Reporter rolling her eyes goes viral

Source: NYT (3/13/18)
A Reporter Rolled Her Eyes, and China’s Internet Broke
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版
By Paul Mozur

SHANGHAI — It was the eye roll seen across China.

As the annual meeting of the country’s legislature stretched into its second week, the event’s canned political pageantry and obsequious (and often scripted) media questions seemingly proved too much for one journalist on Tuesday.

With a fellow reporter’s fawning question to a Chinese official pushing past the 30-second mark, Liang Xiangyi, of the financial news site Yicai, began scoffing to herself. Then she turned to scrutinize the questioner in disbelief. Continue reading

Reality tv taken over by robots and AI

Source: Quartz (3/6/18)
China’s reality TV programming is being taken over by robots and AI
By Echo Huang

A fighting scene in the King of Bots.

Fire and fury. (Youtube/Zhejiang TV official channel)

Almost two decades ago, Wang Xi, then a teenager living near the Chinese capital of Beijing, fell in love with an American robot combat TV show called BattleBots. One of the most-watched TV shows ever in the US, it got 1.5 million viewers per episode at its peak, and was syndicated around the world, including China.

Wang knew then that he wanted to one day make his own robot, and having it battle on TV in China. This year, Wang saw his dream realized on China’s first robot combat show, King of Bots (铁甲雄心), which debuted in January. It’s one of a series of robot combat shows that will air in the country this year, after China saw its first offline robot battle tournaments in recent years.

Wang’s robot, Greedy Snake, fought robots made by other teams from China, as well as from the UK and the US. The show, which aired on the widely-watched Zhejiang TV channel, quickly became popular. Its Feb. 26 episode ranked in the second spot for entertainment shows across 52 cities in its time slot, behind a Chinese remake of a trivia competition, according to research firm CSM (link in Chinese).

Wang, who was working as a game developer, is now a technical consultant to the show, said the show was inspired by the revival of BattleBots, starting in 2015. But China’s promotion of itself in recent years as a nation at the forefront of technology and innovation likely played a role too.

Popular Chinese reality TV shows have often been dominated by singing or dance competitions. In 2017, one of China’s most popular TV reality shows, The Rap of Chinagarnered a combined 2.7 billion views for the season and turned dozens of young contestants into stars, while another widely watched show focused on reciting classical Chinese poetry. The robot shows represent a change for reality TV programming, and come as China seeks to advance its technological prowess, from vowing to be a leader in artificial intelligence in 2030 to investing more in industrial robots for automation. Last year, a show that had humans compete against AI technologies in a variety of challenges—such as facial recognition—debuted in August.

While King of Bots had its season finale Monday (March 5), later this month, iQiyi, a streaming-service giant backed by China’s search giant Baidu, is planning to air a similar show called Clash Bots on March 23. Youku, another online video platform backed by Alibaba, is also rolling out This is Bots later this year, though a date hasn’t been set yet. The companies didn’t reply to queries about the programs from Quartz.

In King of Bots, competitors pit remote-controlled bots against each other in a container made of bulletproof glass. During a three-minute fight, each team needs to try to paralyze the other’s machine in order to win the game. Participants also need to navigate their bots to dodge traps in the competition stadium, including rivets on the wall, flames that burst from the ground, serrated rollers, and flipping platforms.

The bots caught on fire during a competition.

The bots caught on fire during a competition. (Courtesy of The Makers)

Competing teams, including those from the UK, the US, and Australia, all received a handsome amount of financial support from the show. In Wang’s case, he received some 200,000 yuan ($32,000) to make his bot, a tanker-like 110-kilogram (242 lbs) machine (on left, photo below) that lifts its opponent and hurls it down. The team, which included his wife, spent six months designing the robot, which was manufactured in Shanghai.

A total of 48 teams (link in Chinese) participated. Wang said he found the foreign teams more experienced in combat strategy and design because countries like the UK and the US have a longer history in robot combat events than China. Wang’s bot lost in the competition for one of the top eight spots to another Chinese team.

A team from Britain's Brentwood high school and Wang Xi's team in the reality TV show King of Bots.

A team from Britain’s Brentwood high school and Wang Xi, center, with two members of his team.(Courtesy of Wang Xi)

Yet, he notes, the show provided a platform for people obsessed with making robots, and a way to gauge their skill level. “If a country wants to rejuvenate and even lead the world, we should be counting on the attitude of pursuing knowledge and science,” Wang said.

Before the TV show, most teams were only competing offline, said Wang, who founded China’s biggest robot combat association in 2015. Now the group has more than 1,000 members. Wang estimates that there are around 300 people skilled enough to make a robot capable of competing and fighting.

One of them might be Yue Tan, an electronics engineering major in southern Guangdong province, who is making a 13.6-kilogram (30 lbs) bot that he hopes will compete in an offline competition hosted by the show’s co-producer, Shanghai-based video firm The Makers, starting in May. “Children can explore and build up confidence through making robots. Even if you fail, you will learn to improve during the process,” says Yue, who’s been discussing robot-making tips on Zhihu (link in Chinese), China’s answer to Quora.

Others also believe that the TV shows can encourage innovation. Chen Wei, the producer of iQiyi’s upcoming Clash Bots, expects that the show will boost young people’s aspirations for Chinese manufacturing and technology. “China is still lagging in some industry sectors,” Chen told news portal Chinanews. “If the game becomes popular and more people get inspired by it, our technology will probably also improve.”

The Chinese robot makers may have a ways to go. While two Chinese teams made it to the quarter-finals, a team from the UK (link in Chinese) eventually won the competition and half a million yuan (nearly $79,000) in prize money in the season finale.

China dismisses criticism of blackface skit

Source: SCMP (2/22/18)
China ‘opposes’ racism but dismisses criticism of CCTV blackface skit
Foreign ministry says backlash over Lunar New Year comedy sketch is ‘futile’ effort to drive a wedge between China and African nations
By Catherine Wang

Beijing on Thursday said it was against any form of racism but dismissed widespread criticism of state broadcaster CCTV’s annual holiday variety show as an attempt to drive a wedge between China and African nations.

A comedy sketch on the country’s biggest and most popular Lunar New Year television show caused uproar for using a Chinese actress in blackface and giant fake buttocks to depict an African character, and a black performer playing a monkey. Continue reading

Shameless Africa skit in CCTV spring festival gala

Source: Sup China (2/16/18)
China’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala Included A Truly Shameless Africa Skit, Featuring Blackface
A lowlight from the most-watched program on the planet.
By Anthony Tao

We need to talk about that Africa skit. You know the one.

Let me say up front that it’s dangerous and somewhat irresponsible to analyze a Chinese production — particularly one intended solely for a Chinese audience, whose understanding of ethnicity and race is filtered through a complicated and unique culture and history — through a purely American lens. I’ve watched this skit carefully, and I can’t find any intent to offend. Which is to say, there’s no real need to call it racist.

But this skit is clearly offensive — to sensibility, to foreigners, to intelligence, to one’s self-respect. To theater. To creativity. It is condescending, and willfully so, making it all the more offensive. It is arrogant and tone-deaf and shallow. It’s hard not to be embarrassed. Continue reading

TV’s latest Zhuge Liang

Source: World of Chinese (1/9/17)
TV’s latest Zhuge Liang wins audiences with English
It was the only thing the genius Three Kingdoms strategist couldn’t do
By Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Second-century military strategist Zhuge Liang has been depicted as being “so wise that he was practically a demon”, at least according to writer Lu Xun. Fictionalized in the 14th-century novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of China’s “Four Classics,” “Zhuge” has since become a byword for wisdom in China.

Given the renown of the character, it’s a tall order for any actor to play Zhuge without fans criticizing one detail or another. A recent TV series may have found the answer—with a Zhuge who happens to know English. Continue reading

Top TV dramas

Source: What’s on Weibo (11/21/17)
China’s Top TV Dramas to Watch This Winter China’s top television dramas to binge on this winter – by What’s on Weibo.
By Manya Koetse

From historical dramas to military series – a list of the latest, most-watched television dramas in China shows that Chinese television dramas are not just hot & happening – they are also diverse when it comes to themes and genres.

It has been over 27 years since China’s first television drama aired and caused a national craze. Although China’s media industry has greatly changed through the times, one thing has remained the same: Chinese TV viewers still love watching television dramas – a dominant form of media entertainment. In fact, the Chinese TV drama industry is booming and among the most vibrant in the world, with no signs of slowing down. Continue reading

Day and Night sets new record for crime shows

Source: China Daily (10/13/17)
Hit online drama sets new record for domestic crime shows
By Li Wenrui

Hit online drama sets new record for domestic crime shows

Day and Night, an online crime drama, broadcast the finale on Oct 11. [Photo provided to]

As Chinese viewers spend more time on video websites, network dramas are booming both in quantity and in quality.

The year looks like the golden time for domestic crime shows. Audience taste has shifted from time-travelling heroines with embroidered garments to rigorous-thinking detectives tracking serial killers.

Well-made internet series sprung up like mushrooms after the screening of summer blockbusters. Day and NightBurning IceLine Walker II are three of the most popular ones recently released on video sites Youku, iQiyi, and QQ Live respectively.

Audience-oriented scripts, broad online exposure, and handpicked cast help network crime shows gain a strong viewership.

Day and Night, widely reckoned as the best crime drama of the year, got a total of 24.6 billion hits online by this Thursday. Continue reading

Popular talkshow suddenly cancelled

Source: What’s on Weibo (9/13/17)
One of China’s Longest-Running and Most Popular Talkshows Suddenly Cancelled
By Manya Koetse and Diandian Guo

The popular Chinese talk show “Behind the Headlines” (锵锵三人行), that was broadcasted by Phoenix TV since 1998, has been suddenly terminated. The name of the show itself has become a ‘sensitive’ and censored term on Weibo since September 12.

One of China’s most successful and long-lasting talk shows has suddenly been canceled after nearly 20 years.

Without further official statements, the TV show announced its termination on its Weibo channel on September 12: Continue reading

Hunan TV slammed for chasing ratings

Source: Sup China (9/1/17)
Hunan TV slammed for chasing ratings
By Jiayun Feng

“Too many Korean pop stars are featured in shows produced by Hunan TV. It’s time for it to make some changes!”

“Since when did ‘mouthpiece of the Party’ (党的喉舌 dǎngdehóushé) become a good word?”

These two comments demonstrate how public opinion differed (in Chinese) on the rectification notice (in Chinese) released by the Communist Party’s Hunan provincial committee after an inspection of Hunan Television from February to April this year. In the notice, Hunan TV, the provincial satellite TV station, is criticized for lacking a sense of political responsibility, an excessive focus on high ratings, and spending too little effort on Party construction.

“For a long time, some leaders in Hunan TV deeply believed that ‘Entertainment is the foundation of a television station’ [娱乐立台 yúlèlìtái], and that ‘High ratings are the only criteria on whether a television station is successful or not’ [以收视率论英雄 yǐ shōushìlǜ lùn yīngxióng],” the notice says. “Some channels have been swinging between social benefits and economic benefits. They have failed to fulfill the mission of being a mouthpiece of the Party.” The notice also asserts that on the surface, the problem with Hunan TV seems to be its loose control of several channels and shows, but in fact it reflects the lack of political sensitivity among the TV Party committee. Continue reading

The First Half of My Life

Source: China Daily (7/19/17)
Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues
By Zhang Xingjian |

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Poster of TV drama The First Half of My Life [Photo/Mtime]

Adapted from popular Hong Kong writer Isabel Nee Yeh-su’s novel The First Half of My Life, the 42-episode TV drama of the same title stands as a dark horse amid fierce TV competition during the summer holiday.

Gathering a cast full of veteran and renowned actors including Chen Daoming, Mei Ting, Ma Yili and Yuan Quan, the drama mainly tells the inspirational story of a housewife-turned-career woman.

In the drama, lead actress Ma Yili stars as Luo Zijun, a simple-minded and dubious housewife.

However, her carefree life encounters misfortune after an unexpected divorce. Continue reading

Ode to Joy goes wrong

Source: Sixth Tone (1/19/17)
Ode to Joy: A breath of fresh air on Chinese TV that turned toxic
A show about five millennial women making their way in Shanghai is a smash hit. What made it different from other Chinese TV shows, and where has it gone wrong?
By Jiayun Feng

Meet the characters of China’s hit show, Ode to Joy:


Andi 安迪

A former Wall Street executive who returns to China in search of her lost brother. Despite her beauty and intelligence, Andi has social phobias and no experience with relationships.



Qu Xiaoxiao 曲筱绡

Born to an affluent family, Qu is bold, fierce, and good at making drama out of ordinary life.

Continue reading

Bailu yuan tv drama shelved

Source: China Media Project (4/20/17)
Chinese Drama Shelved
By David Bandurski

CHINESE MEDIA REPORTED on April 17 that White Deer Plain (白鹿原), the television drama adapted from the novel of the same name by Chen Zhongshi, had been shelved after the airing of a single episode. It is not yet clear what the reasons are for the pulling of the drama — whether, for example, it is a suspension ordered by the authorities, or a decision taken by the show’s distributors — and there is so far no indication of whether or when the series might air again. Continue reading

In the Name of the People

Source: SupChina (4/10/17)
Writer of anti-corruption TV series — and insurance regulator — investigated for corruption

Xiang Junbo 项俊波 was a PLA soldier who fought with Vietnamese forces in a border war in 1979 and went on to become a television writer and producer as well as a banker and financial regulator. He became chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China in 2009 before heading up the leadership role at the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. During his TV years, he wrote what Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao calls (in Chinese) the country’s “first television series about auditing work,” the popular 1986 show The People Will Not Forget (人民不会忘记 rénmín bù huì wàngjì). Continue reading