SubscribeLog in
Connect with us

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Bad Apples? Chinese Actor Liu Jin Smashes iPhone 13 Pro Max, Anger over ‘Chinese’ Employee Photo on Apple Website

Who’s the bad Apple? There’s much ado about Apple on Chinese social media this week, but things turn out differently than expected.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

There is a lot of Apple anger on Chinese social media this week. Two separate trending topics have ignited discussions. One revolves around Chinese actor Liu Jin, who smashed his iPhone 13 Pro Max in front of the Apple flagship store, while another one centers on an image of an Apple employee deemed inappropriate by Chinese netizens. But both viral trends have unfolded with surprisingly ‘juicy’ twists.

The Chinese actor Liu Jin (刘金) has become a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media this week for a remarkable statement he made in a 2-minute video that has gone viral.

The ‘statement video’ shows the actor angrily throwing his iPhone 13 Pro Max on the ground until it breaks, right in front of the Wangfujing Apple flagship store in Beijing, pledging he will never buy another Apple product again and accusing the company of being arrogant and overbearing after running into some repair issues.

Liu Jin is an actor who played in various productions, but he made his major breakthrough in 2015 when he played in the Chinese CCTV series Don’t Let me See (别让我看见) and in the successful comedy movie Goodbye Mr Loser (夏洛特烦恼).

In the video, recorded on September 17, Liu explains he just visited the Apple store to get his iPhone back after bringing it in for repair. Liu claimed that he bought his iPhone 13 Pro Max in August of 2022 through the official store and that, after a year, it had a hardware problem that needed to be fixed.

From the video by Liu.

According to Liu, the Apple store has now returned the iPhone to him without repairing it, saying that the phone was “modified without authoritization” by a third party, and that Liu should pay a 6,960 yuan ($950) fee to get it fixed.

Refusing to pay such an amount of money, and denying he got the phone through a third party, Liu then smashes the iPhone on the ground until it is broken, promising never to buy Apple again.

A hashtag related to the video was viewed a staggering 270 million times on Weibo, where it became a top trending topic (#演员刘金苹果店前怒摔iphone#).

 
Apple vs Huawei Rivalry
 

The actor’s recent actions have garnered considerable attention, primarily because they coincide with the escalating rivalry between Huawei and Apple. This rivalry has become a prominent topic of discussion in China recently, due to various things coming together at the same time.

Notably, Apple unveiled its iPhone 15 shortly after Huawei introduced its latest flagship, the Mate 60 Pro 5G. Noteworthy enough (and unlikely coincidentally),it was launched on the same date as the return of Huawei executive daughter Meng Wanzhou from Canada in 2021 (read here).

The official launch ceremony for Huawei’s new products is coming up on September 25, and people are hoping to find out more about the powerful Kirin 90000s chip that is being used by Huawei despite facing heavy US sanctions regarding Chinese access to crucial chip technology.

Simultaneously, reports emerged about alleged Chinese restrictions on iPhones within government and state agencies, resulting in a significant decline in Apple’s stock value. The Foreign Ministry later stated that that China has actually not issued any law, regulation, or policy document to ban the use of Apple phones.

All of these developments have reignited the ongoing tech giant competition in China, that is now about much more than smartphones alone and has come to symbolize geopolitical rivalry, encompassing themes of nationalism, anti-Western sentiments, and a growing sense of pride in products made in China.

 
Much Ado about Apple Employee Photo
 

As Liu’s phone-smashing video went viral, so did another controversy concerning an Apple customer service employee’s photo depicted on the official website of Apple.

A Chinese netizen pointed out that a photo of an Apple Watch Specialist representative on the Apple site may have been purposely “insulting China” (辱华) due to the appearance of the person in the photo.

Initially, many people thought the image was specifically used on the Chinese-language Apple site, and that it concerned a Chinese individual with a hairstyle that resembles a queue: a single long braid of hair that was traditionally worn by male subjects of China during the Qing.

Some people also thought the individual had a pockmark near the mouth and that their looks reinforces stereotypes surrounding Chinese appearances regarding eyes and forehead. The image therefore sparked wide-spread resistance among netizens who thought Apple deliberately and inappropriately used such an image to show Chinese individuals as being backward and unattractive.

online poll with nearly 198,000 likes on Weibo, asking if this photo is appropriate or not (the majority voted that the photo was not appropriate).

On the same day as Liu’s video first came out, September 17, the topic of the “braid-wearing customer service representative” went trending, and the hashtag of “how do you feel about the Apple China website image of the braided customer service representative” (#如何看苹果中国官网辫子客服形象#) has since received over 200 million views on Weibo.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also responded to the issue, explaining how the Chinese people are particularly sensitive to issues related to “perceived insults to China by Westerners,” due to historical and cultural factors which are further amplified by current tensions in US-China and broader China-Western relations.

Hu therefore argues that “American and Western companies should be more careful and cautious when promoting their products and try to avoid using images and texts that could be misinterpreted by Chinese people.”1

 
Who’s the Bad Apple?
 

But to what extent is criticism of Apple reasonable in both incidents?

In the case of the “braid-wearing customer service representative”, it soon triggered a response from Apple’s customer service (#苹果客服回应辫子客服形象#, hashtag with 180 million views) and led to more information.

It has since become evident that many assumptions about the image were unfounded. Contrary to the initial belief that the photo was exclusive to the Chinese page, it was also featured on Apple’s official websites in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and other countries.

Furthermore, it was revealed that the Apple employee in question is not of Chinese descent at all; she is a Native American female employee (also see Wen Hao’s post on this). Additionally, the perceived pockmark near her mouth was, in fact, a piercing.

In response to this, some people mocked Hu Xijin for how he responded to the controversy.

Photoshop meme mocking Hu Xijin.

But Liu’s video also turns out to be a bit different than the version of the story he presented.

The actor seemed to voice a popular public sentiment by taking a stand against Apple’s dominant position, that rivals that of China’s tech darling Huawei, by smashing an Apple smartphone in public.

But where is the proof that Liu actually bought his iPhone at an Apple store in 2022? Where is the receipt showing that his phone was indeed not coming from a third party that might have modified it?

To the dismay of many netizens, the actor refused to show the official store receipt of his Apple phone, and many people started to doubt if the actor might have just put on a show to gain attention at a critical moment in the market competition between Apple and Huawei.

Moreover, the actor’s story seemed even less credible when he tried to further explain it in a recent social media post.

Why?

As many netizens noted: the post he sent was actually sent from an iPhone.

By Manya Koetse

1 “(..)一些国人在西方人“辱华”的问题上很敏感,有其真实的历史和文化原因。目前中美关系很紧张,中西关系也不如过去,美国和西方公司在做产品宣传时,多一些细心、谨慎,尽量不要选用有可能引发中国人误解的图文,这是他们开展跨文化交流时一份应有的素养和水平。”

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Show-Inspired Journeys: Chinese Netizens Explore Next Travel Destination Through Favorite TV Series

The rising influence of Chinese TV dramas on tourism highlights the synergy between entertainment & social media in China, serving as a powerful tool for travel promotion.

Wendy Huang

Published

on

The Chinese TV series Meet Yourself has significantly boosted the popularity of Dali in Yunnan. The series’ success, coupled with the official funding behind it, not only underscores the impactful role of Chinese dramas in tourism but also illustrates how Chinese travel destination promotional strategies are being reshaped in a competitive post-Covid era.

On December 25th, the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture’s Culture and Tourism Bureau in Yunnan Province, Southwest China, announced a proposed subsidy of 2 million yuan ($282k) for the Chinese TV series Meet Yourself (去有风的地方).

The news soon went trending on Weibo (#去有风的地方获200万元补助#). Many found it noteworthy, especially since the announcement clarified that this funding is part of the prefecture’s special fund for cultural and tourism industry development, and the TV series was the only project under consideration.

There are several reasons why Dali might consider this strategy.

Firstly, Dali plays a pivotal role in Meet Yourself. Launched in January 2023, the TV series quickly became an online sensation, achieving an impressive rating of 8.7 out of 10 on Douban—a platform in China similar to IMDb. Spanning 40 episodes, the series features actress Liu Yifei (刘亦菲), renowned for her role in Disney’s live-action Mulan, and Chinese actor Li Xian (李现).

Promotional image for Meet Yourself (去有风的地方).

The narrative follows a white-collar worker in her mid-30s who, following her best friend’s unexpected cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing, embarks on a quest to understand the true meaning and purpose of life.

The TV series not only captivated audiences because of its soothing narrative about life and interpersonal relationships, but the show was also a hit because most of its scenes were filmed in Dali and showed picturesque rural landscapes and portrayed a slow-paced, idyllic lifestyle.

The show accumulated more than 3 billion views on the streaming platform Mango TV by the time its final episode aired on February 2, 2023. It also sparked numerous trending topics on Weibo during that time. For instance, one snapshot from the drama, “Liu Yifei Holding Flowers” (刘亦菲捧花), also went viral, with many netizens even changing their profile pictures to this image. Captivated by Liu’s beauty and charm, they believed that the image possessed some sort of magical power, like the symbolic significance of koi fish in Chinese culture and how they’re believed to bring good luck.

The ‘lucky’ Liu Yifei holding flowers image.

The lucky Liu Yifei holding flowers meme spread across social media in various ways.

Benefiting directly from the popularity generated by the TV series, Yunnan experienced a surge in visitors during the 2023 Spring Festival holiday. This influx significantly boosted its tourism revenue to an impressive 38.4 billion yuan (approximately US$5.4 billion), surpassing all other provinces and regions in the country.

The primary filming location of the drama, the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, welcomed over 4.2 million visitors, marking a significant year-on-year increase. Within the first six days of the holiday, Dali boasted the highest room occupancy rate nationwide, and became the fifth most visited tourist destination across the country.

 
TV Series Inspiring Real-Life Travel to Featured Destination
 

Dali is not the only city or travel destination that has become popular because of Chinese dramas or TV shows. The recent Chinese TV series There Will Be Ample Time (故乡,别来无恙), in which Chengdu plays a major role, has also come to be seen as a promotion for the Sichuan Province capital city.

The series revolves around four women who grew up together, chose different paths in life, and then reconnect in Chengdu. The series showcases the city’s laid-back lifestyle, especially in contrast to the fast-paced metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai where the featured women return from.

Scene from There Will be Ample Time (故乡,别来无恙).

Back in 2003, the TV series Lost Time (似水年华), which was filmed in the historic scenic town of Wuzhen, also became popular. Lost Time was written, directed, and starred by the renowned Chinese actor and director Huang Lei (黄磊). The series narrates a poignant love story of a couple in their thirties who meet in Wuzhen, only to be separated by the vast distance between Wuzhen and Taipei.

The TV series successfully showcased the timeless beauty of the Wuzhen water town to a broader Chinese audience and, indirectly, promoted the town’s unique artistic and cultural atmosphere. This later led to the establishment of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, a celebration of performing arts and a center for cultural exchange. The festival has since become one of the premier events in China and Asia. Each year, as the festival unfolds, there is a significant increase in business, with tourists flocking to the area.

On social media today, Lost Time is still seen as one of the major reasons why Wuzhen became so popular among Chinese travelers.

Wuzhen featured in Lost Time (似水年华).

But it’s not only the television series that portray a slower-paced and romantic lifestyle that motivate viewers to visit the showcased destinations. In 2020, the filming locations of the popular Chinese crime and suspense drama The Bad Kids (隐秘的角落) not only entertained its audience but also boosted tourism in the actual places where it was shot.

Much of the filming for the TV thriller took place in Chikan, an old township located in Zhanjiang in Guangdong. As a result, Zhanjiang’s popularity as a tourist destination skyrocketed by 261 percent in a single week.

Earlier in 2023, Jiangmen in Guangdong Province also gained popularity after it was featured in the popular crime TV drama The Knockout (狂飙). As a result, it became a sought-after destination during the May Day holiday, drawing numerous TV enthusiasts to the city. Jiangmen reportedly received over 765,200 visitors in the first two days of the May Day holiday alone, generating a revenue of approximately 439 million yuan (US$62.2 million).

Jiangmen’s popularity went beyond the May Day holiday. The Knockout caused a steady influx of visitors to the Guangdong city. From January to October of 2023, the city saw a total of 20,278,200 tourists, a reported year-on-year increase of 85.36%. This resulted in a tourism revenue of 19.649 billion yuan, representing an impressive increase of 133.77%.

 
Beyond the TV Screen: Social Media Creating Travel Hits
 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen how there are always unpredictable factors that help Chinese destinations suddenly become a hit among travelers. For instance, in late 2021, a song titled “Mohe Ballroom” (漠河舞厅) gained popularity across various social media platforms in China. This song narrates the story of a man who, for thirty years, danced alone in the Mohe Ballroom following the death of his beloved wife.

Prior to the song’s release, many Chinese netizens were familiar with Mohe as it is the northernmost point of China, and it is extremely cold. As the song gained traction on social media, the local government seized the opportunity to promote the city’s ice and snow tourism. Now, Mohe has emerged as a new destination for tourists seeking a unique, chilly experience.

Another example is Zibo, an ancient industrial city, which treated students well during their Covid quarantine period. So, when China lifted all Covid restrictions in the spring of 2023, these students returned to express their gratitude and celebrate the city. Their contagious enthusiasm, coupled with their social media posts about the city, sparked nationwide interest and people soon flocked to Zibo to enjoy the vibe and the local BBQ (read more here).

During the summer of 2023, the city of Tianjin became online hit due to a group of energetic seniors who transformed a local bridge into a stage for their remarkable water acrobatics. Tianjin’s so-called “diving grandpas” attracted attention for their daring dives into the river from the Stone Lion Forest Bridge (狮子林桥). Videos of their dives quickly went viral on China’s social media, drawing tourists, including many foreign residents in China, to witness the spectacle firsthand. Some people even joined to dive, including He Chong (何冲), the 2008 Olympic Champion in the 3m springboard.

Tianjin’s diving grandpas had to stop their diving activities after rising to internet fame, causing too many people to dive into the river.

In a playful twist, some visitors created their own scorecards, acting as judges and rating the divers’ performances. However, this spontaneous event eventually had to be toned down due to safety concerns. Despite this, the event kept Tianjin in the spotlight for quite a while as a tourist destination.

Social media has become a vital tool for cities and tourist destinations aiming to attract potential visitors. While some destinations organically become online sensations due to a combination of factors, other efforts are more deliberate and strategic. For instance, in spring of 2023, Chinese local government officials went all out to promote their hometowns via online channels, going viral on Weibo, Douyin, and beyond for dressing up in traditional outfits and creating original videos about their hometowns with low to zero budget.

However, when an article by Xinhua News criticized this approach, suggesting that local officials should prioritize improving service quality in their hometowns rather than striving for internet fame, the online trend appeared to wane.

Over the last year, different regions and industries in China made significant efforts to boost their local economies through tourism to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The China Tourism Academy recently published a report that forecasts that the number of China’s domestic tourists in 2023 has hit 5.407 billion, and domestic tourism revenue will amount to 5.2 trillion yuan. This figure allegedly represents a recovery to 90% compared to pre-Covid year 2019.

The upcoming Chinese New Year’s holiday is expected to kick off a promising start for the Chinese tourism industry in 2024. According to Trip.com data, bookings for the 2024 New Year’s holiday have surged by over threefold compared to the corresponding period last year. Furthermore, Tongcheng Travel highlights skiing, hot springs, Northern Lights viewing, music events, outdoor activities, island retreats, cruises, staycations, and firework displays as the top domestic travel preferences during this holiday season.

As China has significantly relaxed several travel and visa policies for both Chinese and international travelers, the number of outbound travel bookings for the New Year’s holiday on Trip.com has also seen a nearly fivefold increase compared to the same period last year while inbound tourism is on the rise.

Meanwhile, the way in which the TV drama Meet Yourself (去有风的地方) has boosted the tourism industry of Dali, which already was a popular tourist destination, is generating ongoing discussions on Chinese social media as it is a good example of how the integration of destination themes can captivate viewers’ attention, inspiring them to visit and discover the real-life locations.

In this way, TV shows serve as powerful platforms for local tourism authorities across China. First, utilizing television series provides them with a higher level of control compared to other methods of online promotion, including more fleeting trends. The show’s narratives, vibe, and filming locations can precisely showcase a destination’s unique features, attractions, and local culture.

Second, featuring destinations in TV series effectively accomplishes two goals at once, as Chinese TV dramas and online communities have become strongly intertwined. This amplifies the influence and reach of such productions, as fans engage, share, discuss, and promote the series and associated destinations across various social media platforms. And so, a featured scene or image, such as the one with Liu Yifei, can transcend the series itself and become an entire trend of its own on Chinese social media channels.

For travelers, visiting a destination featured in a beloved TV drama is not just about exploring a new location—it’s about experiencing a feeling and and immersing oneself in a fantasy. This trend won’t end with Meet Yourself, as new dramas inspire viewers to visit new locations again. As fans are binge watching the TV series Love Me, Love My Voice (很想很想你), Guangxi’s Guilin is the next hotspot attracting attention online for its portrayal in the show. “I finished watching the show,” one viewer wrote, “Now I want to start traveling.”

By Wendy Huang

Edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Continue Reading

China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Tick, Tock, Time to Pay Up? Douyin Is Testing Out Paywalled Short Videos

Is content payment a new beginning for the popular short video app Douyin (China’s TikTok) or would it be the end?

Manya Koetse

Published

on

The introduction of a Douyin novel feature, that would enable content creators to impose a fee for accessing their short video content, has sparked discussions across Chinese social media. Although the feature would benefit creators, many Douyin users are skeptical.

News that Chinese social media app Douyin is rolling out a new feature which allows creators to introduce a paywall for their short video content has triggered online discussions in China this week.

The feature, which made headlines on November 16, is presently in the testing phase. A number of influential content creators are now allowed to ‘paywall’ part of their video content.

Douyin is the hugely popular app by Chinese tech giant Bytedance. TikTok is the international version of the Chinese successful short video app, and although they’re often presented as being the same product, Douyin and Tiktok are actually two separate entities.

In addition to variations in content management and general usage, Douyin differs from TikTok in terms of features. Douyin previously experimented with functionalities such as charging users for accessing mini-dramas on the platform or the ability to tip content creators.

The pay-to-view feature on Douyin would require users to pay a certain fee in Douyin coins (抖币) in order to view paywalled content. One Douyin coin is equivalent to 0.1 yuan ($0,014). The platform itself takes 30% of the income as a service charge.

According to China Securities Times or STCN (证券时报网), Douyin insiders said that any short video content meeting Douyin’s requirements could be set as “pay-per-view.”

Creators, who can set their own paywall prices, should reportedly meet three criteria to qualify for the pay-to-view feature: their account cannot have any violation records for a period of 90 days, they should have at least 100,000 followers, and they have to have completed the real-name authentication process.

On Douyin and Weibo, Chinese netizens express various views on the feature. Many people do not think it would be a good idea to charge money for short videos. One video blogger (@小片片说大片) pointed out the existing challenge of persuading netizens to pay for longer videos, let alone expecting them to pay for shorter ones.

“The moment I’d need to pay money for it, I’ll delete the app,” some commenters write.

This statement appears to capture the prevailing sentiment among most internet users regarding a subscription-based Douyin environment. According to a survey conducted by the media platform Pear Video, more than 93% of respondents expressed they would not be willing to pay for short videos.

An online poll by Pear Video showed that the majority of respondents would not be willing to pay for short videos on Douyin.

“This could be a breaking point for Douyin,” one person predicts: “Other platforms could replace it.” There are more people who think it would be the end of Douyin and that other (free) short video platforms might take its place.

Some commenters, however, had their own reasons for supporting a pay-per-view function on the platform, suggesting it would help them solve their Douyin addiction. One commenter remarked, “Fantastic, this might finally help me break free from watching short videos!” Another individual responded, “Perhaps this could serve as a remedy for my procrastination.”

As discussions about the new feature trended, Douyin’s customer service responded, stating that it would eventually be up to content creators whether or not they want to activate the paid feature for their videos, and that it would be up to users whether or not they would be interested in such content – otherwise they can just swipe away.

Another social media user wrote: “There’s only one kind of video I’m willing to pay for, and it’s not on Douyin.”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated on what’s trending in China & get the story behind the hashtag

Sign up here to become a premium member of What’s on Weibo today and gain access to all of our latest and premium content, as well as receive our exclusive Weibo Watch newsletter. If you prefer to only receive our free newsletter with an overview of the latest articles, you can subscribe for free here.

Get in touch

Would you like to become a contributor, or do you have any tips or suggestions for us? Get in touch with us here.

Popular Reads