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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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 Food & Drinks

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

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

Manya Koetse

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RESTAURANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TRAINS

Smaller Portions on the Gaotie

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

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

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

 

SCHOOLS

Be an “Empty Plate Hero”

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

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

 

ONLINE MEDIA

Operation Clean Plate: Empty Plates Snapshot

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

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

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

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

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

 

EATING INFLUENCERS

Big Stomach Stars Need to Turn it Down a Notch

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

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

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

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

 

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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

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

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China Insight

Chinese Online Responses to the ‘TikTok Problem’

Manya Koetse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Shooting themselves in the foot”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Shifting public attention away from COVID19 crisis”

 

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

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

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

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

 

“An eye for an eye”

 

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

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

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

 

By Manya Koetse

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

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

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