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The Chunyun Trend: Carpooling Home For Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year travel season, also known as ‘chunyun’, is in full swing. One of the ways in which people try to make it home for the Spring Festival is by looking for shared rides through social media.

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The Chinese New Year travel season, also known as chunyun, is in full swing. This year, one of the most popular ways in which people try to make it home for the Spring Festival is by looking for shared rides through social media. Carpooling has now become the second most common way of making home for the holidays.

The Chinese New Year travel season, also known as ‘chunyun’ (春运), is the biggest annual mass migration of the world. Many of China’s urban areas become deserted as people return to their native provinces and hometowns to celebrate the new year with their family and friends.

The travel season begins around two weeks before the start of Chinese New Year, which starts on January 28 2017. It usually lasts about 40 days: from January 13 to February 21 this year.

Last year, People’s Daily and other Chinese media reported that approximately 2,9 billion trips were made for the 2016 Spring Festival.

According to last year’s reports, the majority of people traveled by car or bus. The train was the second most-used form of transportation during chunyun. Airplane and boat ranked as the third and fourth most common form of transportation during the Spring Festival.

 

“I am seriously looking for a carpool friend to drive home for Spring Festival.”

 

During the chunyun season, people often have trouble obtaining train tickets. Stations are overcrowded, and many people have financial difficulties to pay for their tickets to go home.

Many people therefore try to arrange a shared ride home through one of China’s social media platforms, as it is relatively cheap and convenient. They are either passengers looking for a driver and car, or drivers who are looking for fellow passengers to share the costs of gas and toll fees.

Some are using car-hailing apps such as Didi to find a shared ride home, others are using Sina Weibo or WeChat to find a ride or carpoolers.

“I am seriously looking for a carpool friend to drive home for Spring Festival,” one man from Suzhou posts on Weibo: “I am an experienced driver of 10 years, and have a B2 driver’s license. I am going to drive from Suzhou to the north of Henan province. I will drive all! the! way! You don’t need to drive!”, the man writes.

He adds that the drive is usually around 10 hours, but might be 12-14 hours due to the busy roads. “The costs will be 300 RMB (±44$) per person,” he writes, saying that they can travel with three people in total and that he cannot accept people who are bringing too much luggage.

Many others are also looking to carpool, posting things such as: “Going from Yantai to Zaozhuang this week, who wants to drive together?” These posts are often placed with the #carpool hashtag (#拼车#).

 

“Always travel together with a good friend to avoid falling victim to someone with bad intentions.”

 

Some netizens who have not been able to obtain a train ticket need to drive across the entire country to go home, such this netizen (image below) who needs a ride of over 16 hours and 1300 kilometers.

While carpooling home for Chinese New Year is a popular form of transportation, Chinese media and public security bureaus also warn netizens to be well-prepared before getting into the car with a stranger.

They advise people – both drivers and carpoolers – to always travel together with a good friend to avoid falling victim to someone with bad intentions. Drivers should make clear agreements with passengers about safety and payment methods.

People should check each other’s contact details and make sure the vehicle is in good condition. “Don’t be careless in carpooling,” several media warn travelers.

 

“Data collected by QQ shows two major changing trends during this year’s chunyun.”

 

There are entire websites and message boards dedicated to finding rides home for Spring Festival. On sites like 58.com and Edeng, most rides vary from 100 to 300 RMB (14$-44$) depending on the distance.

According to Sina News, data collected by QQ shows two major changing trends during this year’s chunyun:

1. Traveling by train seems to have become the most popular way of traveling home for Chinese New Year. 2. The popularity of carpooling has gone up significantly during this year – it is now the second most used form of transportation to go home.

Although carpooling now seem to have become a new Chinese New Year tradition, not everyone feels comfortable with it yet. “This will be the first time that I am sharing a ride with someone I don’t know,” one woman writes on Weibo.

She then jokingly continues: “My sister-in-law and father-in-law seem to be more nervous about it than I am. I let the driver send me their ID and license plate number. My husband says I am too careless and will be sold off by a human trafficker. I told him there are no human traffickers who are looking to sell off a middle-aged lady. And if I am sold off to some village and become the village leader’s wife, I also don’t mind too much.”

– By Manya Koetse
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Featured image via TMTpost.

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

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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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In China’s “Kua Kua” Chat Groups, People Pay to Be Praised [Updated]

Money can’t buy you love, but in these ‘kua kua’ groups, they can buy you praise.

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Image via hexun.com.

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Social media is often called a battlefield, but in these Chinese WeChat ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群), people will praise you no matter what you do or say.

A new phenomenon has become a hot topic on Chinese social media these days. ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群) are chat groups where people share some things about themselves – even if they are negative things – and where other people will always tell them how great they are, no matter what.

Kua kua groups (夸 ‘kuā‘ literally means ‘praise’) have become all the rage in China. People seem to love them for the mere fact that it makes them feel good about themselves.

The format is clear. Person A tells about something that is on their minds, and asks people for positive feedback. Person B, C, and D will then come forward and tell them how good or pretty they are, sometimes based on their profile photo.

One could say: “Hi everyone, I’ve just turned down a job offer, but now my future is full of uncertainty, please compliment me.” Then people in the chat group will respond and say things such as: “You look like the type of person who knows exactly what they want.”

The Kua kua praise group phenomenon allegedly began within the online community of Xi’an Jiaotong University – although some claim it was Shanghai’s Fudan University – when one person asked others in a chat group to compliment them. The idea started to compliment and praise others, and so a trend was born; first, in university (BBS) chat groups, and now on WeChat and beyond the realm of universities.

The phenomenon has been around for at least six years, but only recently started gaining widespread attention on Chinese social media. According to China’s Toutiao News, virtually every college now has its own ‘praise group.’

But the praise does not always come for free. Although many (college-based) chat groups are free to join, people who want to be complimented and are not yet a member of an existing group can join Kua kua groups when they pay for it. On Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, there are various online shops that sell a ‘Praise group’ membership starting from 50 yuan ($7,5) per person, going up to 188 yuan ($28).

The time of praise is limited to five minutes unless you pay more. The quality of the compliments you’ll be getting also depends on how much you pay. Some groups allegedly consist of “students of great talent,” and the number of people complimenting one person could reach up to 500 people.

The contents of the praise could literally be anything. A simple “I want to be praised” comment could get a variety of reactions from “your hat looks nice” to “the fact that you’re so honest and straightforward about what you want is something that is hard to come across in this day and age,” to “you used a period mark [at the end of your sentence], you must be someone who is very persistent in reaching your goals.”

The fact that the “Kua kua” phenomenon is such a success in China might relate to its culture, where humility and modesty are considered ideal in day-to-day communications. When given a compliment, it is common in China to deny it or to suggest that the person giving the compliment is much better than they are (also see Cheng 2003, 30).

These chat groups, however, break away from the dominant cultural interactions: people don’t have to be polite in responding to the compliments and can wallow in the praise they paid for.

Although not as big as the “Kua Kua” group phenomenon, these kinds of groups also exist in the English-language social media sphere. On Reddit’s “Toast Me” page, for example, there are some 92,000 subscribers participating in asking and giving positive feedback to others, albeit unpaid.

The people giving compliments in the Chinese Kua kua groups are random people, some students, some staff of Taobao stores, who get hongbao, red envelopes with digital money gifts, for contributing to the group. According to some reports, some ‘customers’ end up staying the group and become a part of the team themselves.

We will follow up on this later: we booked a ‘five-minute praise session’ ourselves, but are still awaiting admission to the group…

 

Update: Our Kua Kua Experience

 

So what is the Kua kua experience like? We decided to try out for ourselves and purchased a 5-minute praise session through Taobao for 50 yuan ($7,5) from a seller that had a good rating.

After the purchase is completed, the seller will contact you with details asking for your WeChat ID. After adding, they will ask you what your ‘problem’ or issue is, and you will be put in a virtual queue until your turn comes up to be praised.

You’ll then be added to a WeChat group that has your name in the headline (ours was something like “Manya you can do it”) and that has around 200 participants.

The message posted by us was:

Hello, I’m Manya (Dutch). I’ve been studying Chinese for more than ten years. In fact, I’m afraid to say it may even be more than 13 years, but I still often don’t understand what Beijing taxi drivers are saying. Even studying every day won’t help. I’ve been learning for so many years, yet I often still don’t understand what the old people in Beijing are saying. It’s a bit embarrassing. I think my Chinese is still not good enough. I can’t understand the ‘crosstalk’ [comedy sketches] during the Spring Festival Gala at all. It makes me feel a little dispirited.

Within a matter of seconds, the screen then just fills up with positive feedback and emoji. There are dozens of comments, and they almost go too fast to read them all.

Some of the responses:

You’re great, and even I don’t understand Beijing taxi drivers.

Stay confident in yourself!

You’re so cool.”

You can type so many Chinese characters, who’d say your Chinese is not good enough?!

Manya, you’re so fantastic.”

None of us understand what old people in Beijing are saying.

Chinese is just not easy to study, the fact that you’ve been doing it for so long already shows how great you are.”

It’s incredible that you’ve already come this far.”

A woman who is so motivated about studying really moves me, you’re my role model, you make me want to study more English.”

During the praise session, the group leader will occasionally post a hongbao [envelope with money] for the participants to receive in return for their compliments.

After five minutes, the session ends, and the people will send out some last words of encouragement. The group leader will personally thank you for being part of the group, and later, you’ll be removed from the group as the people will move on to the next person who is waiting in line to be praised.

How does it feel to be praised by some 200 people, receiving hundreds of compliments? It’s overwhelming, and even though you know it’s all just an online mechanism, and that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, it still makes you glow a little bit inside.

Although some experts quoted by Chinese state media warn people not to rely on these praise groups too much, there does not seem to be much harm in allowing yourself to be complimented for some minutes from time to time.

Other people reviewing the same Kua kua group apparently feel the same: “I’m super satisfied, the result is amazing.”

By Manya Koetse  and Miranda Barnes

Featured image via hexun.com.

References

Cheng, Winnie. 2003. Intercultural Communication. Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Youth Federation: Ban Minors from Live Streaming Platforms

If implemented, this would mean a big blow to China’s live streaming market.

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More than 45% of Chinese live stream users are minors. A new proposal by the China Youth Federation wants to ban those under the age of 18 from broadcasting in China’s booming live streaming environment.

Chinese minors will no longer be able to do live streaming if it is up to the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF, 中国青联). The China Youth Federation submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (Lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings.

The China Youth Federation is an organization to represent China’s youth groups founded in 1949, that has the Communist Youth League of China as its core.

China’s live streaming market is booming. Sina News reports that some 425 million netizens used live streaming platforms in 2018. According to the Online Information Center of the Communist Youth League, Chinese minors are particularly active live streamers: 6.4% of live stream users are primary school students, 18.3% of them are junior high school students and 20.3% are senior high schoolers.

There are dozens of live streaming platforms in China, with this list of apps, including the short video & live stream platforms Douyin and Kuaishou, being among the most popular ones. If the law would be implemented, China’s thriving live streaming market would certainly suffer a big blow.

Earlier this week, Sixth Tone already reported that “protecting minors online” would be among one of the important themes discussed by tech leaders at the Two Sessions.

On Saturday, March 9, the hashtag “Proposal to Ban Minors from Engaging in Livestreaming” (#建议禁止未成年人担任网络主播#) [basically meaning “prohibiting minors from being online hosts”] became top trending on Weibo, attracting more than 180 million views. Various Chinese state media sources state that the live streaming industry is in “a state of chaos” and needs stricter control to protect minors, who could easily come into contact with “vulgar” and “inappropriate” content through live streaming platforms.

The ban could be realized by implementing stricter controls on the registration process of China’s various live-streaming networks. This could suggest that the measures would go beyond minors just being banned from live streaming themselves.

“I support this proposal, live streaming platforms are not appropriate for minors,” a popular comment said, with many Weibo users agreeing: “Young people should focus on their schoolwork instead.”

But not everyone agrees with stricter controls on China’s online platforms. One commenter wrote: “Officials can have multiple wives, rich people have multiple women, yet if common people watch live streams where some vulgar language or sensitive content occasionally pops up, then it’s not allowed.”

“What should be banned is vulgar content, not minor users,” others write.

Earlier this week, Beijing News reported that Yan Xiaohong (阎晓宏), director of the Chinese Copyright Association, also submitted a proposal relating to minors using the internet. Yan’s proposal goes much further than that of the ACYF: he suggests that special online platforms should be developed for minors, and argues that it is not good for China’s youth to be able to access the same online content as adults.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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