SubscribeLog in
Connect with us

China Media

The Brexit “Divorce Drama” Captivates Chinese Netizens

As politicians, (British) citizens and international media are feverishly discussing the post-Brexit turmoil, many Chinese netizens see the Brexit referendum as a “divorce drama” rather than a critical political decision-making process: will Mrs. Britain and Mr. EU ever get back together?




As politicians, EU citizens and international media are feverishly discussing the post-Brexit turmoil, many Chinese netizens see the Brexit referendum as a “divorce drama” rather than a critical political decision-making process: will Mrs. Britain and Mr. EU ever get back together?

Brexit is not just making headlines in Europe. The topic is also trending on Chinese (social) media. On Sina Weibo, the topic #Brexit Referendum (#英国脱欧公投) has attracted 980 million readers since Sunday.

The question how Brexit might affect China has been discussed by different official Chinese media such as Global Times, that suggests that Britain leaving the EU might indirectly affect China’s export. Britain is China’s second largest trade partner in EU.

As the “leave” vote also affects the overall financial market, it could also cause instability and a possible setback to the internationalization of Chinese currency, according to Global Times.


China Daily reported that especially Chinese companies with a significant presence in Britain and the EU will be impacted by UK’s decision to leave the European Union, as they might encounter legal issues and problems over taxation or employee mobility.


“Although deep down B. still had faith in their marriage, she could not make this decision by herself.”


But for most Chinese netizens, Brexit is not so much a political decision-making process but rather a “divorce drama” – with Britain’s EU leave actually being compared to a married couple in a relationship crisis. Many netizens wonder whether their crisis is severe enough for an actual divorce.

A popular illustrated article by Phoenix News best represents the so-called “divorce drama between Britain and the EU”:


“A long time ago, Little B. [Britain] was very powerful, with villa’s on every island and fields on half the globe..At the same time, on the continent of Europe, some people had been fighting for hundreds of years. Until one day, after the war, they finally stopped and made a baby named E. [EU, previously ‘European Community’]..It did not take long for E. to grow up and notice his pretty neighbor B. Although E. seemed small and harmless, Little B. feared that he might grow big pretty soon and would then cross the English Channel to bully her.”


But E. did not grow up to be a spoiled brat – and he actually gathered quite some money. Although E. was not very handsome, he was a capable young man. Little B. had some bad luck; all her fields over the world turned independent, after which she had less to eat. In a moment of desperation, B. thought E. was not so bad after all – and she was hungry – so she decided to marry him. But married life was quite tragic for the couple. Because E. was a real male chauvinist, and meddled in all kinds of big and small issues, which made B. very uncomfortable.”

The story continues:

“E. really wanted some kids with B., but she firmly refused as she was afraid it would turn her into a faded old woman.(..) Although B. and E. always had some small frictions during their marriage, Mr. E. always thought B. was very pretty, and her family was rich, so he treated her like a princess. Although B. was not really satisfied with the marriage, she had no intentions to actually divorce…until E. brought home some poor neighbors recently…”

divorce drama2

“B. was outraged, and all the anger of the previous years came out, as she said E. would never listen to her – she wanted a divorce. Despite all the havoc, E. still really liked B. and would do everything to make her stay. Although deep down B. also still had faith in their marriage, she could not make this decision by herself. So she decided to consult her family” – and we all know how that story ended.

Caption: E. (man): “It is all my fault!” B. (woman): “I drink milk tea, you eat sausage, how come I marry you!!?”


“The drama is coming to an end; go wash up and sleep.”


The story of “B. and E.” continues on Chinese social media, where some netizens believe that Britain threatening to leave the EU is just a symptom of the UK needing some extra TLC: “Britain wants out of EU? It’s just like a wife demanding a divorce. It is merely a matter of a romantic night and giving her an extra handbag. It just takes some persuasion and it will pass”, one netizen says.

Although there are now more voices rising saying that Brexit might not actually happen, some netizens still see reasons to worry: “It is so awkward for EU now – Brexit is like a couple that wants a divorce. Even if the marriage remains, life will remain to be difficult in the future.”

Whether they are positive, negative, or indifferent about the Brexit turmoil, the majority of Chinese netizens see the referendum as a “relationship drama” which will probably end with Britain remaining in the EU. “Britain will not leave”, many netizens remark matter-of-factly: “The drama is coming to an end; go wash up and sleep”, writes another netizen.


“It will be Scotland all over again.”


One of the reasons why many netizens are convinced Brexit will not end up in an actual break-up is because it reminds them of another “divorce drama” in 2014: the Scottish independence referendum.

Back in 2014, the Scotland referendum also attracted much attention on Chinese social media, with the topic #Scotland referendum (#苏格兰公投) being viewed over 11 million times at the time. The referendum was framed in a similar “divorce” narrative, with many netizens referring to the referendum as Scotland proposing to end of its 300-hundred-year marriage with England.

“It will be Scotland all over again”, says one netizen: “Create a scenes, make some headlines, and then get some extra rights”.

Many netizens created their own “dramas” around this referendum. One netizen even wrote a romance story featuring Arthur, a young man who was losing his charm, anxious about whether others would stay with him.


“Dear Little B, if you ever want to get back to me, I will always be here for you!”


Many netizens also get poetic about the Brexit crisis: “Dear Little B, if you ever want to get back to me, I will always be here for you!”, one netizen writes, posting the following video [turn on subtitles]:

“I just broke up with my girlfriend,” one netizen comments: “and then came Brexit. This video perfectly represents our epic love story.”

The original poster is not too positive about this love story’s outcome: “The UK will say: ‘I’d rather cry in my Rolls-Royce, then laugh on the back of your bike!”

“B. and E. have really split up,” one netizen writes: “And matchmaker Cameron has left the stage.”

Scotland leaving Britain or Britain leaving the EU might be far-away political events for many Chinese, but recent social media reactions show that netizens form their own understandings of the tumultuous events. Although the actual story might go beyond a simple marriage crisis, many Chinese netizens are eager to see if the B. and E. will finally get to live happily ever after.

– By Diandian Guo and Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Local News

Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child

A Changsha restaurant employee who intervened when a mother beat her child ended up paying the price for it.

Manya Koetse



The story of a restaurant employee who had to pay the price for sharing a video of a mother beating her child has triggered anger on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on September 14, when Mr. Jiang (江), an employee at the ‘Peng Shu’ Western-style restaurant in Changsha, stopped a mother from beating her young daughter at the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.

As reported by the Guizhou media channel People’s Focus (@百姓关注), a mother and daughter at the restaurant drew the staff’s attention when the mother began physically assaulting her daughter.

The mother, clearly overwhelmed by her emotions, resorted to kicking, hitting, yelling, and even attempting to strike her child with a chair, allegedly in response to the child accidentally spilling ice cream on her clothing.

During this distressing incident, which was captured on video, Mr. Jiang and another colleague intervened to protect the child and immediately alerted the police to the situation.

But the one who was punished in the end was not the mother.

The video of this incident was shared online, leading the woman to repeatedly visit the restaurant in frustration over her unblurred face in the video. The police had to mediate in this dispute.

To the dismay of many netizens, the employee ended up being forced to pay the woman 10,000 yuan ($1369) in compensation for “moral damages.” He has since resigned from his job and has left Changsha. A related hashtag was viewed over 110 million times on Weibo (#餐厅员工发顾客打娃视频后赔1万离职#) and also became a hot topic on Douyin.

The majority of commenters expressed their anger at the unjust outcome where a restaurant employee, who had attempted to protect the child, faced repercussions while the mother appeared to avoid any legal consequences for her actions.

“Where is the All-China Women’s Federation when you need them?” some wondered, while others wanted to know why the incident was not followed up with an immediate investigation into the child abuse. Others suggested that if it were a man who had beaten his child, authorities would have been quicker to intervene.

The issue of corporal punishment for children often comes up in Chinese social media discussions. While many people find it unacceptable to beat children, using violence to discipline children is also commonplace in many families.

When China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on 1 March 2016, article 5 and 12 specifically addressed the special legal protection of children and made family violence against children against the law.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Continue Reading

China Fashion & Beauty

Fashion that Hurts? Online Debates on China’s Draft Law Regarding ‘Harmful’ Clothes

The proposed ban on clothing deemed harmful is stirring debate, with some arguing for the significance of protecting national pride and others emphasizing the value of personal expression.

Manya Koetse



China’s recent proposal to ban clothing that “hurts national feelings” has triggered social media debates about freedom of dress and cultural sensitivities. The controversial amendment has raised questions about who decides what’s offensive for which reason.

A draft amendment to China’s Public Security Administration Punishments Law (治安管理处罚法) has caused some controversy this week for proposing a ban on clothes that “hurt national feelings.”

The discussions are about Article 34, clausules 3 and 4, which point out that wearing clothing or symbols that are deemed “harmful” to “the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” could become illegal. Offenders may face up to 15 days of detention and a fine of 5,000 yuan ($680).

The revised Article is part of a section about acts disrupting public order and their punishment, mentioning the protection of China’s heroes and martyrs.

Especially over the past three to four years, Chinese authorities have placed more importance on protecting the image of China’s “heroes and martyrs.” In 2018, the Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law was adopted to strengthen the protection of those who have made significant contributions to the nation and sacrificed their lives in the process.

Those insulting the PLA can face serious consequences. In 2021, former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, were the first persons to be charged under the new law as they were detained for “insulting” Chinese soldiers. Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the India border clash. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Earlier this year, Chinese comedian Li Haoshi was canceled making a joke that indirectly made a comparison between PLA soldiers and stray dogs, while also placing words famously used by Xi Jinping in a ridiculous context.

Screenshot of the draft widely shared on social media.

The draft is open for public comment through September 30, and it is therefore just a draft of a proposed amendment at this point.

Nevertheless, it has ignited many discussions on Chinese social media, where legal experts, bloggers, and regular netizens gave their views on the issue, with many people opposing the amendment.

This a translation of the first four clausules of Article 34 by Jeremy Daum’s China Law Translate (see the full translation here). Note that the discussions are focused on the item (2) and (3) revisions:

“Article 34:Those who commit any of the following acts are to be detained for between 5 and 10 days or be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 RMB; and where the circumstances are more serious, they are to be detained for between 10 and 15 days and may be concurrently fined up to 5,000 RMB:
(1) engaging in activities in public places that are detrimental to the environment and atmosphere for commemorating heroes and martyrs;
(2) Wearing clothing or bearing symbols in public places that are detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, or forcing others do do so;
(3) Producing, transmitting, promoting, or disseminating items or speech that is detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people;
(4) Desecrating or negating the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs, or advocating or glorifying wars of aggression or aggressive conduct, provocation, or disrupting public order.”

Here, we mention the biggest online discussions surounding the draft amendment.

Main Objections to the Amendment

On Chinese social media site Weibo, commenters used various hashtags to discuss the recent draft, including the hashtags “China’s Proposed Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#我国拟修订治安管理处罚法#), “Article 34 of the Draft Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#治安管理处罚法修订草案第34条#) or “Harm the Feelings of the Chinese Nation” (#伤害中华民族感情#).

The issue that people are most concerned about is the vague definition “harming or hurting the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” (“伤害中华民族精神、感情”).

Although Chinese state media outlets, including the English-language Global Times, indicate that the clause is deemed to target some provocative actions to attract public attention, such as wearing Japanese military uniforms at sensitive sites, legal experts and social media users are expressing apprehensions regarding its ambiguity.

Questions arise: Who determines what qualifies as “harmful”? What criteria will be used? How will it be enforced? Beyond concerns about the absence of clear guidelines on which attire might be deemed illegal and for what reasons, there are fears of potential misinterpretation and misuse of such a law due to its subjective nature.

Some people question whether wearing foreign brands like Adidas or Nike could be considered offensive. There are also concerns about whether wearing sports attire supporting specific clubs might be seen as disrespectful. Another common topic is cosplay, a popular form of role-playing among China’s youth, where individuals dress up in costumes and accessories to portray specific characters. Can people still dress up in the way they like?

Well-known political commentator Hu Xijin published a video commentary about the issue on September 7, suggesting that the law in question could be more concrete and avoid misunderstanding by explicitly mentioning it targets facism, racism, or separatism. He also suggested that it is important for China’s legal system to provide people with a sense of security (– rather than scaring them).

Others reiterated similar views. If the clausules are indeed specifically about slandering national heroes and martyrs, which makes sense considering their context, they should be rephrased. One popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) wrote:

The legal enforceability of harming the spirit and the feelings of the Chinese nation is not quite the same as insulting or slandering heroes. Because it is actually very clear who our national heroes are. They are classified as martyrs and were approved by the state, it’s very clear. But when it comes to the feelings and the spirit of the Chinese nation, this is just very vague (..) And ambiguity brings about a mismatch in the practice of implementation, which will make people lose trust in this legal provision and makes them feel unsafe.”

Although a majority of commenters agree that the proposed amendment is vague, some also express that they would support a ban on clothes that are especially offensive. Among them is the popular blogger Han Dongyan (@韩东言), who has over 2.3 million followers on Weibo.

One example that is mentioned a lot, also by Han, is the 2001 controversy surrounding Chinese actress Vicky Zhao who wore a mini-dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag during a fashion shoot, triggering major backlash over her perceived lack of sensitivity to historical matters and the offensive dress.

Han also mentioned a 2018 example of two young men dressed in Imperial Japanese military uniforms taking a photo in front of the Shaojiashan Bunker at Zijin Mountain, where the Second Sino-Japanese War is commemmorated.

Kimono Problems

One trending story that is very much entangled with recent discussions about the proposed ban on ‘harmful’ clothing is that about a group of Chinese men and women who were recently denied access to the Panlongcheng National Archaeological Site Park in Wuhan because staff members allegedly mistook their clothing for Japanese traditional attire.

The individuals were actually not wearing Japanese traditional dress at all; they were wearing traditional Tang dynasty clothing to take photos of themselves. This is part of the Hanfu Movement, a social trend that is popular among younger people who supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing (read more).

According to Zhengguan News (正观新闻), there is no official park policy prohibiting the wearing of Japanese clothing, and an internal investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Paper reported that the incident allegedly happened around closing time.

Meanwhile, this incident has sparked discussions because it highlights the potential consequences when authorities arbitrarily enforce clothing rules and misinterpret situations. One netizen wrote: “It illustrates that when “some members of the public” cannot even tell the difference between Hanfu, Tang dynasty attire, and Japanese kimono, they are simply venting their emotions.”

Last year, a Chinese female cosplayer who was dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking pictures in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area was taken away by local police for ‘provoking trouble’ (read here).

A video showed how the young woman was scolded by an officer for wearing the Japanese kimono, suggesting she is not allowed to do so as a Chinese person. The girl was known to be a cosplayer, and she was dressed up as the character Ushio Kofune from the Japanese manga series Summer Time Rendering, wearing a cotton summer kimono, better known as yukata.

The incident sparked extensive debates, with differing viewpoints emerging. While some believed the girl’s choice of wearing Japanese clothing during the week leading up to August 15, a memorial day marking the end of the war, was insensitive, many commenters defended her right to engage in cosplay.

These discussions are resurfacing on Weibo, underscoring the divided opinions on the matter.

One Weibo user expressed a common viewpoint: “I believe wearing a Japanese kimono in everyday situations is not a problem, but doing so at specific times and places could potentially offend the sentiments of the Chinese nation.” Another blogger (@猹斯拉) also voiced support for a law that could prohibit certain clothing: “If you genuinely believe what you’re wearing is not harmful, you always have the right to make your argument.”

However, there is also significant opposition, with some individuals posting images of themselves reading George Orwell’s 1984 at night or making cynical remarks like, “Maybe we should say nothing and wear nothing, as anything else could lead to our arrest.”

“This is not progress,” another person wrote: “It’s taking another step back in time.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes


Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Continue Reading

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated on what’s trending in China & get the story behind the hashtag
Sign up here to become a premium member of What’s on Weibo today and gain access to all of our latest and premium content, as well as receive our exclusive Weibo Watch newsletter. If you prefer to only receive our free newsletter with an overview of the latest articles, you can subscribe for free here.

Get in touch

Would you like to become a contributor, or do you have any tips or suggestions for us? Get in touch with us here.

Popular Reads