tamped down support for Zhou Xiaoxuan, a woman in China who accused a famous TV anchor of sexual harassment.

Government censors tamped down support for Zhou Xiaoxuan, a woman in China who accused a famous TV anchor of sexual harassment. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

HONG KONG — When a prominent woman in China’s #MeToo movement took on a powerful man in court, it was the accused, not the accuser, who was held up as the victim. When several women were savagely beaten by men after resisting unwanted advances in a restaurant, the focus of the story pivoted from gender violence to gang violence. And when a mother of eight was found chained to the wall of a doorless shack, it was her mental fitness — not her imprisonment — that became the talking point.

Each incident went viral online in China, initially touching off a wave of outrage over violence against women. But in every case, the conversation was quickly censored to minimize the ways in which women had been abused.

China’s Communist Party has long promoted gender equality as one of its core tenets, yet as such cases continue to make national headlines, Beijing has done little to address calls for accountability. Fearing social unrest, the party has instead used social media censors to stifle criticism and amplify comments that support the government’s preferred narrative of social harmony.

When a story becomes popular online, the party’s propaganda department will send guidelines to managers at large social media companies for how to handle the topic, said King-wa Fu, a professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Center of the University of Hong Kong. Censors then remove popular comments or accounts that voice opinions that stray too far from the party line. Continue reading

China’s quiet fury over Xinjiang

Source: China Media Project (9/2/22)
China’s Quiet Fury Over Xinjiang
We have been told that China is furious over the UN report on human rights in Xinjiang. But the revealing fact is that so far Chinese media have spoken only to the rest of the world — and virtually zero mention of the report can be found inside the country.
By David Bandurski

Wang Wenbin

The release from the UN Human Rights Office on Wednesday of a report pointing to “serious human rights violations” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region came with the Chinese government’s anger baked right in. A state response shared by the UN in its release said the report “wantonly smears and slanders China, and interferes in China’s internal affairs.”

China vented its fury again yesterday during a regular foreign ministry press conference. Asked what steps the government would take to address the concerns raised by the UN, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin waved the report off as a “so-called assessment,” alleging that it had been “orchestrated and produced by the US and some Western forces.” Its real objective, he said repeatedly, was to “contain China.”

Reacting to the response, international media outlets made fury a part of the story. China had “lashed out,” reported the Washington Post. France24 spoke of China’s “furious riposte.” And an Associated Press story shared on scores of sites had everyone asking: “Why is China so angry?”

But perhaps the most revealing fact to note today, 48 hours after the release of the Xinjiang report, is that there has been almost no reporting at all inside China. If the external messaging of the China’s leadership has been all about pique, its internal messaging has been about creating a vacuum. Continue reading

Erasing China’s feminist movement

Another article on sexual violence in China, and again it astonishes — for two reasons: First the awfulness of the endemic violence against women, and of the way the regime fails to respond, no doubt to protect itself in its cocoon of enforced silence. Secondly, the utter absence in the article, of even a hint that a massive, systematic, government-directed violent campaign hurting and humiliating millions of women in ethnic minorities, is going on at the very same time, at the other end of the country. Not sure if the Chinese feminists are afraid to mention the elephant in the room, perhaps restricting their reactions only to majority Han Chinese situation, or if the explanation is that even the feminists really are also swept up in the same rabid ethno-nationalism and racism that drives the Xinjiang genocide.–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: The New Yorker (8/29/22)
The Censorship Machine Erasing China’s Feminist Movement
This summer, a viral video of a group of women being viciously attacked in a restaurant sparked national outrage. The response has been quashed.

In June, a thirty-one-year-old woman named Wang was eating with three female friends at a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, about a hundred miles east of Beijing. It was late at night. At around 2:40 a.m., a man came up and put his hand on Wang’s back. She pushed it away and protested, loudly: “What are you doing? What’s wrong with you?” He reached for her face and she pushed him away again. “Get lost,” she said. Then the man slapped her. A struggle ensued. Wang was about to fall off her chair when one of her friends picked up a beer bottle and hit the attacker. Several men rushed over to the table. One of them held Wang by her hair and dragged her into the street. The group stomped on and struck her repeatedly. Wang, whose white short-sleeved shirt was covered in blood, begged for them to stop. One of her friends tried to rescue her, and was pushed to the ground. Her head hit the pavement, making a heavy noise. Other patrons at the restaurant looked on, stunned. Some were crying and one started to vomit. In a corner, a woman tried to intervene but was held back by her companion. Continue reading

Tech self-reliance runs into reality

Source: NYT (8/29/22)
Xi Jinping’s Vision for Tech Self-Reliance in China Runs Into Reality
After heavy national investment in semiconductors to break a dependence on global chips, Mr. Xi seems unhappy with the results.
By Li Yuan

Credit…Xinmei Liu

Wearing a laboratory coat, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, inspected a subsidiary of Yangtze Memory Technologies Company, a national semiconductor company based in Wuhan. It was April 2018, shortly after the U.S. government had barred the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE from doing business with American suppliers.

The ban was a Sputnik moment for China’s tech industry and its leaders. Despite the country’s success in building smartphones, e-commerce platforms and high-speed railways, they realized that tech boom had been built largely on top of Western technologies, especially chips that power nearly everything. They had to change that — and fast.

Mr. Xi told the executives of Yangtze Memory, or YMTC, that semiconductors were as important for manufacturing as hearts for humans. “When your heart isn’t strong, no matter how big you are, you’re not really strong,” state media reported him saying. He urged them to hurry and make tech breakthroughs to contribute to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Mr. Xi has repeated that message ever since, with growing urgency as the United States tries to restrict China’s access to key semiconductor technologies. But a series of corruption investigations last month into the who’s who of the country’s semiconductor industry suggest that Mr. Xi may not be getting what he expected, or at least not quickly enough. Continue reading

Supporters of student alleging rape are silenced in China

Source: Star Tribune (8/29/22)
Supporters of University of Minnesota student alleging rape by Chinese billionaire are being silenced in China
Social media accounts sharing information sympathetic to the student are being suspended or shut down.

LINTAO ZHANG, GETTY IMAGES/TNS. Billionaire Richard Liu is accused of raping a University of Minnesota student in 2018.

Supporters of a University of Minnesota student who is suing a Chinese billionaire for allegedly raping her in Minneapolis in 2018 say their social media postings about the case are being blocked in China.

Xiaowen Liang, a leading Chinese feminist activist in the United States, wrote an article about the young woman for WeChat, an instant-messaging site in China with a billion subscribers, in which she provided details from a June hearing in Hennepin County District Court. She said that after the article had racked up about 100,000 views, it was blocked along with her own account. “I lost over 2,000 contacts,” she said.

A Chinese student at the U who said he copied Liang’s report and sent it out on WeChat also had it blocked, and said his account was shut down for two weeks. He asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation.

“In the past few years, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the MeToo activists in China and Chinese feminists,” Liang said in an interview. “More and more women are paying attention to the movement and are very vocal on Chinese media. On the other hand, the censorship against young women activists is getting more and more serious.” Continue reading

Telling China’s story, poorly

Source: China Media Project (8/15/22)
Telling China’s Story, Poorly
Why did four Chinese propaganda documentaries of questionable quality and dubious provenance win awards at minor, as well as fake, international film festivals?
By Kevin Schoenmakers

In an image shared in several online press releases and on Chinese social media, a supposed audience member viewing “Spring, Seeing Hong Kong Again” is shown holding up a poster of the film, with the words “A Film by Benoît Lelièvre” clearly visible. One caption for this photo on a press release reads in halting English: “The audience said that he can’t wait to plan a trip to Hong Kong.”

This May, one year after the Cannes Film Festival antagonized the Chinese government by showing Kiwi Chow’s “Revolution of Our Times,” a documentary sympathetic to Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protesters, it devoted screen time to a film that took the opposite angle. In “Spring, Seeing Hong Kong Again,” China is not the autocratic oppressor but the benevolent ruler, helping the city recover from political chaos and weather its worst Covid-19 outbreak.

According to a press release published on June 1, “The audience applauded for 3 minutes after the screening.” Some, it said, were “stunned and their impressions of Hong Kong were refreshed.” It added that the film had also recently won the Best Documentary Award at the Prague Film Festival, where, according to another article, it had to be shown again to accommodate the throngs of people who wanted to see it.

Were the viewpoints of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finally gaining ground abroad?

The story did not hold up to scrutiny. As Twitter user K Tse and Czech outlet Deník N reported, there is no Prague Film Festival, just two people showed up for a screening of the film, and promotional images were based on stock photos. While the film had been in Cannes, it had not been shown at the prestigious festival, like “Revolution of Our Times,” but at the concurrent Marché du Films, a marketplace where screenings can be bought. Continue reading

In China’s version of ‘Minions,’ morality triumphs

Source: NYT (8/23/22)
In China’s Version of ‘Minions’ Movie, Morality Triumphs
An apparent censor-added epilogue specially for Chinese moviegoers changed the tone of the comedy and earned online mockery from viewers.
By Tiffany May

A still from “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which had its ending changed by Chinese censors. It wasn’t the first movie to get that treatment in China.

A still from “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which had its ending changed by Chinese censors. It wasn’t the first movie to get that treatment in China. Credit…Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures

HONG KONG — The bright yellow creatures known as Minions have caused plenty of chaos on movie screens. When their latest film, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” opened in China last Friday, censors decided to impose some law and order.

In the original version, the film’s two main villains make a bold escape, unpunished. But on Chinese social media, photographs of what appeared to be a jarringly different epilogue stitched into the credits section soon began to circulate widely.

According to that epilogue, one of the villains got a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes, while the other became an attentive father of three, in what some saw as a nod to China’s policy of encouraging higher birthrates. Continue reading

China’s sprawling world of web fiction

Source: The China Project, aka SupChina (8/17/2022)
China’s Sprawling World of Web Fiction
By Jin Zhao

Illustration for SupChina by Chelsea Feng

China is producing and consuming the largest amount of web fiction in the world, with an estimated 20 million full-time, part-time, and dabbling writers. The grind is hard, and the conditions can be exploitative, but those who do it are on the vanguard of a reading revolution.

In 2018, Jue had life all planned out. The 21-year-old from Ulankhad, Inner Mongolia was set to graduate with a degree in railway signaling, destined for a job as a technician in the country’s railway system. But this plan unraveled when he fell down a staircase and broke a leg just before graduation. The injury ruined his chances of being hired. Employers simply would not take on someone on crutches, and there was no guarantee that he would be eligible for entry-level positions for fresh graduates the year after. Jobless, temporarily disabled, and too proud to ask his parents for money, he tried to earn an income in the only other way he could: he logged onto a fiction platform and started writing web novels.

In a few months, Jue was making enough money to support himself. He is now writing full-time on Qidian, a top platform where writers like Tang Jia San Shao (TJSS), Tian Can Tu Dou, and Mao Ni have made a name — and hundreds of millions of RMB — for themselves. With his time-travel historical novels, Jue can bring home 15,000 yuan ($2,222) a month in royalties, as long as he writes 10,000 words per day — not bad for a now-26-year-old in a medium-sized town in northwestern China. Continue reading