Connect with us

China Digital

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.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

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
Follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook

Featured image via TMTpost.

©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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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

China Digital

From Tea Farmer to Online Influencer: Uncle Huang and China’s Rural Live Streamers

‘Cunbo’ aka ‘rural livestreaming’ is all the rage. A win-win situation for farmers, viewers, and Alibaba.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “VOM TEEBAUERN ZUM INFLUENCER: ONKEL HUANG UND CHINAS LÄNDLICHE LIVESTREAMER.” 

The past year has been super tumultuous when it comes to the topics that have been dominating Chinese social media. The Coronavirus crisis was preceded by other big issues that were all the talk online, from the US-China trade war to the protests in Hong-Kong, the swine flu, and heightened censorship and surveillance.

Despite the darker side to China’s online environment, however, there were also positive developments. One of the online trends that became popular this year comes with a term of its own, namely cūnbō (村播): rural livestreaming.  Chinese farmers using livestreaming as a way to sell their products and promote their business have become a more common occurrence on China’s e-commerce and social media platforms. 

mage via Phoenix News (iFeng Finance).

The social media + e-commerce mix, also called ‘social shopping,’ is booming in the PRC. Online platforms where the lines between social media and e-commerce have disappeared are now more popular than ever. There’s the thriving Xiaohongshu (小红书Little Red Book) platform, for example, but apps such as TikTok (known as Douyin in China) also integrate shopping in the social media experience.

Over recent years, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has contributed to the rising popularity of ‘social shopping.’ Its Taobao Live unit (also a separate app), which falls under the umbrella of China’s biggest online marketplace Taobao, is solely dedicated to shopping + social media, mainly mobile-centered. It’s a recipe for success: Chinese mobile users spend over six hours online per day, approximately 72% of them shop online, and nearly 65% of mobile internet users watch livestreaming.

Every minute of every day, thousands of online shoppers tune in to dozens of different channels where sellers promote anything from food products to makeup or pet accessories. The sellers, also called ‘hosts’ or ‘presenters,’ make their channels attractive by incorporating makeup tutorials, cooking classes, giving tips and tricks, chatting away and joking, and promising their buyers the best deal or extra presents when purchasing their products.                

Livestreaming on Taobao goes on 24/7 (screenshots from Taobao app by author).

Sometimes thousands of viewers tune in to one channel at the same. They can ‘follow’ their favorite hosts and can interact with them directly by leaving comments on the livestreams. They can compliment the hosts (“You’re so funny!”), ask questions about products (“Does this also come in red?”), or leave practical advice (“You should zoom in when demonstrating this product!”). The product promoted in the livestreams can be directly purchased through the Taobao system.

Over the past year, Alibaba has increased its focus on rural sellers within the livestreaming e-commerce business. Countryside sellers even have their own category highlighted on the Taobao Live app. Chinese tech giant Alibaba launched its ‘cūnbō project’ in the spring of 2019 to promote the use of its Taobao Live app amongst farmers. The most influential livestreaming farmers get signed by Alibaba to elevate Taobao Live’s rural business to a higher level.

One of these influential Chinese farmers who has made a name for himself through livestreaming is Huang Wensheng, a tea farmer from the mountainous Lichuan area in Hunan Province.

Uncle Huang livestreaming from the tea fields (image via Sohu.com)

Huang, who is nicknamed ‘Uncle Farmer,’ sells tea through his channel, where he shows viewers his work and shares stories and songs from his village. He is also known to talk about what he learned throughout his life and will say things such as: “It is important to work hard; not necessarily so much to change the world , but to make sure the world does not change you.”

With just three to five livestreaming sessions per week, ‘Uncle’ Huang reaches up to twenty million viewers per month, and, according to Chinese media reports, has seen a significant increase in his income, earning some 10,000 yuan (€1300) per week.

Huang is not the only farmer from his hometown using Taobao Live to increase their income; there are some hundred rural livestreamers in Lichuan doing the same.

Some random screenshots by author from rural livestreaming channels, where online shoppers get a glimpse of countryside life

The rural livestreaming category is significantly different from the urban fashionistas selling brand makeup and the latest must-haves: these hosts do not have the polished look, glamorous clothes, or stylish backgrounds. They usually film outside while doing their work or offer a glimpse into their often humble rooms or kitchens.

Viewers get to see the source of the products sold by these rural sellers; they often literally go to the fields to show where their agricultural products grow, or film themselves getting the eggs from their chickens or the oranges from the trees. From fruits to potatoes and flowers, and from fresh tea to home-made chili sauce – a wide range of products is promoted and sold through Taobao Live these days.

Some rural livestreamers are trying to stay ahead of their competition by coming up with novel concepts. A young farmer from Sichuan, for example, recently offered viewers the opportunity to “adopt” a rooster from his farm, allowing them to interact with ‘their’ rooster through social media and even throwing the occasional birthday party for some lucky roosters.

Image via sina.com.

Examples such as these show that although the countryside livestreamers usually lack glitter and glam, they can be just as entertaining – or perhaps even more so – than their urban counterparts.

Who benefits from the recent ‘cūnbōboom? One could argue that the rising popularity of livestreaming farmers is a win-win situation from which all participants can profit in some way. The commercial interests are big for Alibaba. The company has been targeting China’s countryside for years, as it’s where China’s biggest consumption growth will happen while mobile internet penetration is still on the rise. Alibaba earns profits from an increasing number of rural e-commerce buyers, as well as e-commerce sellers.

Alibaba’s early focus on the countryside as a new home for e-commerce has previously also led to the phenomenon of so-called ‘Taobao Villages,’ where a certain percentage of rural residents are selling local specialties, farm products or other things via the Taobao platform with relatively little transaction costs.

Many Chinese villages and farmers are profiting from the further spread of Taobao in the countryside. Not only does Alibaba invest in logistics and e-commerce trainings in rural areas, these e-commerce channels are also a way to directly boost sales and income for struggling farmers.

Chinese media predict that the rural livestreaming trend will only become more popular in the years to come, bringing forth many more influential farmers like Huang.

But besides the commercial and financial gains that come from the rising popularity of rural livestreamers, there is also a significant and noteworthy social impact.  At  a time in which China’s rapidly changing society sees a widening gap between urban and rural areas, these rural channels serve as a digital bridge between countryside sellers and urban consumers, offering netizens a real and unpolished look into the lives of farmers in others parts of the country, and gives online buyers more insight and understanding of where their online products came from.

Taobao Live is actually like a traditional “farmers’ market,” but now it is digital, open 24/7, and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. It’s the Chinese farmers’ market of the 21st century.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

Continue Reading

China Digital

WeChat’s New Emoji Are Here (Including a Watermelon-Eating and Doge One)

WeChat’s new emoji are based on popular memes.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

On January 14, Tencent’s Wechat introduced new emoji to its existing emoji set. The new emoji include, among others, a watermelon-eating emoji and a smiling Shiba Inu.

On Weibo, the new emoji have become a topic of discussion under the hashtags “WeChat’s New Emoji” (#微信上线新表情#), “WeChat’s Watermelon Eating Emoji” (#微信上线吃瓜表情#), and “WeChat’s Dog Emoji” (#微信上线狗头表情#).

Different from the Unicode emoji (see Emojipedia), WeChat and Weibo have their own sets of emoji, although there is overlap.

The reason why especially the watermelon-eating and dog emoji are being discussed on social media, is because these emoji are based on popular internet memes.

“Eating watermelon” (吃瓜 chī guā) is an online expression that comes from “watermelon-eating masses” (吃瓜群众 chī guā qúnzhòng), which describes a common mentality of Internet users who have no idea what is actually going on but are still commenting or following online stories for their enjoyment – perhaps comparable to the “popcorn memes” that are ubiquitous on Western social media platforms.

The smiling dog has been around since 2013 and is known as the doge meme, based on a photo of a Shiba inu. The meme was originally spread on social media platforms such as Reddit, but then also became hugely popular in China, where it became a symbol of sarcasm (also read this Abacus article on this topic).

Other new emoji are the “wow” emoji, and others to express “ok,” “add oil,” “emm,” “oh!”

There’s also a “shehui shehui” (社会社会, lit. “society society”) emoji, which also comes from online culture and is a way among friends to (self-mockingly) talk about being ‘gangsters,’ ‘brothers.’ or ‘scoundrels.’

As the new emoji are still in their testing phase, not all WeChat users can use the new emoji yet, so you might have to wait a bit before being able to try them out.

By Manya Koetse, with thanks to @caaatchina
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Support What’s on Weibo

If you enjoy What’s on Weibo and support the way we report the latest trends in China, you could consider becoming a What's on Weibo patron:
Donate

Facebook

Instagram

Advertisement

Contribute

Got any tips? Or want to become a contributor or intern at What's on Weibo? Email us as at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Popular Reads