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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?

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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.

[rp4wp]

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”:

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“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.”

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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.

divorcedrama
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 info@whatsonweibo.com.

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.

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China and Covid19

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Chinese Commentator Hu Xijin Expects to “Get Covid Within a Month” (and Why It Matters)

This Hu Xijin commentary can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere.

Manya Koetse

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Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the Beijing-based retired editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, recently published a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo about him getting mentally ready to be infected with Covid-19 soon.

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, also made a few other noteworthy comments.

On Sunday (Dec 4), Hu posted: “Over the past week, China has essentially ended widespread lockdowns, with places like Beijing and others beginning to allow home quarantine for many positive individuals, while reducing the scope of nucleic acid testing. These are amazing changes.”

Four weeks ago, right before China introduced its twenty new Covid measures, Hu already argued that strict lockdowns are no longer sustainable and that China should aim for a more relaxed and local approach (which is exactly what happened).

Now, Hu Xijin says that he is “mentally preparing to be infected with Covid within the coming month” (“做好了在一个月之内被感染上的思想准备”), further writing:

In order for young people to have a colorful young era, in order to save the livelihood of so many service industry workers, in order for people from all walks of life to avoid seeing their wages cut, in order for so many companies to get out of their predicaments, this 62-year-old ‘Old Hu’ is willing to participate in the risk of getting [a virus that] degenerated to only 2.5 per 10,000 rate of getting seriously ill.”

Hu’s post was published on December 2nd in the context of Hu Says, a regular video column by Hu Xijin.

A few months ago, such a comment coming from such a big account would have been unthinkable.

In May of this year, those who tested positive still complained about suffering from stigmatization in society.

But Hu’s comments come at a time when there are more discussions about getting Covid and sharing the experiences of having Covid.

In the second week of November, shortly after Chinese authorities launched their updated Covid rules, the hashtag “What Is It Like to Catch Covid-19?” (#感染新冠是什么体验#) already went trending on Weibo, along with other hashtags informing Chinese netizens about what it’s like to get Covid – a virus that so many in China never experienced first hand.

Since Hu Xijin (1960) ended his career as the editor-in-chief of Global Times in 2021, his role as a political commentator has arguably become even more important and more visible on Weibo than before, especially in China’s challenging Covid times of 2021.

Some find him overly nationalistic, for others he is not nationalistic enough; there are those who find him reasonable, and then some say he is repetitive and just dancing to the tune of Party propaganda. But then there have also been some discussions – in light of Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit – about Hu misleading public opinion by not matching the official stance.

Whichever it is, some things are certain: Hu has some 25 million followers on Weibo, and he is often the first major media account that is allowed to discuss in detail some major sensitive social topics, even if these online discussions are otherwise being tightly controlled (think of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant incident, the future of zero Covid, the Urumqi fire, and the 11.24 protests across China.)

Hu’s comments about ‘catching Covid soon’ can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere, preparing people to face a virus they are still unfamiliar with since ‘zero Covid’ has always been the main goal.

On December 3, Hu further clarified his comments about preparing to getting Covid. He explained he expects to catch the virus because he is active in the media environment, through which he unavoidably is in touch with many different people. He also promised that if he might get infected, he would share his Covid experience with all of his readers.

As the idea of catching Covid is becoming more normalized (there are more and more trending hashtags informing what to expect after getting Covid, e.g. #新冠发病7天内身体会发生什么变化#), people are also exchanging non-scientifical advice on how to prevent catching Covid, such as drinking licorice ginger soup, holding Sichuan peppercorns inside your mouth when going out, or getting silicon covers for the drains in the bathroom to prevent the virus coming through via neighboring apartments.

Some express their worries about catching the virus. “I’m really scared. I’ve already replaced all of my masks with K95 ones,” one Weibo user wrote: “My immune system has been weak since I was little, and I have allergies. I have the feeling that if I get infected I might lose half my life, if I don’t die (..) I’m in a state of panic.”

Even though China is still far from ‘opening up’, some people are already preparing to ‘live together with the virus,’ reminding others that getting vaccinated, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all measures that will help in preventing getting Covid.

“I am worried about getting Covid but I also want to open up,” some on Weibo said.

“As much as I wanted it all to end, this feels abrupt,” one social media user from Inner Mongolia wrote: “It won’t be the same as before. The thorough ‘zero Covid’ [policy] has gone. The country’s protection of our health has gone up to this point. I hope everyone can now take care in prevention themselves, and protect themselves and their families. I hope the epidemic situation will end soon, that the world will be ok, and that we can have our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Hu Xijin informed netizens on Saturday that he had some milk, boiled eggs, pastry and pickled mustard greens for breakfast. While working on his condition and nutrition, he says that if his Covid positive time comes, he will not get any VIP treatment. If allowed, he’ll either recover from home or go to a centralized Covid location.

He will just have to wait and see what happens, just as millions of other Chinese citizens are waiting to see what this winter is going to bring.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

The featured images are all images that went viral recently in light of China opening up (including nucleic acid testing booths being taken away).

 

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