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China and Covid19

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
Follow @whatsonweibo

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

Netizens interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years.

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

The Curious Case of the Henan Bank Depositors and the Changing Health QR Codes

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote in light of the miraculously changing Health Codes.

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Where can people turn to once their money seems to have gone up in flames? How could Health Codes randomly turn from green to red? And who will stand up for justice? These are the questions asked by Chinese netizens in the Henan bank depositors case that is making headlines this week.

This week, the story of a Henan banking scandal and depositors’ Health Codes suddenly turning red triggered online discussions in China and even made international headlines.

In between online deposit products, financial platforms, regional banks, and Health Code systems, the story is a bit messy. Here, we’ll explain the story and its latest developments.

 

DUPED DEPOSITORS

 

The story starts in April of this year when people discovered that they were unable to withdraw money they had invested in online deposit products offered by various smaller regional banks.

Some people had deposited money via the Baidu money app (Du Xiaoman Financial 度小满), others had used another third-party platform, intermediaries, or one of the mini-programs run by the banks themselves.

By early May, it had become clear that dozens of depositors who once thought they had invested their money wisely had actually been duped. Four of the banks involved are located in Henan province, namely: the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank (禹州新民生村镇银行), Shangcai Huimin County Bank (上蔡惠民村镇银行), Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank (柘城黄淮村镇银行), and the Kaifeng New Oriental Country Bank (开封新东方村镇银行).

But there are also other smaller banks involved, including Guzhen Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (固镇新淮河村镇银行) and Yixian Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (黟县新淮河村镇银行) in Anhui.

As reported by South China Morning Post by late May, multiple customers had confirmed that they had not been able to withdraw funds either online or in person.

The sudden apparent closure of their withdrawal channels set off a wave of panic among depositors, who then protested in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on May 23rd, demanding the return of their money.

Yang Huajun (杨华军), deputy director of the Henan branch of China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), arrived at the scene of the protests and – speaking through a megaphone – promised the demonstrators that as long as their funds were “legally” deposited, they would be protected by law.

Many depositers, however, were unsure of whether or not their deposits were actually made in a “legal” way and what the definition of “legal” entailed in this case.

Over the past years, Chinese smaller rural banks have partnered with online platforms, often offering relatively high returns, in order to boost their deposit-reliant funding base.

In December of 2020, platforms Alipay, Du Xiaoman Financial, JD.com and Tencent Wealth Management all suspended the sale of online deposit products via their financial apps in light of heightened scrutiny from regulators concerning funds raised by unstable smaller lenders.

The smaller banks that are now at the center of the recent financial scandal then (illegally) reached out to their existing customers directly after December 2020 and convinced them to download the banks’ apps in order to deposit even more money.

One of the persons duped is Mr. Sun from Shenzhen. As reported by Sina Finance, it was in 2020 when Sun came across a seemingly attractive online saving product via the Du Xiaoman Financial app. Although Sun was not familiar with the banks in question, namely the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin County Bank, he could not resist the deposit interest rate of 4.6%, which was much better than what the big banks were offering at the time.

In early 2021, Mr. Sun received a text message from Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank saying that although the financial products had been taken offline, users would still be able to deposit through the bank’s own online application. Mr. Sun ended up depositing his entire savings into the Henan-based rural bank, thousands of miles away from his own home.

And then, earlier this year, Sun came across the news that Henan New Wealth Group, the primary shareholder of all banks involved, was under investigation for fraudulous practices. When he opened up his online financial application, there was nothing to see but a notice that the system was under maintenance. Sun could no longer access his funds. Hundreds of other customers were seeing the same empty screens.

According to media reports, the current suspected scam case affects some 400,000 customers of seven local banks and involves a money sum of 40 billion yuan ($5,6 billion).

 

IN THE RED

 

As thousands of depositors have been fighting to recover their savings over the past two months, they were duped a second time earlier this week. Dozens of affected depositors claimed they had seen their Health Codes turn red without any logical reason on June 13 or June 14 – the day of a planned protest.

In China’s Covid era, the Health Code system has become a pivotal tool in the country’s battle to contain the spread of the virus. The Health Code system is embedded in various apps, most importantly in Wechat and Alipay, and uses various data to assess an individual’s exposure risk. There is not one unified national Health Code application; they are developed by different actors and their management is different across Chinese provinces and cities.

If there is no detected risk, an individual is assigned a Green QR Code and is allowed access into any venue or location where a QR code scan is mandatory. With a Yellow Code, you should stay home for a week, and Red Code means you are high risk and need to quarantine for 14 days – this severely limits your freedom to move around and travel.

On June 13th, many affected investors saw their Health Code turn red when arriving in Zhengzhou, where they were allegedly coming to retrieve their savings and protest the injustice they suffered. The QR code color change was unexpected and strange, considering that there were no new reported Covid cases in their vicinity and also considering the fact that accompanying family members who made the exact same journey did not see their Health Codes change.

This raised suspicions that the duped depositors were specifically targeted, and that their Health Codes were being manipulated by authorities.

CNN reported that many distributors who had come to Zhengzhou were taken to a guarded quarantine hotel before being sent back to their hometowns via train the next day. According to a Chinese media report by Nanfang Daily, the depositors were not even asked to do nucleic acid testing and were told by local staff that they would get their Green Code back as soon as they left Henan.

Various media report that minimally 200 depositors saw their Health Code change from Green to Red earlier this week.

 

“OPERATION CODE RED”

 

The curious case of the Henan depositors scandal and the changing Health Code colors has become a trending topic on Chinese social media this week.

The topic of the duped depositors was also discussed online before this week, and it brought back memories of earlier financial scandals, such as the P2P chaos that occurred back in 2018.

But the topic of depositors’ Health Codes changing to Red is something that attracted much wider discussions on the apparent abuse of a system that has now become a part of everyday life for people in China’s Covid era.

The main proof for people that the Henan depositors were targeted in this apparent “Operation Code Red” is that, as mentioned before, the family members that were traveling together with the duped depositors never saw a change in their Health Code: those people who were listed on the affected regional banks’ depositors list were seemingly singled out and purposely targeted.

“Who is in charge of changing the Health Code colors?” became a much-asked question on Weibo, with many blaming local Henan authorities for abusing their powers to try and stop protesters from raising their voices in Zhengzhou. One Weibo post on this issue received over 1,6 million views. Meanwhile, Henan authorities still said they did “not understand” what had happened.

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote, putting in a sarcastically smiling emoji, with others adding: “No, the aliens did this – it must have been the aliens!”

Others wrote that the situation at hand should be simple to figure out: “There is no way that this is an oversight or a data error. If you want to know who did this, look at who or which department has the authority to manage both epidemic prevention measures as well as finance affairs.”

Many comments also showed a sense of disillusionment with how China’s Covid management affects the people: “After seeing the chaos during the Shanghai lockdown, this does not even surprise me anymore,” one person wrote on Weibo: “All we can do is pray that it won’t happen to us.”

“Why is Henan’s “messy Red Code” incident so extremely vile and scary? Because once a person or institution holding public power looks at you in a bad light, they can give you a Red Code and take you away, in the name of legality. This is the evil that comes from unmonitored power,” one blogger from Anhui wrote.

Other people also worried about foreign media reporting on this issue, saying this incident is being used to cast China in a bad light while local authorities are to blame: “We should unify the Health Code system into a national system in order to avoid this from happening again.”

According to Chinese state media reports, the case has now been forwarded to the Health Commission of Henan Province for further investigation.

We will keep tracking upcoming developments. Meanwhile, check out our other reports on trending topics relating to China’s banking and finance here. For more about Covid-related trending topics, check here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

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

References (all other sources included in hyperlinks)

Lee, Amanda. 2022. “Rural Banks Freeze Customers’ Accounts.” South China Morning Post, May 31.

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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