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CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020: Highlights and Must-Knows (Liveblog)

What is Chinese New Year without the CCTV Spring Gala? What’s on Weibo reports the must-knows of the 2020 ‘Chunwan.’

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Chinese social media is dominated by two topics today: the CCTV New Year Gala (Chunwan) and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Watch the livestream of the CCTV Gala here, and we will keep you updated with tonight’s highlights and must-knows as we will add more information to this post throughout the night. (This liveblog is now closed.)

As the Year of the Rat is just around the corner, millions of people in China and beyond are starting the countdown to the Chinese New Year by watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, commonly abbreviated in Chinese as Chunwan (春晚).

The role of social media in watching the event has become increasingly important throughout the years, with topics relating to the Chunwan becoming trending days before.

Making fun of the show and criticizing it is part of the viewer’s experience, although the hashtag used for these kinds of online discussions (such as “Spring Festival Gala Roast” #春晚吐槽#) are sometimes blocked.

The Gala starts at 20.00 China Central Time on January 24. Follow live on Youtube here, or see CCTV livestreaming here.

About the CCTV New Year’s Gala
Since its very first airing in 1983, the Spring Festival Gala has captured an audience of millions. In 2010, the live Gala had a viewership of 730 million; in 2014, it had reached a viewership of 900 million, and in 2019, over a billion people watched the Gala on TV and online, making the show much bigger in terms of viewership than, for example, the Super Bowl.

The show lasts a total of four hours, and has around 30 different acts, from dance to singing and acrobatics. The acts that are both most-loved and most-dreaded are the comic sketches (小品) and crosstalk (相声); they are usually the funniest, but also convey the most political messages.

As viewer ratings of the CCTV Gala in the 21st century have skyrocketed, so has the critique on the show – which seems to be growing year-on-year.

According to many viewers, the spectacle generally is often “way too political” with its display of communist nostalgia, including the performance of different revolutionary songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China” (没有共产党就没有新中国).

To take a look at what was going on during the Spring Gala’s previous shows, also see how What’s on Weibo covered this event in 2016, in 2017, in 2018, and in 2019.

Live updates
Check for some live updates below. (We might be quiet every now and then, but if you leave this page open you’ll hear a ping when we add a new post). (Update: Live blog closed)

 

Happy New Year Wishes from Wuhan People’s Hospital
[Jan 24 / 17:30 CST]

Medical staff at the dedicated isolation ward of Wuhan’s People’s Hospital wish everyone a Happy New Year, saying: “We’re here, don’t worry [and celebrate Spring Festival]” – a hashtag that’s now propagated online to ease the #coronavirus panic. #有我们在大家安心过年

 

Director of the Gala: Yang Dongsheng
[Jan 24 / 17:57 CST]

This year’s director is Yang Dongsheng (杨东升) from Guangdong (see picture below), who also directed the Gala in 2017 and 2018. With Avatar-like settings for dance and singing acts in 2017, spectacular light and dance show in 2018, we can also expect tonight’s show to be colorful and big.

 

Jiayou Wuhan, Jiayou China!
[Jan 24 / 19:57 CST]

In the ten minutes leading up to the CCTV Gala, it is clear that the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is not a news topic that will be ignored tonight.

The presenters have a strong message showing their support to the patients and people in Wuhan and beyond, saying: “Jiayou Wuhan, Jiayou China!” – Come on Wuhan! Come on China!

 

It just started and the first memes are here
[Jan 24 / 20:10 CST]

The first act has only just completed and already there are memes going around Chinese social media, comparing the dancers in the act to Chinese cabbages..

 

Time to have a “live look” inside the main hospital in Wuhan!
[Jan 24 / 20:40 CST]

A special moment during the CCTV Gala as the show switched to one of Wuhan’s main hospitals right now to get an update from the nurses there who are spending their Chinese New Year night taking care of the many people infected with the coronavirus.

According to the presenter, the switch was “very last minute.”

The presenters also take this time to thank all of those people sacrificing their time and energy to take care of the ill.

Global Times editor Hu Xijin also posted about the “last minute” Wuhan segment, and praised it for communicating the feelings and worries of Chinese people.

 

“Who has been eating wild game?!”
[Jan 24 / 20:44 CST]

With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the eating of wild game has been severely criticized on Weibo these days. This meme of the sketch performed by actor Yue Yunpeng (岳云鹏) during tonight’s Gala says: “Let’s see which idiot still dares to eat wild game?!”

Read more about the backlash against wild game eating here.

 

Some people only think about food during Chinese New Year…
[Jan 24 / 20:53 CST]

We already said that this CCTV Gala, directed by Yang Dongsheng, would be a colorful one. For some viewers, the dance performance set up at the start of this night just looks like food.

 

[Jan 24 / 21:03 CST]

 

#春晚历史上首次没有彩排的片段#
[Jan 24 / 21:18 CST]

As the night continues, people on Weibo are still talking about the segment in the show that cut to the Wuhan hospital. For the first time since 1983, the CCTV Gala included a segment that was not rehearsed. The topic is making its way around social media under the hashtag “For the first time in history, the CCTV Gala airs unrehearsed segment” (#春晚历史上首次没有彩排的片段#).

 

How much is live?
[Jan 24 / 21:45 CST]

Although this Gala is a live broadcast from CCTV’s No.1 Studio in Beijing, combined with broadcasting from different other venues (this year: Guangdong, HK, Zhengzhou, Macao). every year’s show has a taped version of the full dress rehearsal. The tape runs together with the live broadcast, so that in the event of a problem or disruption, the producers can seamlessly switch to the taped version without TV audiences noticing anything.

Because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, Beijing seems to be the only location that is actually aired live tonight, with the other locations using pre-recorded versions.

 

What’s tonight’s theme?
[Jan 24 / 21:53 CST]

Every year, the CCTV Gala has a different theme. Sometimes, these themes are very clear, such as the “Chinese Dream” in 2016, or “National Unity” in 2017.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, and the Gala seems to have an umbrella theme capturing issues such as the celebration of 70 years ‘New China,’ the fight against poverty, unity among all languages and ethnic groups within China, and China’s important role in international society (especially marked by the first act, showing dancing and performances from different One Belt, One Road countries).

 

2020, I Love You
[Jan 24 / 21:53 CST]

This catchy poppy song is called “Hello 2020″(你好2020), performed by various artists.

 

Stunning Dance “Morning Light”
[Jan 24 / 22:02 CST]

This is one of the dance performances of tonight, called “Morning Light” and led by Zhu Jiejing. The performance is by the Shanghai Song and Dance Troupe. Zhu Jiejing was born in October, 1985 in Jiaxing of Zhejiang Province. She won a top award for dance in China.

 

Kuaishou x CCTV Gala
[Jan 24 / 22:06 CST]

Tonight’s show is done in cooperation with Kuaishou, a hugely popular Chinese video sharing app. The CCTV Gala usually has different social media and/or online partners – which usually means a boost for these online platforms.

 

“My Motherland”
[Jan 24 / 22:32 CST]

The inevitable patriotic song “My Motherland” is here, including a segment with the 90-year-old singer Guo Lanying (郭兰英).

BUT WHERE ARE THE DANCING ROBOTS?!

This is Guo Lanying singing the song for the first time at the Chunwan in her younger years, 30 years ago:

 

Spectacular footage from Zhengzhou
[Jan 24 / 23:03 CST]

We’re moving to one of the venues outside of Beijing – this is one of the prerecorded segments including piano play by the renowned Lang Lang, followed up with a song by Sun Nan (孙楠) and Li Yuchun (李宇春).

 

Meanwhile on Weibo
[Jan 24 / 23:04 CST]

 

Mixed feelings: CoronaVirus and Chunwan share the Weibo stage
[Jan 24 / 23:18 CST]

On Weibo, there are many netizens sharing their mixed feelings about tonight and going on social media, with some posts being about the CCTV Gala and happiness, and the others being about the situation in Wuhan and the despair. “I am laughing and crying,” some write.

 

[Jan 24 / 23:39 CST]

 

A ‘Yellow River’ of humans
[Jan 24 / 23:47 CST]

 

Chunwan and Coronavirus: stark contrast night
[Jan 24 / 23:52 CST]

While Miranda and Manya are watching the CCTV Gala and keeping an eye on social media developments, editor-in-chief Manya just joined BBC World News to briefly address the current social media developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak. See embedded tweet below.

 

Will tonight’s show break viewership records (again)?
[Jan 25 / 00:24 CST]

Over the past few years, the number of people watching the CCTV Gala has increased because of the many people watching the event via online platforms. Youtube is one of the platforms outside of China where the event is being livestreamed, and where over 105,000 people are joining.

Together with the traditional TV audiences, the CCTV online viewership, and the total number of people watching via other apps, will tonight’s show cross the one billion record again?

 

Wear your facemask
[Jan 25 / 00:26 CST]

Just before the end of the show, a public service announcement reminds viewers to wear a face mask in times of the Corona virus outbreak.

 

It’s a wrap
[Jan 25 / 00:59 CST]

It’s a wrap for tonight, so we will close our updates here, but stay tuned the coming days and weeks as we will keep a finger on the pulse of everything happening on Chinese social media and online discussions regarding the Chinese New Year travel season and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Thanks for joining, and a Happy New Year of the Rat!

 

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes
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China Insight

“Support Xinjiang MianHua!” – China’s Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

The hashtag “Wo Zhichi Xinjiang Mianhua” – “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” – received over 6 billion views on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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Western brands faced heavy criticism in China this week when a social media storm erupted over the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its brand members for no longer sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region. The ‘Xinjiang cotton ban’ led to a major ‘Xinjiang cotton support’ campaign on Weibo, and a boycott for those brands siding with BCI.

In 2019, an extensive brand ‘witch hunt’ took place on Weibo and other Chinese social media networks in light of the protests in Hong Kong, with international fashion and luxury brands, from Versace to Swarovski, getting caught in the crossfire for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or brand T-shirts.

Now, another brand ‘witch hunt’ is taking place on Chinese social media. This time, it is not about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang and its cotton industry.

H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and other international brands have caused public outrage for the stand they’ve taken against the alleged use of forced labor involving the Muslim Uyghur minority to produce cotton in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

The social media storm started earlier this week on Wednesday, March 24, and is linked to H&M and the ‘BCI’ (Better Cotton Initiative), a Swiss NGO that aims to promote better standards in cotton farming.

In October 2020, H&M shared a statement on its site in which the Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

H&M stated that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, following the BCI decision to suspend licensing of BCI cotton in the region.

 

BCI and its Suspension of Activities in Xinjiang

 

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. It practices across 23 countries and accounts for 22% of global cotton production. The governance group was established in 2005 in cooperation with WWF and leading retailers, with the aim of promoting the widespread use of improved farm practices.

While H&M is a ‘top member’ of the Better Cotton Initiative (link), many others brands such as IKEA, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, and C&A are also brand members.

January 2020
In January of 2020, the BCI was slammed by Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, for its refusal to pull out of the Xinjiang region. At the time, 20 percent of its ‘better cotton’ was sourced from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

According to a 2020 report by EcoTextile, the BCI maintained that its implicated council member, the yarn producer Huafu, denied the allegations and that an independent audit of the company’s Aksu facility in Xinjiang had failed to identify any instances of forced labor. An earlier report by Adidas from 2019 also stated that their independent investigations found no evidence of forced labor.

March 2020
In late March of 2020, the BCI reportedly did suspend activities with licensed farmers in the Xinjiang region for the 2020/21 cotton season while also contracting a global expert to conduct an external review of the Xinjiang situation. Chinese state media Global Times later reported that despite suspending its licensing activities, the BCI would remain committed to cotton farming communities in Xinjiang and would continue to engage in activities in the region.

July 2020
The pressure on BCI and other brands to stop sourcing from Xinjiang was heightened when a coalition of civil society groups raised concerns over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China and the “grave risk of forced labor.” Reuters reported that more than 180 organizations urged brands from Adidas to Amazon to end sourcing of cotton and clothing from the region and cut ties with any suppliers in China that would benefit from the alleged forced labour of Uyghur other Muslim groups.

October 2020
In October of 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative announced it would cease all field-level activities in Xinjiang with immediate effect because the region had reportedly become “an increasingly untenable operating environment.” The aforementioned statement by H&M came out in the same month.

March 2021
By late March 2021, various Chinese state media reported on the BCI suspension. These reports came days after a coordinated effort by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over China’s alleged human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, something which was called a “concerted effort to slander China’s policies in its Xinjiang region” by Global Times. The news outlet linked these “anti-China forces’ efforts” to the BCI decision to suspend its Xinjiang activities.

 

A Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton

 

The news developments were followed by a wave of social media boycott movements and Chinese brand ambassadors cutting ties with international brands, with H&M being the main target over its Xinjiang statement.

Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Suning.com, and Meituan’s Dianping on Thursday all removed H&M from their platforms, with Chinese Android app stores also removing H&M. On Thursday, a search for “H&M” came up with no results on these sites (see images below).

Two of China’s largest online maps also removed H&M from its systems.

No H&M on these maps.

On Thursday, virtually all topics in Weibo’s top trending lists related to the Xinjiang cotton ban (see image below), with Chinese famous influencers and celebrities one by one announcing they would terminate their contracts with international brands related to the Xinjiang cotton ban.

The storm became so big this week that some people on social media even commented that “if you’re a Chinese celebrity and you don’t have any contracts to terminate now, you’re not doing so well.”

After H&M, an entire list of brands was targeted, including Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Converse, Puma, Burberry, and Lacoste.

In light of the heated discussions and calls for boycotts, there was also another hashtag that popped up on Weibo, namely that of “don’t make it hard for the workers” (不要为难打工人). The hashtag came up after some Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded on a live stream, with netizens calling on people to stay rational and not let the boycott turn into personal attacks on people. But another popular video showed a man in Chongqing calling customers out in an H&M store for buying their “trash.”

Another hashtag gaining many views, 520 million in total, was that of two ‘girls from Xinjiang dancing outside H&M’ (#新疆小姐姐在HM门店外跳新疆舞#) – it was linked to a video that showed two women performing outside of a H&M store in Chongqing.

Meanwhile, some brands, including Chinese company Anta Sports and the Japanese Asics, reportedly announced they would leave the Better Cotton Initiative in order to continue sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

The discussions on Xinjiang as Weibo saw this week are unprecedented, as ‘Xinjiang’ was previously a sensitive topic on Chinese social media and was barely discussed in political contexts. The last time Xinjiang became a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media was in 2018, when CCTV aired a program on the region’s “vocational education programs” in Xinjiang. That media moment triggered mixed reactions on Weibo, with some commenters wondering what the difference between a ‘re-education center’ and a ‘prison’ is.

 

Chinese State Media and the ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’

 

While Chinese netizens and celebrities play a major role in the storm that erupted over BCI, H&M, and Xinjiang cotton, the role of Chinese state media is pivotal.

Over the past week, various state media outlets posted strong messages regarding the ban in various ways, the most noteworthy one being People’s Daily‘s “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” (#我支持新疆棉花#) hashtag, which had garnered six billion views by the weekend. “The H&M Group released a statement that sparked outrage among netizens. Let’s pass it on together: Support Xinjiang Cotton,” the tagline of the hashtag page said.

The message came with an image saying “Xinjiang Mianhua” (Xinjiang cotton) in a similar font to the H&M logo, the “H” and “M” within ‘mianhua‘ being identical to the H&M letters.

The image and post by People’s Daily was shared over 36 million times.

A message by People’s Daily: those who slander China are not welcome.

Another image by People’s Daily published on March 25 said that the Chinese market does not welcome those who slander China.

The Communist Youth League also contributed to the online storm by posting about H&M, writing: “On the one hand they are starting rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand they want to make money in China. Dream on, H&M!” That post received around 430,000 likes.

Various official media, including Global Times and China Daily, posted about cotton production in Xinjiang. Besides refuting the forced labor accusations and accusing Western players of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, a recurring issue stressed is how 42 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton is harvested by machines. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying that “the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is nonexistent and entirely imaginary. The spotless white Xinjiang cotton brooks no slander.”

This image was posted by China Daily USA.

On March 27, People’s Daily posted a rap video by ‘Xinjiang Youth’ (新疆青年) on its official Weibo channel (video below) that included some tough lines attacking Western powers, companies, and media.

Also noteworthy in this propaganda campaign is how the Canadian YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill got caught up, as what he said in one of his videos was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) on March 27 during a press conference, with his video being screened before the conference.

In this video, that was part of a larger panel on Xinjiang, Dumbrill responded to the decision-making process on how China’s treatment of Uyghurs is called a “genocide.”

Recently, a number of countries and parliaments including the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have declared that China’s crackdown on the Muslim minorities amounts to “genocide” in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. Dumbrill talks about why the Xinjiang narratives matter to both the foreign and domestic politics of the US and other Western countries, with Dumbril claiming it “isn’t really about human rights and a care for overseas Muslims” but about other political goals. Dumbrill’s video was praised by authorities, state media, and by Chinese netizens.

“We have to push for the truth to come out,” some netizens commented. Others wrote: “But we’re only allowed to discuss it from within [the country].”

Meanwhile, while many companies are seeing sales falling, there are also many who are benefiting from the current developments. Some sellers on Taobao have found another way to attract customers, promoting their products as being made with “100% Xinjiang Cotton!”

As this is an ongoing topic, we will report more later. Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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

About Yang Jiechi’s Instant Noodle Lunch at the US-China Talks in Alaska

Chinese state media want to make sure that you know that top diplomat Yang Jiechi had instant noodles for lunch during the top-level US-China talks in Alaska.

Manya Koetse

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A 12-second video in which top diplomat Yang Jiechi said he had an instant noodle lunch became a topic of discussion in China, where one hashtag on the issue attracted over 270 million views. It’s about more than noodles alone.

The high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska concluded on Friday. While international media describe the talks as “tough” and exposing the “depth of tensions” between the United States and China, many netizens also focus on the smaller events that occurred during the talks.

Besides the cool and collected way in which Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) went about her job, the fact that Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) had remarked he had instant noodles for lunch also triggered discussions on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlet CGTN published a short video showing how Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Yang walk to enter a session of the high-level talks, with Wang asking Yang “Have you had lunch?” Yang then answers: “Yes, instant noodles.”

The topic was discussed on Weibo in multiple threads and under the hashtags “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃泡面#) and “The Instant Noodles Yang Jiechi Had for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃的泡面#). The latter received had 270 million views on Weibo by Sunday evening.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag page “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” was initiated by Party newspaper People’s Daily. Together with the video published by CGTN, this shows that state media are purposely bringing ‘noodle gate’ to the attention of readers – both inside and outside of China.

Some Chinese news outlets reported that no formal dinner was arranged for the Chinese diplomats at the strategic dialogue due to COVID19, and that their lunch apparently consisted of simple noodles.

On Twitter, Christian Goebbels (@Chri5tianGoebel), Professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Vienna, commented: “My first thought when seeing this was: this is a complaint that the hosts didn’t even serve their guests a proper lunch, which Chinese viewers (and the guests!) would consider incredibly rude. If they wanted to create a good atmosphere, they should’ve served up a banquet.”

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham, called the noodle incident a “meaningful detail” on Twitter (@jonlsullivan), writing: “It fits the narrative that the US is inhospitable & disrespectful, incapable of treating China as a power of equal standing.”

Many netizens on Weibo take a similar stance, writing: “The American etiquette is unsatisfactory,” and: “Let’s not pay attention to food, they completely lack etiquette.”

“Jeez, these Americans don’t even care about food,” others wrote.

“It’s extremely insulting,” one blogger wrote: “This is a superpower, their strategy is despicable, to send our diplomatic staff off with a bucket of noodles!”

On Twitter, George Washington University Law Professor Donald Clarke called ‘noodle-gate’ a “non-story,” saying: “A reliable source tells me that China agreed on no joint meals for Covid reasons. Thus, no big banquet. If someone wants to order noodles instead of a proper meal from room service, they can do that, but it’s their choice, not something forced on them.”

But meanwhile, on Weibo, commenters are adding that plenty of restaurants in Alaska are still operating, suggesting that there would have been options to socialize safely.

In Chinese culture, it is a custom to hold a banquet for business, diplomatic, or even trivial events, with meal gatherings being used as a social lubricant; a way to build and maintain relations.

With food and meal gatherings being such an important part of communicative practices in relationship-building in China, Yang Jiechi having instant noodles by himself for lunch is much more than just that. From the perspective of many Chinese, it shows little consideration for the Chinese cultural background and not a lot of hospitality from the Americans towards their Chinese guests.

The fact that the US-China talks were icy does not help. State media outlet Global Times said that American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “unjustifiably attacked and accused China’s domestic and foreign policies” and “seriously prolonged its opening remarks.”

The Chinese delegation blamed the Americans, who invited the Chinese to Anchorage to have the strategic dialogue, for lacking “hospitable [and] good diplomatic etiquette.”

The noodle incident already led to one Guancha blogger coining the term ‘noodle diplomacy’ (“泡面外交”).

“The decline of the US starts with a bowl of instant noodles,” some said on Weibo.

“Let’s at least hope it was a ‘unifying’ beef noodle that he had,” some on Weibo jokingly commented.

Although many see the noodle lunch as a symbol of American inhospitality, there are also many commenters who see it as a practical and safe way to have lunch: “It’s good this way – at least nobody can poison him.”

“I want to know which brand [of instant noodles] he’s having, I want it too!”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by Miguel Andrade.

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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