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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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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Briefly Noted (10 Oct 2019) | The Wild Will Project

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    Yang Zhu

    November 18, 2019 at 7:34 am

    If the comments by the article are anything to go by, I think it points true that China has put much effort to use the mass media and popular culture to promote patriotism. The social credit song is an outstanding gesture by the government to promote nationalism and patriotism as they communicate how communist values. When I heard “Be as Good as Your Word” song, I was amazed and excited about a pop star singing about Chinese values. Yes, these celebrities should be used to teach us the importance of trustworthiness. This is the best shot by the government to promote as well as propagate the social credit system, especially among our younger generation that may not understand the importance of these values. Pop culture has a lot to play in conserving our national values and promoting ideologies and policies. This is not a form of propaganda as some would say. I support this initiative because using popular celebrities attract more people to view the content and understand the government’s plan. The song also becomes out of the understanding the best ways of communicating to the youths, especially how pop culture is embedded into the lives. The song has been shared through Weibo and WeChat thereby reaching a wider target. I support my country in using pop culture to promote patriotism and nationalism among the youth. Appealing to the youths using celebrities is the best way to win more souls for the Communist Party whose values revolves around honesty and integrity.

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China Insight

“I’m One of 1.4 Billion” Goes Trending as China’s Population Now Tops the 1.4B Number

China’s total population is up, but its birth rate has fallen to the lowest level.

Manya Koetse

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According to the latest numbers, China’s birth rate has hit a new low, but state media are instead highlighting the fact that China’s population has now surpassed 1,4 billion.

This Friday, official data, released annually by the National Bureau of Statistics, shows that the total Chinese mainland’s population has surpassed 1.4 billion at the end of 2019.

In light of this news, Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily launched the hashtag “I’m One of 1.4 Billion” (#我就是14亿分之一#), propagating a sense of unity among such a massive population.

This message was also reiterated by other accounts, such as the Shenzhen Police, that said: “We’re all one big family, our name is China, we have a lot of brothers and sisters.”

China’s Birth Rate Falls to Lowest

While People’s Daily is publicizing the 1.4 billion number, the annual statistics also show that China’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Although only 14,65 million were born in mainland China in 2019, the death rate of the country was also lower than before – meaning that the total population number still went up from 1,39 billion to 1,4 billion in the last year.

One thread started by People’s Daily on Weibo received nearly 530,000 likes by Friday afternoon, with thousands of Weibo users posting a response to the latest numbers.

Many netizens responded to the news in a similar fashion, saying: “There are already enough people [in China] now, I don’t need to have children anymore,” or: “Good, there’s so many people, I don’t have to worry about having kids.”

China’s marriage rates hit a new low in 2019 after dropping year by year.

Over recent years, various trends in Chinese (online) media have highlighted the existing social issues behind China’s dropping marriage and birth rates.

The rising costs of living and the fact that many among Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” are often mentioned as an explanation for China’s decline in marriage rates and the interrelated lowering birth rates.

But China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men have also been pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy and general preference for baby boys.

Although Chinese couples are allowed to have two children since 2015, the new regulations have not had the desired effect, with many couples simply not wanting a second child or not being able to afford it.

For some years, ‘leftover women’ were mentioned as a reason for China’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were sometimes singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This has increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Today’s responses on Weibo seem to indicate that many young people are still not very eager to have children. “Let’s not add to the population, it’s enough burden for the planet,” some say.

Others say the number of 1,4 billion make them or their action seem “irrelevant” and “tiny.”

There are also those with entirely different concerns about the number: “There are 1,4 billion in China now, and yet I’m still not able to find a boyfriend!”

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.

©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

Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Media

From blockchain to hardcore, this is an overview of China’s media top buzzwords over the past year.

Jialing Xie

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Some of the expressions and idioms that have been buzzing in Chinese media the past year. What’s on Weibo’s Jialing Xie explains. 

Last year, we listed China’s “top ten buzzwords” for you (link), giving an overview of some noteworthy expressions on Chinese social media and in the media in 2018. Recently, the chief editor of the magazine Yǎowén Jiáozì (咬文嚼字) has again announced the “top ten buzzwords” in China of the past year.

Yǎowén Jiáozì, which literally means “to pay excessive attention to wording,” is a monthly publication focused on the Chinese language. Chinese (state) media have been widely propagating the magazine’s selection of the top words and terms of the past year in newspapers and on Chinese online media. The ten terms have also become a topic of discussion on Weibo over the past month, with the topic receiving 290 million views.

We’ve listed them for you here:

 

1. 文明互鉴 (wénmíng hùjiàn): “Mutual Learning”

  • Literal Meaning: “Mutual learning,” “Exchanges and mutual learning among different cultures and civilizations.”
  • Original context: This expression can be traced back to the era around and during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), a time of division, bloody battles, and political chaos. The demands for solutions brought forth a broad range of philosophies and schools. During this time, Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism and many others were developed leading to the phenomenon known as the “Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought.”
  • What does it mean now? In 2014, at the 4th summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a major initiative to convene a conference on dialogue between Asian countries followed by an introduction emphasizing how “diversity spurs interaction among civilizations, which promotes mutual learning.” This sentence and expression were later repeated in speeches during various major events. In May 2019, President Xi once again emphasized the idea during the CICA, making the term pop up across Chinese state media again. 

 

2. 区块链 (qū kuài liàn): “Blockchain”

  • Literal Meaning: Blockchain Technology
  • Context: “Blockchain” is no longer a new concept since it was first introduced to the public around a decade ago. Development of the malleable blockchain technology has become an important trend in China’s tech market through the years. 
  • What does it mean now?  Blockchain was all the buzz in China over the past year. In early 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China released the Provisions on the Administration of Blockchain Information Services. In October, President Xi singled out blockchain technology as an important breaking point in developing China’s core innovative technology and emphasized the importance of investing and stepping up research on the standardization of blockchain to increase China’s influence and power in the global arena. 

 

3. 硬核 (yìng hé): “Hardcore”

  • Literal Meaning: “Hardcore” – 硬 = hard, 核 = core. 
  • Context: “Hardcore” is known as the abbreviation for Hardcore Punk, a punk rock music genre originated in Southern California during the late 1970s. The term was later used to reference things of a certain level of complexity, such as “hardcore games” (versus casual games). The term started to mean something along the lines of “terrific” (厉害) or “strict”/”rigid” (刚硬)  and in Chinese, started being used in expressions such as “Tiger mom” (硬核妈妈) or “Hardcore game players” (硬核玩家).
  • What does it mean now?  As the Chinese science fiction blockbuster The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) was categorized as ‘hardcore science fiction’ (硬核科幻), the term ‘hardcore’ resurfaced as a popular word often popping up in (online) conversations.

 

 4. 融梗 (róng gěng): “Mixing up ideas”

  • Literal Meaning: “Integrating other people’s ideas into one’s own work” or “integrating punchlines,” “mixing up plots.”
  • Context: Over the past two decades, many literary works, including a few by prestigious Chinese writers, have been suspected of plagiarism and triggered heated discussions online — when it comes to drawing inspiration from other art and literary creations, where is the boundary between artistic freedom and plagiarism?
  • What does it mean now?  Soon after the Chinese movie Better Days (少年的你) came out in October (read more here), the writer of the original novel was accused of plagiarizing parts of Japanese mystery writer Keigo Higashino’s work. Many netizens argued that in the field of online literature, borrowing ideas from others (融梗) is ubiquitous and does not necessarily equate plagiarism because the act (融梗) itself requires original work and creativity. From October to now, the term has become a recurring topic in Chinese media. 

 

 5. “XX 千万条,XX 第一条” (XX qiān wàn tiáo, XX dì yī tiáo): “Out of millions of things,..is the first one”

  • Literal Meaning: “Out of ten million things,.. xxx comes first as the rule of thumb.” 
  • Context: List thinking is prevailing in China; from codes and regulations enacted by the government and laid down by companies, to the way teachers outline their lectures, the usage of “articles” (sometimes used as ‘rules’)  or “items” (条) to organize ideas and outline objectives is commonly seen in daily life.
  • What does it mean now? This phrase caught people’s attention after appearing in the aforementioned science fiction film The Wandering Earth, where a robot voice reminds a driver of traffic safety in a noteworthy way, saying something along the lines of: “There are thousands of road rules, but safety rules always come first. If you disregard safety, your loved ones will end up in tears.” Despite sounding like a sketch that rhymes poorly in Chinese, the lines stuck around and were later also used by Chinese traffic police across the country. The sentence structure is now also more often applied in various other contexts, for example: “There are thousands of things good for health, but sleep is the most important.”

 

6. 柠檬精 (níngméng jīng): “Lemon monster”

  • Literal Meaning: “Lemon mythical spirit” or “Sour lemon goblin”
  • Context: In ancient Chinese superstitions, it’s believed that animals and non-living objects may have the potential to grow into something with spiritual and immortal characteristics if meeting certain criteria. One of the criteria is to be around long enough, usually hundreds of years – if not thousands. For instance, in the classical work Journey to the West (西游记), the four main characters except Tang Sanzang are all spiritual beings derived from animal prototypes. 
  • What does it mean now? Lemon tastes sour (酸), which is often used to describe the feeling of envy or jealousy. When lemon becomes a spiritual being, it basically means the lemon has reached the ultimate stage of being a lemon and maximized its characteristics such as being terribly sour. The phrase is used to deride those who feel envious of others’ possession and achievement. Lately, the word is more often seen in a self deprecating humoristic context. For instance, when someone says “I’m a lemon jing now/I feel sour now( 我柠檬精了/我酸了)”, instead of expressing envy towards others, it’s more about acknowledging others more advantageous position compared to one’s own. 

 

7. The 996 work schedule 

  • Literal Meaning: 996 working hour system
  • Context: 996 is a work schedule commonly practiced by many companies in the internet and tech industry in China. With the 996 schedule, employees are required to work from 9 am to 9  pm, 6 days per week. 
  • What does it mean now? In April 2019, Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, commented on 996 during an internal meeting with Alibaba employees. Ma’s comments seemed to justify how companies and employees can both benefit from the work schedule, however, the comments quickly triggered criticism after widely circulating online for allegedly violating of the Labour Law of the People’s Republic of China. 

 

8. “我太难(南)了” (wǒ tài nán le): “Life is so hard for me” 

  • Literal Meaning: “I’m feeling uneasy” or “life is so hard for me” 
  • Context: The phrase originated from a 10-second video self-posted by a user on video-sharing site Kuaishou earlier in 2019. As the video begins, the user – an older Chinese guy –  says to the camera: “I’m feeling uneasy…” followed by sad music. He then continues to say “Lao tie [bro/guys], (I) have been under a lot of stress lately.” The video, in which the man dramatically drops his head in his hands and seems to cry without tears, quickly went viral. The phrase “I’m feeling uneasy” was quickly adopted and applied in daily conversations.  
  • What does it mean now? The broad circulation of this phrase on the internet reflects that the uneasy feeling about life is relatable to many people. Acknowledging the stress in a self-deprecating humorous tone is in itself a way of relieving stress. To add a sense of humor to this phrase, many replace the initial character “难” (nán, adj. difficult) with “南” (nán, adj.& n. south), which is believed to be taken from the mahjong tile “南风”(south wind).  

 

9. “我不要你觉得,我要我觉得” (wǒ bùyào nǐ juédé, wǒ yào wǒ juédé): “I don’t want to know what you think, I only care about what I think”

  • Literal Meaning: “I don’t want to know what you think, I only care about what I think.”
  • Context: The line was taken from Xiaoming Huang, one of the guests in the third season of the entertainment TV show “Chinese Restaurant”, which was broadcasted in the summer of 2019. In the show, Huang, who took the role as the manager of the restaurant, is self-centered, and often disregards the opinions of others in matters such as menu ideas or pricing, showing his blind self-confidence and arrogance. In addition to this line, Huang’s frequently used language includes “There is no need to discuss this matter”, “Listen to me, I have the final say” and so on, and it spread quickly on the internet.  
  • What does it mean now? The popularity of this line reflects people’s ridicule and resentment against arrogant and dominant personalities.

 

10. 霸凌主义 (bàlíng zhǔyì): “Bully-ism”

  • Literal Meaning: “Bully-ism”
  • Context: The word 霸凌 (bàlíng) comes from the English word “bully.” Here, it refers to bullying other countries in the face of conflicts between nations. 
  • What does it mean now? As the trade conflict between the US and China was ongoing in 2019, many believed that the current government administration of the United States has been handling international affairs in almost a bullying manner. The slogan “America First” is also often perceived as a declaration in front of the entire world that the interests of the United States come first. As a buzzword, “bullyism” has come to be used by Chinese media in the context of international affairs. 

 

By Jialing Xie
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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