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“6 Things Chinese People Should Know About the US-China Trade War”

Chinese state media say: “We don’t want a trade war with America – but we certainly do not fear it.”

Manya Koetse

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This image, used on Weibo by netizens, is actually made by artist 'Sharpwriter', who sells their prints via via Etsy.

In a response to Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on $60bn of Chinese imports, China’s Communist Youth League has published a Weibo article that suggests that the nearing US-China trade war is similar to the Japanese invasion of China during WWII. Its main message is that China will not appease.

After Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on Chinese goods last Thursday, Chinese social media users have been feverishly discussing this topic, with some calling for a boycott of American goods.

In a telephone conversation between China’s vice premier Liu He and US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday, Liu reportedly said that he hoped the two countries would be able to maintain stable trade relations, but that China is also ready to defend its interests and take countermeasures.

One online movement dubbed ‘Counterattack the Trade War’ (#反击贸易战), initiated by state-run media platform Xinhua, had received over 55 million views on Sina Weibo by Saturday night (Beijing time). The hashtag intro states: “We do not want a trade war with America, but we certainly do not fear it.”

Counterattack the Trade War Hashtag on Weibo.

On March 24, China’s Communist Youth League posted a lengthy article on Weibo addressing the alleged US-China Trade War. The post is titled “Six Things Chinese Persons Should Know About the Sino-US Trade War” (“关于中美贸易战,作为中国人,这六个问题是你应该知道的……”).

In the article, the Communist Youth League writes that it seems that “at the society level,” “some ordinary Chinese do not have a clear understanding of what a ‘Sino-US Trade War’ actually is.” It, therefore, lists six points to clarify the nearing trade war and China’s position in it.

Wirhin 30 minutes after posting, the Communist Youth League article was shared 4775 times, receiving over 9600 likes.

In its first point, the Communist Youth League compares the US trade war to the Japanese invasion of China:

1. CHINA IS UNDER ATTACK BY THE US AND WE CAN’T APPEASE

The Sino-Us trade war is a unilateral and provocative trade war that damages international trade regulations. Clarifying this issue should be the basis of all discussions: this is not what China provoked, this is not what China wanted, it is the US Trump administration that has violated international rules and has forced this on China. In other words, it is like the Japanese invasion in the past*; it is not something we could have solved through Manchuria or North China. We are only deceiving ourselves if we think we can reach peace through appeasement or by surrendering. In the face of interests, the desire of a businessman can never be satisfied.

*”这就好比是当年日本的侵华战争”

The photo posted by Communist Youth League accompanying its article, writing: History proves that appeasement does not bring peace”.

2. CHINA IS READY FOR WAR, AND YOU SHOULD TRUST THE GOVERNMENT

“China is fully prepared for a trade war,” is the second main point made in this article, in which is stated that China has done its homework and is ready to face any challenges a trade war might bring. “Trusting and supporting the Chinese government is the right thing to do know for us,” the Youth League writes.

3. CHINA WILL FOLLOW INTERNATIONAL RULES DURING (ECONOMIC) WAR

The third point made here is that for China, “the law is the bottom line,” claiming that China will counterattack any actions made by the US, but that it will strictly follow international laws in doing so. The article also says that “Chinese and American citizens should not suffer due to the short-sightedness of its politicians.”

4. CHINA IS NOT THE ONLY COUNTRY VICTIMIZED BY TRUMP

The fourth point stressed here is that it is not just China that is victimized by Trump’s decision to impose import tariffs on foreign goods; other countries will also have to deal with these measures and their consequences – and they are China’s allies. China Youth League states: “This [action] may benefit the [US] commercial economy in the short term, but in the long run, it is just a sign of the continued decline of the American Empire,” which is doomed to fail.

5. A TRADE WAR WILL EVENTUALLY BACKFIRE ON THE PEOPLE OF THE US

“The outcome of any economic war, but especially one between world leading countries such as China and the US, will impact the wellbeing of the Chinese and American people, and can even bring a blow to the global population,” the fifth point says, stressing that Trump is making a wrong choice by initiating this ‘war’, which will cause economic disaster. If China is affected, the article says, then it will unavoidably reciprocate in the US and seriously impact its people. “The Chinese government will do its best to avoid this situation,” it says: “But if it does happen, then let’s please choose the same enemy and support the Chinese government because, as stated in the first point, this war is not what we want. It is what the Americans want.”

6. THE CHINA THREAT IS AT THE ROOT OF THIS ATTACK

In the last point, the Communist Youth League writes that behind the “China-US trade war” lies American fear over the rise of China. This US fear of a changing international community where China plays an increasingly more important role will keep on surfacing, the article says. It will show itself through the South China Sea dispute, an economic war, or Taiwan travel laws. “China needs to be prepared for this mentality,” it concludes.

By Saturday night, the article was viewed more than 3,7 million times and received thousands of comments – many supporting the “firm stance” of the article. “You can’t bully China,” a typical comment read: “We have a strong country.”

By Manya Koetse

Copyright for featured image belongs to the artist Sharpwriter. Prints for sale: via Etsy.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hongli Lai

    March 25, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    I know the Chinese netizens didn’t do it either, but I think it would be a good idea if you credit the artist that made the Trump portrait: https://sharpwriter.deviantart.com/art/The-Donald-605337203

  2. Avatar

    Trent Emerick

    July 22, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Lol to say China is under attack by the US Government is absurd. It’s as if Chinese citizens dont Realize how much Manufacturing they’ve taken from the US and all the Pollution China gets away with while the Americans are forced to follow ecosystem rules. Trump Tarriffs may not be great for the US but its definitely Not an economy killer for China or the US. China owns all these Hollywood studios and owns the largest movie theater corporation in the US and own all these US Farms, and they Have a huge Trade Imbalance with the US. The US is not going to get bullied by China or Any one else anymore. Americans are sick of being told to get over it When our leaders Refuse to use any leverage for Americans during trade policymaking. Trump is finally Using leverage as China has done to us for decades.

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China Food & Drinks

Clean Your Plate, Waste No Food – China’s Anti Food Waste Campaign Is Sweeping the Nation

These are the main trends and topics in the context of China’s nationwide ‘Clean Plate campaign.’

Manya Koetse

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Empty plates, small orders, stop promoting excessive eating – China’s anti-food waste campaign is alive and kicking all across the country. These are some of the main social media topics and trends in the context of the ‘Clean Plate campaign.’

Since the call by President Xi Jinping to fight against food waste earlier this month, new regulations, initiatives and trends are popping up all over the nation to curb the problem of food loss.

Following China’s COVID-19 crisis, the ongoing trade war with the US, and mass flooding, President Xi called the issue of food waste “shocking and distressing,” as he stressed that the country needs to “maintain a sense of crisis about food security.”

According to numbers posted in online information sheets by state media, some 38% of the food at Chinese banquets goes to waste. In 2015 alone, an estimated 17 million to 18 million tons of food was wasted.

This is the second time in a decade for China to launch a ‘Clean Plate’ campaign (光盘行动). There was a previous campaign in 2013 that used the slogan “I’m proud of my clear plate.” The estimated annual wastage of grain in China at the time was estimated to be 50 million tons.

On Chinese social media, the 2020 “Operation Clean Plate” is receiving a lot of attention. These are some of the trending topics we have seen on Weibo in relation to the anti-food waste campaign.

 

RESTAURANTS

“N-1” Is the Way to Order, the “Waste Prevention Supervisor” Will Help You

One way restaurants are now addressing the problem of food waste is implementing the “N-1 ordering mode” (N-1点餐模式) which basically means that instead of a group of ten people ordering eleven dishes (N+1), they are advised to only order nine.

Famous Peking roast duck restaurant company Quanjude (全聚德) now advises groups of, for example, seven people to either take their set meal or to order no more than five or six dishes from the menu to avoid wasting food.

They have even appointed a “Waste Prevention Supervisor” (制止浪费监督员) in their restaurants to oversee customers’ orders.

The “N-1” idea is now being implemented in various cities across China.

Earlier this month, Sixth Tone reported that the Wuhan Catering Industry Association (武汉餐饮行业协会) was taking measures to limit the number of portions restaurant patrons can order. Now, the same measures are also being taken in other cities, like in Shijiazhuang (Hebei), Xianning (Hubei), Xinyang (Henan), Guangzhou (Guangdong), Quanzhou (Fujian), and other places.

One restaurant in Changsha got a bit too carried away recently, as it encouraged customers to weigh themselves and order food accordingly. The restaurant apologized after causing some controversy on social media.

 

TRAINS

Smaller Portions on the Gaotie

In line with the country’s anti-food waste campaign, some Chinese highspeed railway trains have also started introducing smaller portions for their in-train food services.

Instead of larger portioned rice meals or noodles, the Nanchang Highspeed Train now offers customers different small size portions in ‘blue and white porcelain’ bowls.

The initiative became a topic of discussion on Weibo (#南昌高铁推出青花瓷小碗菜#), where some applauded it while others complained that the meals were still relatively expensive while being small.

 

SCHOOLS

Be an “Empty Plate Hero”

China’s anti-food waste campaign is also actively promoted in schools across the country. Hundred primary schools in Jinan, for example, teach their students about combating food waste with a slogan along the lines of “Don’t leave food behind, be a ‘clean plate’ hero” (*the original slogan “不做“必剩客”,争做“光盘侠”” also has some word jokes in it).

The schools have also set up various activities to raise awareness of food waste.

 

ONLINE MEDIA

Operation Clean Plate: Empty Plates Snapshot

“Operation Clean Plate” is not just actively promoted in Chinese restaurants and in schools; Chinese state media and official (government) accounts are also promoting the campaign through social media.

The Weibo hashtag “Operation Clean Plate” (#光盘行动#), initiated by the Chinese Communist Youth League, had over 610 million views by August 21st, promoting the idea of “treasuring food, and refusing to waste it.”

Besides the Communist Youth League, other official accounts including China Youth Daily and People’s Daily also actively promote awareness on wasting food and encourage people to empty their plates. China Youth Daily even initiated the online trend of posting a pic of your own empty plate under the hashtag “Clean Plate Snapshots” (#光盘随手拍#)

Another hashtag, the Big Clean Plate Challenge (#光盘挑战大赛#), initiated by People’s Daily, had 290 million views by August 21, with hundreds of netizens posting photos of their before and after dinner plates.

Using the “clean plate” hashtags, many netizens are posting evidence that they are not squandering food.

 

EATING INFLUENCERS

Big Stomach Stars Need to Turn it Down a Notch

In 2018, we wrote about the trend of China’s “big stomach stars” (大胃王) or “eating vloggers’ (吃播女博主), an online video genre in which hosts will consume extremely large amounts of food (also known as the ‘mukbang‘ phenomenon in South Korea).

Since attempting to eat 17 kg (35 pounds) of meat by oneself – something that is actually done on camera by these kinds of vloggers – does not exactly fit the idea of China’s anti-food waste campaign, these eating vloggers are now being criticized in Chinese media.

Social media platforms such as Douyin (the Chinese Tiktok) have also taken action against the ‘big stomach stars.’ On August 12, the Douyin Safety Center published a video saying the app will not allow any behavior on its platform showing food-wasting or otherwise promoting activities that lead to food loss.

For now, popular Chinese eating influencers will have to adjust the content of their videos. Little Pigs Can Eat (逛吃小猪猪) is one of these influencers who recently has showed smaller portions and more empty plates in her videos.

 

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Chinese Online Responses to the ‘TikTok Problem’

Manya Koetse

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Trump’s TikTok and WeChat bans have been all the talk over the past weeks. These are the main viewpoints on the issue as recently discussed on Chinese social media.

News of US President Trump signing executive orders on August 6th to prohibit transactions with TikTok and WeChat parent companies Bytedance and Tencent remains a hot topic of discussion on social media.

Both apps have been described as posing a threat to America’s national security, with President Trump claiming that the app’s use in the United States heightens the risk of potential espionage and blackmailing practices. The apps are also accused of censoring content that is deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese government, and of being channels for disinformation campaigns.

Over the past three years, Bytedance’s Tik Tok app has become super popular in the United States, where it has approximately 100 million active users. Tencent’s WeChat has 19 million daily active users in the United States.

Until Trump’s executive orders go into effect (the September 20th deadline has been moved to November 12th), much is still unclear about the possible consequences of such a ban – and what the (vague) orders actually mean.

Will Tik Tok be sold to an American company? Will TikTok and WeChat be banned from Apple and Google app stores? How will the ban affect those for whom Wechat is an important communication tool in their everyday personal and business life? Will iPhone users in China still be able to use China’s number one app?

While news developments are still unfolding, the “TikTok problem” remains to be a hot topic on Chinese social media, with hashtags such as “How Do You See the TikTok Storm?” (#如何看待tiktok风波#) and “What’s the Main Goal of Trump Banning TikTok?” (#特朗普封禁TikTok的核心目标是什么#) receiving thousands of views and comments.

These are the main takes on the issue in the Chinese online media spheres recently.

 

“It’s all about US (technological) hegemony”

 

During a press conference on August 12, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) expressed that America was showing “bad table manners” for pressing down on “non-American companies,” and that the Tik Tok app had “nothing to do with national security.”

The fragment went viral on Chinese social media and was reposted many times by media accounts and Chinese web users.

Under the hashtag “Zhao Lijian Responds to the Tik Tok Problem” (#赵立坚回应涉TikTok问题#, 87 million views on Weibo), many Weibo users noted how Zhao did not say that the US was pressing down on ‘Chinese’ companies, but that it is suppressing ‘non-American’ companies (“非美国企业”), suggesting that it is all about American power and hegemony.

A few days earlier, Chinese state media outlet Global Times also published an article stating that, according to legal experts, the US government will be able to order Apple and Google to remove all products owned by ByteDance from app stores around the world based on the recent executive orders.

Illustration by Liu Rui published in a Global Times article on US technological hegemony.

Similar to the statement issued by China’s MOFA, Global Times also writes that the Trump administration “has displayed its ugly face that prevents any non-US company to break the US technological hegemony.” The issue of Chinese apps threatening US “national security” is called “a shameless excuse” that is used to “destroy China’s most successful globalized internet company.”

The phrase ‘non-American companies’ was probably also used by Zhao to emphasize that Bytedance has stepped up efforts over the past year to separate its international Tik Tok business from its China-based operations.

The company took on Disney’s head of streaming efforts Kevin Mayer to become its CEO of TikTok, an app that is different from its Chinese version, Douyin (抖音).  TikTok claims that all US user data is stored in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore, and that their data is not subject to Chinese law.

Other media outlets, such as Sina Tech, also stress the fact that any claims of TikTok or WeChat posing a risk to US national security are completely unsubstantiated and are merely another excuse to target Chinese products.

“The success of TikTok undermines the absolute American influence on the internet,” one Weibo commenter (@财务琳姐) writes: “They’ve nothing left to do but to discredit China.” Others say: “They’re beating down on China’s entire internet business to contain China’s developments.”

The same sentiments were reiterated by Zhao Lijian in a press conference on August 18, where he said that the US is engaging in a deliberate attempt to “discredit and suppress” Chinese companies.

 

“Shooting themselves in the foot”

 

A recurring way of responding to executive orders on WeChat and Tik Tok in Chinese online media, is that a possible ban on these Chinese apps would only have negative consequences for the United States.

Directly after news came out on Trump’s executive orders, the question “Apple or WeChat” started trending on Chinese social media, with many assuming that a possible ban would mean that Apple phones will no longer allow WeChat on its phones.

For the majority of people, the question is not a difficult one. As a messaging, social media, payment app and more, WeChat has become virtually indispensable for Chinese web users – they would simply stop buying iPhones.

The hashtag “US Shutting Down WeChat Will Affect iPhone Sales” (#美国封杀微信将影响iphone出货量#) discusses the stance of analyst expert Guo Mingji (郭明錤), who recently said that the ban on WeChat will have major impact on iPhone sales and could possibly lead to a drop of 25-30% in its sales volume.

One Weibo user (@赵皓阳) commented: “For the Chinese market, not using an iPhone could have some impact, but not using WeChat would mean cutting yourself off from society.”

“Ban it, just ban it, Chinese people will just switch to the high-end Huawei phones, and it will beat down Apple – great,” another netizen (@黄多多成长记) wrote.

 

“Shifting public attention away from COVID19 crisis”

 

The COVID19 crisis in the US has been receiving a lot of attention in Chinese media recently, and the American struggle to contain the virus is often linked to Trump’s mission to crack down on Tik Tok, WeChat, and Huawei.

“Focus on your own COVID19 epidemic, instead of trying to divert the attention all the time,” one Weibo user (@凯MrsL) writes. Similar comments surface all over Chinese social media, suggesting that the ‘anti-China’ strategy is just a way to distract the attention from the continuing spread of the coronavirus in the US.

Others write that Trump has made “a terrible mess,” and that “beating China” is the only card he has left to play. “This all about the upcoming elections,” some suggest.

The People’s Daily wrote on August 18 that, since the US is confronted with the severest situation of COVID-19, it should make “greater efforts than any country in the world to cope with the pandemic,” adding: “Surprisingly, it seems that such normal logic doesn’t exist in the minds of certain U.S. politicians.”

 

“An eye for an eye”

 

Amid all different perspectives in which the recent Tik Tok/WeChat ban developments are discussed, there is also one other recurring sentiment that stands out.

Reflecting on the Chinese online environment, there are also multiple Weibo users who argue that China virtually blocked so many American companies from thriving in the Chinese digital market (unless they would be willing to transform their products to comply with China’s strict cyber regulations), that it is not surprising that the US would also strike back to make sure Chinese companies cannot thrive in the American digital environment.

China has already banned so many American products, from Google to Facebook, from Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, that “there is nothing left to ban” for China: “We have few countermeasures left to take.”

 

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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