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“Be as Good as Your Word”: The Chinese Social Credit Song is Here

Chinese pop stars sing about the importance of trust in this ‘social credit’ music video launched by the Communist Youth League.

Manya Koetse

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“Be as Good as Your Word” is a pop song featuring young Chinese celebrities who sing about the importance of being ‘trustworthy.’ The new music video is part of a bigger initiative propagating China’s Social Credit System among the younger generation.

No matter where you go in China nowadays, the idea of ‘trust,’ ‘integrity,’ ‘creditworthiness,’ and ‘social credit’ is promoted virtually everywhere: in the media, in trains, in banks, in traffic, and in public announcements on the streets.

Now, there is a song that comes with China’s ubiquitous official government and media narrative on the importance of ‘trust’ and ‘credit’ in Chinese culture and society.

“诚信“ (“integrity” or “creditworthiness”) promoted on a sign in Shanghai, April 2019 (Whatsonweibo).

Be as Good as Your Word” (Shuō dào zuò dào 说到做到) is a song and music video released under the guidance of the Communist Youth League (共青团), China Youth Daily (中国青年报), and the China Youth Creditworthiness Operation Office (中国青年诚信行动办公室), in cooperation with Chinese music streaming platform Kugou (酷狗音乐).

The song is performed by Roy Wang (王源) from the ever-popular Chinese boy band TFBoys, Chinese actor and singer-songwriter Timmy Xu (许魏洲), actor Wei Daxun (魏大勋), actresses Crystal Zhang (张天爱) and Shen Yue (沈月), Chinese actress/dancer Wang Likun (王丽坤), and a group of Chinese students.

The lyrics are by well-known musician Cui Shu (崔恕), and the music is by composer Zhao Jialin (赵佳霖), who had an Internet hit with “Little Apple” and also worked on the theme song for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics bid.

In the song, the performers sing about living up to one’s promises, stressing the importance of credit for the future, and that “being as good as your word” (“说到做到”) is what the “trustworthy youth” (“诚信青年”) is all about.

‘Creditworthiness’ (诚信) is central to the music video.

The word ‘chéngxìn‘ (诚信) is mentioned and displayed throughout this music video. It stands for ‘integrity,’ ‘honesty,’ and ‘trustworthiness,’ and is one of China’s Core Socialist Values. In light of China’s emerging Social Credit System, as pointed out by China Law Translate here, it is mostly used “in terms of a moral assessment component,” and also stands for “creditworthiness.”

This idea is also reiterated in the video, that shows various levels of being ‘creditworthy,’ for example as a consumer of the sharing economy, but also as a businessman sealing deals.

Although this pop song makes no direct reference to China’s nascent Social Credit implementation and is quite general (and poetic) in stressing the importance of honesty and “matching one’s deeds to one’s words,” it was launched in the context of “Credit China” (信用中国) and is part of a bigger initiative propagating the Social Credit System among China’s younger generations.

In November of 2013, during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Congress, new plans were adopted to “establish and improve a social credit system to commend honesty and punish dishonesty” (USC 2013). In 2014, the Chinese State Council officially announced its plans on building and standardizing a ‘Social Credit’ system, that should go nationwide in 2020.

Under this scheme, as explained by Genia Kostka, “individuals, businesses, social organizations, and government agencies are assessed based on their ‘trustworthiness'” (2018, 1).

As of now, there is no unified system in place yet, although there are many different local initiatives relating to Social Credit. Daum (2017) describes it as a ‘policy’ or ‘ideology of data use’ rather than a ‘system’, characterizing this policy as “the Chinese Party-State’s shorthand for a broad range of efforts to improve market security and public safety by increasing integrity and mutual trust in society.”

(For more information about China and Social Credit, please check our articles here).

 

“Creditworthiness Lights Up China”

 

The hashtag used to promote the Be as Good as Your Word song on social media platform Weibo is “Creditworthiness Lights Up China” (#诚信点亮中国#, also translated as ‘Integrity Lights Up China’).

The Weibo hashtag page, which has now been viewed over 340 million times, is hosted by China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of Communist Youth League of China. The description of ‘Creditworthiness Lights Up China’ is as follows:

The youth emphasizes trustworthiness, credit is valuable; every aspect of life contains concepts of creditworthiness [integrity]. Let’s give the thumbs up for creditworthiness, and unite in building Credit China together.”**

‘Creditworthiness Lights Up China’ is a project that was launched in 2017 by the Communist Youth League, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, and the People’s Bank of China. Its specific aim is encouraging China’s younger generations to be trustworthy and educating them about credit.

“Creditworthiness Lights Up China”

Last year, there was even a national ‘Creditworthiness Lights Up China’ tour, which visited 300 universities in 100 cities throughout the nation to teach young people about China’s establishment of the Social Credit System and the country’s nascent ‘trust culture’ at large (Xinhua 2018).

The Be as Good as Your Word music video focuses on the importance of trustworthiness in multiple realms of society. The scenes are set in various settings, showing school life, business meetings, and Chinese consumers embracing new technology.

China’s sharing economy is specifically highlighted in the video, making it clear that ‘trustworthy’ people can enjoy the benefits of using shared bikes or credit-based libraries.

By also integrating these scenes, this video is not only about the nascent Social Credit scheme, but also about China becoming a more credit-based society overall.

The government’s plans on China’s ‘Social Credit System’ (社会信用体系), the Central Bank’s endeavors to build a stronger personal credit industry (个人征信行业), and commercial credit initiatives such as Alibaba’s Sesame Credit (芝麻信用), have been major developments over the past six years, all contributing to the ‘credit-ification’ of China.

 

“We’ll Build on Trustworthiness Together”

 

Since Be as Good as Your Word was launched on April 22, the initial post promoting the music video has been shared more than 492,400 times on Weibo.

The video’s popularity, however, perhaps says more about the pop stars it features than the message it propagates.

Crystal Zhang, for example, has 15.6 million followers on her Weibo account. TFBoys member Roy Wang is among the top Weibo celebrities and has more than 72 million fans on his Weibo page.

Wang’s own post about the video attracted more than 170,000 likes and nearly 350,000 shares.

“We’ll build on trustworthiness together with you, brother,” many fans write, with others stressing the importance of credit and trust.

Although virtually no one among the thousands of commenters mentions Social Credit, the video seems to have reached its goal of propagating the concept of ‘trustworthiness’ among young people and reaching China’s music-loving, social media generations.

Check out the video here:

 

By Manya Koetse

*”青年讲信用,信用有价值,生活的点点滴滴都蕴涵着诚信理念,让我们点赞诚信,同心共筑信用中国.”

*’Credit China’ (信用中国) is translated as such here because the centralized website dedicated to the nascent Social Credit scheme is literally translated this way in English too (creditchina.org). The term itself, however, could also be translated as ‘Trustworthy China.’

References

Daum, Jeremy. 2017. “China through a glass, darkly.” China Law Translate, Dec 24 https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/seeing-chinese-social-credit-through-a-glass-darkly/?lang=en [24.5.18].

Daum, Jeremy. 2017b. “Giving Credit 2: Carrots and Sticks.” China Law Translate, Dec 15 https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/giving-credit-2-carrots-and-sticks/?lang=en [27.5.18].

Kostka, Genia. 2018. “China’s Social Credit Systems and Public Opinion: Explaining High Levels of Approval” SSRN, July 23. Available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=3215138 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3215138 [29.10.18].

USC. 2013. “Decision Of The Central Committee Of The Communist Party Of China On Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening The Reform, November 12, 2013.” USC, 12 November https://china.usc.edu/decision-central-committee-communist-party-china-some-major-issues-concerning-comprehensively [10.9.18].

Xinhua 新华网. 2018. “Official Launch of the 2018 Nationwide ‘Creditworthiness Lights Up China’ Tour [2018年“诚信点亮中国”全国巡回活动正式启动].” Xinhua, May 10 http://www.xinhuanet.com/local/2018-05/10/c_129869294.htm [30.4.19].

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

©2019 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.

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China Insight

Looking at Your Phone While Crossing the Road Will Now Cost You Money in Zhejiang

Pedestrians looking at their phones while crossing the road are getting a red light in Zhejiang.

Manya Koetse

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Zhejiang Province in eastern China has recently launched a new policy: pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phone risk getting a 50 RMB ($7) fine.

The policy has been attracting the attention of netizens on Chinese social media, where the so-called “Bowed head clan” (dītóuzú 低头族) – a slang word for smartphone-addicted people – has been a recurring hot topic.

People paying more attention to their phone than watching traffic while crossing the road can lead to very dangerous situations. Some graphic videos making their rounds on Weibo today show security camera footage of people getting run over by cars while looking at their phone.

The majority of people responding to the hashtag “Should people be fined for looking down to their phone while crossing the road?” (#低头玩手机过马路该罚款吗#) agree that this kind of behaviour is a risk to traffic safety, but some wonder if a small fine would be effective in combating this problem.

Some cities in China have introduced sidewalks with a “phone lane” and “no phone lane” over previous years, with Chongqing being the first city to do so in 2014.

Mobile phone sidewalk in Chonqgqing. Source https://tech.qq.com

As of earlier this year, the Pedestrian Council of Australia is also looking to implement a law that makes it possible to fine pedestrians who cross the road while looking at their phones.

In Honolulu, the ‘distracted walking law’ already makes it illegal for people to be distracted by their cellphones while walking in a crosswalk.

“Fine them!”, some commenters on Weibo say: “And also fine those people using their phone while driving their electric bicycles!”

“I’m not sure about the fine,” another person says: “I only know I bumped into a tree today walking looking at my phone..”

For many commenters, however, the issue is a no-brainer: “Just don’t use your phone while crossing the road. Personal safety comes first.”

Also read: The ‘Bowed Head Clan’ (低头族): Mother Watches Phone While Son Drowns in Pool

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Jialing Xie.

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

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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