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How Baidu Maps Leads People to a Privately Owned Hospital

Weibo netizens have exposed how Baidu Maps, when looking for a city hospital in Shenzhen, instead provides the address of a private hospital run by the controversial Putian Medical Group. The trending issue has angered Chinese netizens. The close-knit and dubious connection between Baidu and Putian earlier made headlines in 2016.

Manya Koetse

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A doctor on Weibo has exposed how Baidu Maps, when looking for a city hospital in Shenzhen, instead provides the address of a private hospital run by the controversial Putian Medical Group. The trending issue has angered Chinese netizens. The close-knit and dubious connection between Baidu and Putian earlier made headlines in 2016.

In 2016, Chinese search engine Baidu triggered a wave of controversy after netizens exposed how the company offers advertised space for fraudulent doctors. Medical institutions reportedly paid Baidu large amounts of money to be prominently featured in their search results – often giving false hope to patients who hope to be cured.

Now, a year later, the search engine again angers Chinese netizens for linking to the address of a private clinic when people search for a Shenzhen city hospital. The issue was exposed by a surgeon working at the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital on Weibo, attracting thousands of comments and shares within days.

Many netizens say that they are done with Baidu, as the company has ‘no integrity.’

 

The Wei Zexi Incident

 

The big 2016 Baidu controversy came to light in early May after the death of the cancer patient Wei Zexi (魏则西). Wei was a 21-year old student suffering a rare form of cancer. After several unsuccessful treatments, he turned to search engine Baidu.

Through one of Baidu’s paid results, Wei found a treatment at the Beijing Armed Police Corps No. 2 Hospital (武警二院) he thought could help him. With the help of friends and family, he came up with the 200,000 RMB (31,000US$) for the treatment, which later turned out to be ineffective and highly contested. Wei made headlines when he passed away shortly after.

Since he was an active user on a well-known message board where he shared his experiences, the topic of his death became a much-discussed on Chinese social media.

The death of the young Wei Zexi triggered controversy in 2016.

Further investigation exposed that the controversial treatment was done by the Putian Medical Group (莆田系医院), an organized group of medical entrepreneurs that dominates most of China’s private hospitals. It led to a stream of online responses from people who say they were also duped by the Putian Medical Group. Many recounted how their appointment at a Putian-related clinic had cost them a lot of money even when the public hospital doctor later diagnosed they had no health problems at all.

Amongst the many messages were also those of people who previously worked at Putian hospitals. Some told that the expert doctors that were advertised in reality did not even work at the clinics and that the staff was not qualified to do the abortion procedures they offered.

 

The Putian Medical Group

 

Putian’s monopoly in China’s private healthcare system goes back to the 1980s when the city of Putian grew into a town of ‘medical practitioners’ without official medical university degrees. The people of Putian discovered a medical goldmine by treating stigmatized conditions (such as STD’s) that were rarely treated at public hospitals.

Throughout the 1990s, the medical network of Putian was opening up clinics across China. These hospitals were amongst the first to advertise their treatments. They also signed contracts with public hospitals to run specific departments.

Baidu and Putian: money for misleading advertisement on the search engine.

Putian and Baidu have had a close-knit relationship for years. Baidu has made a fortune through Putian’s advertisements, and Putian has also further expanded its business by being featured on the search engine.

 

“Led to a privately owned hospital by Baidu”

 

Baidu has now become trending again for its dubious practices, as netizens have uncovered how Baidu Maps directs users to a Putian-owned clinic when searching for a nearby children’s hospital.

On July 10, the hashtag “Led to a privately-owned hospital by Baidu” (#被百度地图带到民营医院#) was in the top 10 of most-read topics on Sina Weibo.

Baidu Maps redirects patients to the wrong hospital in Shenzhen.

The issue came to light when a medical staff member of the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital (深圳市儿童医) discovered that Baidu maps indicated their work unit had “moved.” When searching for the hospital, Baidu provided the address of the Putian Far East Women’s Hospital (远东妇儿医院). This leads many patients to visit the Putian hospital, thinking they are actually visiting the Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital.

The information was disclosed by a surgeon of the Shenzhen Hospital (@深圳胖胖熊) on July 7 on Weibo, where his post soon received thousands of shares.

The doctor writes:

“The Shenzhen Children’s Hospital address was originally 709 Yitian Road, Futian District. Unfortunately, in the Baidu map search results, the link underneath this name redirects to the address of the Putian Far East Women’s Hospital, and its name is underneath on the second place. This leads many parents who want to come to our hospital to go to the Putian Department. Is this negligence, or deliberate? What is the purpose? Could I say that this is shameless?”

On July 10, Baidu responded to the controversy through Weibo, calling the search results an “error” that was immediately being adjusted by the relevant departments.

 

“A dog can’t stop himself from eating shit”

 

But many people on Weibo do not believe that the misleading information is a simple error, with some saying that this is not the first time this has happened. Others also point out that this is “too much of a coincidence,” since the ‘error’ is linked to a Putian clinic.

Many people say that Baidu has already lost its integrity: “Bad habits are hard to change,” some people write (literally: “a dog can’t stop himself from eating shit” [“狗改不了吃屎”]).

“I don’t believe you anymore, your credibility records have become too low,” some commenters said.

The alleged unethical practices of Baidu lead many people to use the Alibaba-backed Gaode Maps (高德地图) instead of Baidu.

“I’d never expect for this to get so big,” the surgeon from Shenzhen City Children’s Hospital said on Weibo in response to all the attention his initial post has received: “I am just protecting the patients’ rights, and I feel responsible for protecting the reputation of my hospital.”

Another commenter, a medical professor from Chengdu, said on Weibo: “The internet has brought us much convenience, but we need to remain clear-headed and critical when using it – this holds especially true for Baidu search engine, Baike [Baidu online encyclopedia], and Baidu Maps.”

By Manya Koetse

©2017 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

    paquirrin

    July 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    and now the government wants to block vpns so that we all need to use Baidu Maps and go to Putian clinics

    • Avatar

      bailsafe

      July 17, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      That’s ridiculous. Do you have some aversion to QQ Map or Amap (listed in the article)? Or hell, even Bing Maps?

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China Digital

From Tea Farmer to Online Influencer: Uncle Huang and China’s Rural Live Streamers

‘Cunbo’ aka ‘rural livestreaming’ is all the rage. A win-win situation for farmers, viewers, and Alibaba.

Manya Koetse

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This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “VOM TEEBAUERN ZUM INFLUENCER: ONKEL HUANG UND CHINAS LÄNDLICHE LIVESTREAMER.” 

The past year has been super tumultuous when it comes to the topics that have been dominating Chinese social media. The Coronavirus crisis was preceded by other big issues that were all the talk online, from the US-China trade war to the protests in Hong-Kong, the swine flu, and heightened censorship and surveillance.

Despite the darker side to China’s online environment, however, there were also positive developments. One of the online trends that became popular this year comes with a term of its own, namely cūnbō (村播): rural livestreaming.  Chinese farmers using livestreaming as a way to sell their products and promote their business have become a more common occurrence on China’s e-commerce and social media platforms. 

mage via Phoenix News (iFeng Finance).

The social media + e-commerce mix, also called ‘social shopping,’ is booming in the PRC. Online platforms where the lines between social media and e-commerce have disappeared are now more popular than ever. There’s the thriving Xiaohongshu (小红书Little Red Book) platform, for example, but apps such as TikTok (known as Douyin in China) also integrate shopping in the social media experience.

Over recent years, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has contributed to the rising popularity of ‘social shopping.’ Its Taobao Live unit (also a separate app), which falls under the umbrella of China’s biggest online marketplace Taobao, is solely dedicated to shopping + social media, mainly mobile-centered. It’s a recipe for success: Chinese mobile users spend over six hours online per day, approximately 72% of them shop online, and nearly 65% of mobile internet users watch livestreaming.

Every minute of every day, thousands of online shoppers tune in to dozens of different channels where sellers promote anything from food products to makeup or pet accessories. The sellers, also called ‘hosts’ or ‘presenters,’ make their channels attractive by incorporating makeup tutorials, cooking classes, giving tips and tricks, chatting away and joking, and promising their buyers the best deal or extra presents when purchasing their products.                

Livestreaming on Taobao goes on 24/7 (screenshots from Taobao app by author).

Sometimes thousands of viewers tune in to one channel at the same. They can ‘follow’ their favorite hosts and can interact with them directly by leaving comments on the livestreams. They can compliment the hosts (“You’re so funny!”), ask questions about products (“Does this also come in red?”), or leave practical advice (“You should zoom in when demonstrating this product!”). The product promoted in the livestreams can be directly purchased through the Taobao system.

Over the past year, Alibaba has increased its focus on rural sellers within the livestreaming e-commerce business. Countryside sellers even have their own category highlighted on the Taobao Live app. Chinese tech giant Alibaba launched its ‘cūnbō project’ in the spring of 2019 to promote the use of its Taobao Live app amongst farmers. The most influential livestreaming farmers get signed by Alibaba to elevate Taobao Live’s rural business to a higher level.

One of these influential Chinese farmers who has made a name for himself through livestreaming is Huang Wensheng, a tea farmer from the mountainous Lichuan area in Hunan Province.

Uncle Huang livestreaming from the tea fields (image via Sohu.com)

Huang, who is nicknamed ‘Uncle Farmer,’ sells tea through his channel, where he shows viewers his work and shares stories and songs from his village. He is also known to talk about what he learned throughout his life and will say things such as: “It is important to work hard; not necessarily so much to change the world , but to make sure the world does not change you.”

With just three to five livestreaming sessions per week, ‘Uncle’ Huang reaches up to twenty million viewers per month, and, according to Chinese media reports, has seen a significant increase in his income, earning some 10,000 yuan (€1300) per week.

Huang is not the only farmer from his hometown using Taobao Live to increase their income; there are some hundred rural livestreamers in Lichuan doing the same.

Some random screenshots by author from rural livestreaming channels, where online shoppers get a glimpse of countryside life

The rural livestreaming category is significantly different from the urban fashionistas selling brand makeup and the latest must-haves: these hosts do not have the polished look, glamorous clothes, or stylish backgrounds. They usually film outside while doing their work or offer a glimpse into their often humble rooms or kitchens.

Viewers get to see the source of the products sold by these rural sellers; they often literally go to the fields to show where their agricultural products grow, or film themselves getting the eggs from their chickens or the oranges from the trees. From fruits to potatoes and flowers, and from fresh tea to home-made chili sauce – a wide range of products is promoted and sold through Taobao Live these days.

Some rural livestreamers are trying to stay ahead of their competition by coming up with novel concepts. A young farmer from Sichuan, for example, recently offered viewers the opportunity to “adopt” a rooster from his farm, allowing them to interact with ‘their’ rooster through social media and even throwing the occasional birthday party for some lucky roosters.

Image via sina.com.

Examples such as these show that although the countryside livestreamers usually lack glitter and glam, they can be just as entertaining – or perhaps even more so – than their urban counterparts.

Who benefits from the recent ‘cūnbōboom? One could argue that the rising popularity of livestreaming farmers is a win-win situation from which all participants can profit in some way. The commercial interests are big for Alibaba. The company has been targeting China’s countryside for years, as it’s where China’s biggest consumption growth will happen while mobile internet penetration is still on the rise. Alibaba earns profits from an increasing number of rural e-commerce buyers, as well as e-commerce sellers.

Alibaba’s early focus on the countryside as a new home for e-commerce has previously also led to the phenomenon of so-called ‘Taobao Villages,’ where a certain percentage of rural residents are selling local specialties, farm products or other things via the Taobao platform with relatively little transaction costs.

Many Chinese villages and farmers are profiting from the further spread of Taobao in the countryside. Not only does Alibaba invest in logistics and e-commerce trainings in rural areas, these e-commerce channels are also a way to directly boost sales and income for struggling farmers.

Chinese media predict that the rural livestreaming trend will only become more popular in the years to come, bringing forth many more influential farmers like Huang.

But besides the commercial and financial gains that come from the rising popularity of rural livestreamers, there is also a significant and noteworthy social impact.  At  a time in which China’s rapidly changing society sees a widening gap between urban and rural areas, these rural channels serve as a digital bridge between countryside sellers and urban consumers, offering netizens a real and unpolished look into the lives of farmers in others parts of the country, and gives online buyers more insight and understanding of where their online products came from.

Taobao Live is actually like a traditional “farmers’ market,” but now it is digital, open 24/7, and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. It’s the Chinese farmers’ market of the 21st century.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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China Digital

WeChat’s New Emoji Are Here (Including a Watermelon-Eating and Doge One)

WeChat’s new emoji are based on popular memes.

Manya Koetse

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On January 14, Tencent’s Wechat introduced new emoji to its existing emoji set. The new emoji include, among others, a watermelon-eating emoji and a smiling Shiba Inu.

On Weibo, the new emoji have become a topic of discussion under the hashtags “WeChat’s New Emoji” (#微信上线新表情#), “WeChat’s Watermelon Eating Emoji” (#微信上线吃瓜表情#), and “WeChat’s Dog Emoji” (#微信上线狗头表情#).

Different from the Unicode emoji (see Emojipedia), WeChat and Weibo have their own sets of emoji, although there is overlap.

The reason why especially the watermelon-eating and dog emoji are being discussed on social media, is because these emoji are based on popular internet memes.

“Eating watermelon” (吃瓜 chī guā) is an online expression that comes from “watermelon-eating masses” (吃瓜群众 chī guā qúnzhòng), which describes a common mentality of Internet users who have no idea what is actually going on but are still commenting or following online stories for their enjoyment – perhaps comparable to the “popcorn memes” that are ubiquitous on Western social media platforms.

The smiling dog has been around since 2013 and is known as the doge meme, based on a photo of a Shiba inu. The meme was originally spread on social media platforms such as Reddit, but then also became hugely popular in China, where it became a symbol of sarcasm (also read this Abacus article on this topic).

Other new emoji are the “wow” emoji, and others to express “ok,” “add oil,” “emm,” “oh!”

There’s also a “shehui shehui” (社会社会, lit. “society society”) emoji, which also comes from online culture and is a way among friends to (self-mockingly) talk about being ‘gangsters,’ ‘brothers.’ or ‘scoundrels.’

As the new emoji are still in their testing phase, not all WeChat users can use the new emoji yet, so you might have to wait a bit before being able to try them out.

By Manya Koetse, with thanks to @caaatchina
Follow @whatsonweibo

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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