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“Borrowing the Chicken for Its Eggs” – What Went Wrong Between Dutch Soccer Club ADO and Chinese Owner Wang

The relationship between Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag and its Chinese owner Mr. Hui Wang has been a rocky one since the beginning. What once seemed to be the start of a successful takeover of the struggling Dutch club, has now finally reached an all-time low after the Dutch court ordered Wang to pay approximately 2.6$ million on Thursday. What went wrong in this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’?

Manya Koetse

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The relationship between Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag and its Chinese owner Mr. Hui Wang has been a rocky one since the beginning. What once seemed to be the start of a successful takeover of the struggling Dutch club, has now finally reached an all-time low after the Dutch court ordered Wang to pay approximately 2.6$ million on Thursday. What went wrong in this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’?

The past few years have not been easy for Dutch soccer club ADO. The struggling club, that is over 110 years old, announced a takeover by Chinese company United Vansen (合力万盛), owned by Hui Wang (王辉), in the summer of 2014. Although the club was initially hopeful about United Vansen’s promised investments in the club, it soon turned out that payments failed to appear.

At the start of 2015, the club finally did receive money from United Vansen – but the affair had received a lot of media attention and relations between ADO and the Chinese owner were already going sour, especially when payments were again delayed later in 2015.

Although Wang allegedly said the delayed payments were caused by “cultural misunderstandings”, the problems were still not solved in 2016. The Dutch court has now ruled on January 5th that Hui Wang has to pay ADO nearly 2.5 million euros ($2.6 million) as part of his 2015 takeover.

Wang was not present in court on Thursday, nor did he or his lawyers attend the hearing that took place a week earlier.

Although the ‘Sino-Dutch soccer war’ is making headlines in Dutch media and international newspapers, it is receiving little media attention in China. In the Netherlands, many people are puzzled about Wang’s moves and his motivations: what went wrong?

 

THE CHINESE SOCCER DREAM

“Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs.”

 

China has great ambitions when it comes to soccer. The Chinese soccer dream is such a priority that the National Development and Reform Commission, Chinese Football Association, and the Sports Bureau and Ministry of Education have set out a visionary plan to produce one of the world’s strongest soccer teams by 2050.

China has the soccer ambition, the soccer fans, and the money – but still lags behind when it comes to successful clubs and players. To become a bigger player in the world of football, Chinese president Xi Jinping made soccer a national priority in 2015; not coincidentally the same year that Hui Wang officially took over ADO Den Haag.

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In a 2016 interview with Chinese newspaper Da Gongbao, Hui Wang was clear that his priorities were on the development of Chinese soccer, and not necessarily on saving Dutch ADO: “Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs,” he said: “We are borrowing the European soccer environment to cultivate some cream of the crop players.”

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Learning from international clubs and players is seen as an important way for China to become a more relevant football nation. On social media platform Sina Weibo, Chinese sports journalist Shi Qingsheng posted a picture of Hui Wang (l) in Holland, stating: “By Hui Wang going to The Hague (..) we can better serve Chinese football and Chinese soccer fans. We all know that China’s soccer is still in the lower levels.”

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On Weibo, some netizens are clear about the fact that Wang’s plans to take over ADO had to do with his ambitions to bring Chinese players to Europe. When that did not happen, the investments stayed away.

 

AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY

“In the Dutch media, this ‘China nightmare’ was blamed on Wang.”

 

Dutch club ADO had different dreams for the club’s future than Wang had. According to Voetbal International, one of Wang’s dreams was to bring a Chinese player to ADO and have him featured in a real-life soap on his Dutch soccer adventure.

But ADO was not willing to take the player in, since his level was far beneath that of the general soccer players at the club. It made Wang suffer a loss of face – he had to cancel all plans for the upcoming Chinese TV program.

One of Wang’s alleged bigger plans was to turn ADO into a breeding ground for Chinese players, after which they could be sold with profits. But these dreams were also thwarted by the Dutch council of ADO, that did not want to turn ADO into a Chinese “trading house.”

Another issue that caused friction was the quality of Dutch trainers sent to China. One of the many ways in which Wang hoped to use ADO for the advancement of China’s soccer dream was that ADO trainers would travel to China to train young Chinese players. But according to experts in 2015, the trainers that were sent there were practically ‘unemployed’ and relatively unknown – not what United Vansen had hoped for.

ADO trainers in China, via ADO Den Haag.

ADO trainers in China, via ADO Den Haag.

One of the ADO trainers who did travel to China, the 28-year-old Feenstra, said he “went through hell” there as he turned out to be on the wrong visa and was taken into custody. In the Dutch media, this “China nightmare” was blamed on Wang. Two other ADO trainers returned to the Netherlands within three weeks after their arrival because they found the working conditions in China too straining.

On Weibo, a statement from late 2015 denies "fake news" about Wang's late payments to ADO.

On Weibo, a statement from late 2015 denies “fake news” about Wang’s late payments to ADO.

All of these reports on late payments and “China nightmares” made headlines in the Dutch media. United Vansen shared its unhappiness about the status quo on its official Weibo page in late 2015, when they released an offical statement refuting any “fake news” about Hui Wang’s delayed payments to Dutch soccer club ADO.

 

TWO CHICKENS, NO EGGS

“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”

 

ADO’s critical approach towards Wang, the fact that they shared their dirty laundry with the Dutch press, and their unwillingness to adhere to their owner’s wishes, eventually hurt their relations beyond repair.

“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”, Wang told RTL News in 2016.

All in all, it seems like the roots of this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’ can be found in the fact that the two parties, both on the Dutch and the Chinese side, were more concerned about their own goals than about those of the other.

The Dutch ADO, for 98% owned by a Chinese party, was not willing to let Chinese influences into their club – in that way ADO was also “using the chicken for its eggs.” Wang was working on his Chinese soccer dream, and not on ADO’s future.

In the end nor ADO nor Wang found the golden eggs they were hoping for. United Vansen can still appeal the Dutch court’s verdict in the days to come. It is not yet clear if they will do so.

On Weibo, the few Chinese netizens who talk about the soccer conflict seem divided. Some scold ADO for their actions, while others blame Wang for “ruining” the Dutch club.

The Chinese newspaper who covered the issue only did so briefly. As big as the ADO-Wang affair might have become in the Netherlands, for many Chinese, it is simply nothing more than a business deal gone wrong.

– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 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 Arts & Entertainment

Zheng Shuang, Zhang Heng, and ‘Surrogacy Gate’: A Timeline

One celebrity couple breakup, two children born through surrogacy: this sad and messy topic has exploded on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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A celebrity surrogacy scandal is dominating discussions on Chinese social media, with one hashtag on the case attracting over 3 4 billion views. The scandal is triggering discussions on the topic of surrogacy in China.

Her name is Zheng Shuang (郑爽, 29), his name is Zhang Heng (张恒, 30). They’re both celebrities in China; she is a super famous actress, he is a well-known producer.

This week, it is not their work that made them go viral on Chinese social media, but a surrogacy scandal taking place in the United States that is dominating all trending lists on Weibo.

Zheng and Zhang in happier times.

The social media storm started on Monday, January 18, when rumors surfaced on Weibo and Wechat that the celebrity couple had separated. Some netizens had located a ‘dissolution’ case concerning the couple through the public access of the US federal court system.

Subsequently, news and rumors began circulating that the couple had two children in the US through a surrogacy arrangement, but that actress Zheng Shuang refused to have them because she and Zhang had broken up – even though her name was on their birth certificate.

The topic soon became known as the Zheng Shuang ‘Surrogacy Gate’ (郑爽”代孕门”).

Chinese media outlet Netease Entertainment published images of the children’s birth certificates and confirmed through sources close to producer Zhang Heng that he was stranded in the United States with the two babies, unable to bring them back to China with him since Ms Zheng allegedly did not cooperate with the necessary legal procedures.

It was Zhang Heng himself who spoke out about the situation on his Weibo account (@张恒KN) on January 18. He wrote the following post:

“Hi everyone, I’m Zhang Heng. Long time no see. As everyone has seen, I again hit the hot search lists recently. Since the past year or so, there has been baseless slander, disrespect, and endless online violence against me on the internet. My family is also frustrated, helpless, and mentally exhausted because of my problems. There’s no way to lead a normal life or to socialize normally. We’re unable to reunite because of this. I really feel so, so bad.   

I realize I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. Because it’s not just me facing everything; it’s also my cherished family members. I’ve decided to speak up, for my family and for myself, and to set the record straight. 

The online rumors about me committing fraud, borrowing from loan sharks, evading debts, taking funds and slinking off to America, etc –  they’re all rumors and I swear I’ve never done these things, nor would I ever do them. It is true that I am in America, but my family and I have been in the United States for over a year because we had to take care of and protect our two young and innocent children. We had no choice but to remain here.

I have hired a lawyer to handle related matters, and I believe the actual facts will be restored by the American and Chinese courts. Finally, I hope the media and righteous people can recognize the truth in this matter, and will not be blinded by internet rumors.” 

The children caught up in this scandal are one girl, born on January 4 2020, registered in the state of Nevada; and a boy, born on December 19 2019, registered in the state of Colorado. The birth certificates that were leaked to Chinese media show both Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang as the legal parents of the two babies.

Also leaked to Chinese media is an older audio recording in which Zheng, Zhang, and both of their parents allegedly discuss what to do with their unborn babies. In the voice recording, Zheng’s side argues that the children should be given up for adoption, with Zheng herself even complaining that the babies could not be aborted because the surrogate mothers were already seven months pregnant.

On January 19, Zheng Shuang herself also responded to the matter on Weibo (@郑爽SZ), where she did not address the matter directly but said that this is “a very sad and private matter that I did not want to discuss in front of everybody.” She further wrote that legal teams in China and the US “never gave up defending the legal rights of me and my family since last year.”

Zheng Shuang, image via Sohu.

Of the two former partners, Zheng is the most famous celebrity. Born in Shenyang in 1991, she rose to fame when she starred in a popular TV series in 2009 (Meteor Shower 一起来看流星雨). She became an award-winning actress and was chosen as one of the most bankable young actresses of the post-90s generation. On her Weibo account, she has over 12.4 million followers.

 

‘Surrogacy Gate’: The Timeline


 

While this case is unfolding in front of netizens’ eyes and through their own research, more and more details are coming up.

Money plays a major role in the falling-out between Zheng and Zhang, and a private lending dispute – involving no less than 20 million yuan (around 3 million dollars) – seems to be one of the reasons for their break-up.

Since the story is somewhat messy and complicated, we will attempt to reconstruct a timeline of events here.
 

TIMELINE:

2018, May
• Zheng and Zhang meet on the set of the variety show This Is Fighting Robots (这就是铁甲), where Zhang does the show’s production. Weeks later, intimate photos of the two surface online.

2018, August
• The couple officially announces their relationship status and start a company together.

2018, November
• Ms Zheng allegedly loans Mr Zhang 20 million yuan ($3 million).

2019, January 19
• Zheng and Zhang ‘secretly’ get married in the United States on January 19 of 2019. Zheng’s dog, “Wolfberry Kris” (@枸杞kris), has its own Weibo account where some ‘wedding photos’ of the joyous occasion are shared on this day.

2019, Fall/Winter
• Zhang and Zheng both appear on the TV show Meeting Mr. Right (女儿们的恋爱).

• An annual report of Zhang and Zheng’s entertainment-meets-tech company, a joint business venture named Shanghai Whale Valley AI Tech (上海鲸谷座人工智能科技有限公司), shows that Zheng Shuang invested over 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) while Zhang – the company’s legal representative – only contributed 200,000 yuan ($30,800).

2019, September
• In a Weibo post of January 2021, Zheng Shuang claims that Zhang cheated on her in September of 2019, which is why she left the US and went back to China.

2019, October 31
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang go viral on Chinese social media when Zhang writes a love song for Zheng, and publicly announces his love for her (#张恒给郑爽写歌#).

2019, December 18
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang announce their breakup, and rumors suggest that the two are caught up in a dispute over money.

2019, December 19
• The son of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Colorado.

2020, January
• The daughter of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Nevada on January 4.

• Zheng Shuang files a lawsuit in Shanghai, suing Zhang Heng for borrowing 20 million yuan from high-interest loaners under her name to invest in personal business ventures.

2020, November
• Shanghai Jing’an Court rules that Mr. Zhang needs to pay back 20 million yuan ($3 million) plus overdue interest to Ms. Zheng. Zhang Heng appeals the case, arguing the money involved was never a loan but a financial compensation and advance payment for invested labor, since Zhang also acted as Zheng’s manager while they were together.

2020, December
• Zheng Shuang quits as a mentor on the Shine! Super Brothers (追光吧!哥哥) variety TV show after a clip exposing her gossiping about the past relationship of two co-stars circulated online.

2021, January 18
• Zhang posts his story on his Weibo account, stating he is stranded in the United States to take care of his two young children, implying Zheng has abandoned the babies. He also posts a photo of him with the two children.

• A voice recording in which Zheng talks about what to do with her unborn children surfaces in Chinese media, along with the birth certificates. The topic explodes on Chinese social media.

2021, January 19
• Zheng Shuang posts a reply to the matter on her own Weibo account, in which she is vague and evasive about the issue concerning the children. She implies that Zhang has “ulterior motives.” She later adds that Zhang cheated on her in the fall of 2019.

• In light of all controversy, Italian fashion brand PRADA cuts ties with Zheng Shuang, with whom they had a cooperation agreement. Zheng was announced as one of the brand’s new Chinese ambassadors earlier in 2021.

• London jewelry brand Lola Rose deletes all content including Zheng from their social media.

• Harper Bazaar deletes a feature on Zheng Shuang from their social media.

• Chinese cosmetic brand Chioture also posts a statement on Weibo saying it has terminated its contract with Zheng Shuang, who formerly was a spokesperson for the company.

• The second hearing of the Zheng versus Zhang lawsuit takes place in a Shanghai court over the disputed loan. Zhang and Zheng are both represented by their lawyers. (No news on outcome yet).

• State broadcaster CCTV condemns surrogacy in a post on Weibo.

• Zheng Shuang appears in public in Beijing, where she is followed by paparazzi. She does not respond to any questions, but her appearance still goes viral on social media with over 640 million views (#郑爽风波后首现身#).

2021, January 20
• Huading Awards announces it will revoke the honorary titles of Zheng Shuang, renouncing Zheng’s former awards as best actress and favorite TV star. Over 2.2 million people ‘liked’ this update on Weibo (#华鼎奖取消郑爽荣誉称号#).

• China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television officially shuts out Zheng Shuang.

• The Weibo hashtag “Birth Certificates of Zheng Shuang and Zhang Heng’s Children” (#郑爽张恒孩子出生证明#) reaches a staggering 4 billion views.

2021, March 22
• The hearing for the supposed dissolution of Zheng and Zhang’s marriage is scheduled to take place in Denver, US.

 

Surrogacy Abandonment


 

Although the timeline of events leading to the current situation might suggest that Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang are both at fault for handling matters in an irresponsible way, it is Zheng’s “surrogacy abandonment” that mostly triggers the public’s anger on social media.

Many people feel that Zheng Shuang is lacking morals for abandoning her children and call her “cold-blooded.” There are also those who think the actress has serious mental problems. Despite all backlash, Zheng still has a strong fan base with people who still support her.

The scandal has sparked more discussions on the issue of surrogacy in China, which already was a big topic earlier in January when a story came out on a baby born through surrogacy who had no birth certificate and no legal registration (link here).

Although surrogacy is officially not legal in China, there is a flourishing underground surrogacy market, and many couples who are struggling with fertility issues travel overseas for surrogacy arrangements. It is not clear why Zheng and Zhang used surrogates to have children.

On Weibo, many people speak out against surrogacy practices, arguing that having children is not a business and surrogacy puts vulnerable women at increased risk of exploitation.

The hashtag “Firmly Oppose All Forms of Surrogacy” (#坚决反对一切形式的代孕#) received over 290 million views and thousands of comments.

One person commented: “Children are not a commodity you can buy, sell, or return. They’re a life-long responsibility, they are the future of our society.”

 
This story will be updated following the latest developments.
 
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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

After 88 Days of ‘Missing in Action,’ Jack Ma Appears in Public Again

“Daddy, you’re back!” – Jack Ma reappears after three months of silence.

Manya Koetse

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Jack Ma’s alleged ‘disappearance’ made international headlines and also generated many discussions on Chinese social media.

But now, after not appearing in public for 88 days, the Alibaba founder has finally popped up again in a video that is circulating online. News of his appearance was first reported by Tianmu News (天目新闻), a news platform under the umbrella of the Zhejiang Daily.

The video was recorded during an online award ceremony for rural teachers, which was attended by 100 educators from around the country. In his speech, Ma expressed his respect for China’s 2.9 million countryside teachers and said that although the physical event for the rural teaching initiative was canceled due to COVID19, they would all meet again once the epidemic is over. The event is usually held annually in Sanya, Hainan.

Jack Ma, who used to be a teacher himself, previously put forward the Rural Teachers Program to further develop and modernize education in China’s countryside areas.

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Chinese media report that Alibaba shares immediately went up after Ma’s online appearance.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma personally still has not posted anything on his Weibo account, where his latest post of October 17th 2020 is still attracting new comments every day. Today, some people commented: “Teacher Ma, I finally saw your face again in a video! It made me happy.”

Other wrote: “Daddy, you’re back!”

For more on Jack Ma and his recent ‘disappearance’, read “Daddy Ma, Are You OK?” – Jack Ma’s Situation Discussed on Chinese Social Media.

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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