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CCTV News Features Story About What’s on Weibo

Manya Koetse

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Since 2003, China Central Television (CCTV) has been broadcasting its weekly news show ‘World Weekly’ (世界周刊) on 22.15 every Sunday night. The programme is presented by journalist Shui Junyi (水均益).

On China’s National Day, October 1st, the story of What’s on Weibo and how it was founded was featured in a special about ‘China and the World.’

See the segment here and turn subtitles on for English. For the entire show (no subtitles) see the CCTV broadcasting website.

For a behind-the-scenes peek of CCTV visiting the What’s on Weibo headquarters in Amsterdam, check out the video below.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Celebs

A Pair of Socks for US$100? A Livestream Session Exposing Wealth Inequality in Chinese Society

A casual remark made by Chinese actress Zhang Yuqi regarding the price of socks has ignited discussions surrounding the stark disparity between the perspectives of celebrities and the financial realities experienced by ordinary individuals.

Zilan Qian

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Amidst rising joblessness, surging prices, and economic challenges in China, it is not easy to get by for many people. So when Chinese actress Zhang Yuqi (张雨绮) recently suggested that 699 yuan (about US$100) would not be enough money to buy a pair of socks, her comment sparked discussions about celebrities flaunting their wealth and income inequality.

The incident took place during a live broadcast where Zhang Yuqi was participating in product sales alongside guest speaker Hao Shaowen (郝劭文). The focus of the broadcast was a luxury cashmere blanket priced at 1,699 yuan ($238). In the course of the session, Hao proposed reducing the price to 699 yuan ($100). In response, Zhang Yuqi made the remark, “699 yuan? I don’t even think I can buy a pair of socks with that amount.”

Screenshot of the live stream session when Zhang said “699 yuan? I don’t even think I can buy a pair of socks with that amount” (source).

Hao continued to emphasize that 699 yuan was already an excellent offer, highlighting the high cost of wool. Zhang echoed his sentiment, emphasizing the exorbitant price of wool. Eventually, the price of the blanket was further discounted to 369 yuan ($51) for a 1.5-meter size cashmere blanket.

Zhang Yuqi’s statement about 699 yuan not being sufficient to buy a pair of socks quickly grabbed attention online, leading to intense debates.

A screenshot of Zhang’s Weibo post on June 11th. Zhang apologized and explained that her intention was misunderstood due to her failure to effectively communicate her point.

On June 11th, Zhang issued an apology for her remark, explaining that her intention was to highlight the high cost of wool and that certain wool socks cannot be obtained for 699 yuan (#张雨绮致歉#). However, despite her apology, the discussions surrounding the incident did not subside.

 

“Zhang Yuqi doesn’t need to apologize. 699 yuan [$100] is truly not enough for celebrities to buy a pair of socks”

 

What was Zhang’s intention behind the controversial statement? Some individuals view Zhang’s comment as a calculated move designed to showcase her wealth.

Associate Professor Liu Chunshen from the Central University of Finance and Economics suggested that such a remark could be a tactic employed by celebrities to display their extravagant lifestyles and attract attention, which could potentially translate into financial gains (#学者称明星不该边赚钱边说风凉话#).

On the other hand, some argue that Zhang’s statement simply reflects the inherent luxury associated with the everyday lives of celebrities. One Weibo user shared a series of photos showcasing the prices of handbags, watches, and hats worn by various celebrities as part of their personal outfits.

The examples included jeans worn by Chinese actress Angelababy priced at 48,500 yuan ($6,805) and Chinese singer Roy Wang’s watch priced at a staggering 16.8 million yuan ($2,357,230).

One of the photos included in the Weibo post. The photo shows Angelababy’s personal outfit she wore at the airport on June 2nd, 2023, which includes a Hermès Faubourg Birkin handbag of around 2 million yuan (about $280,000), a Celine cap of 3700 yuan ($520), and a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes of 10000 yuan ($1400).

In the accompanying post, the Weibo user wrote, “Zhang Yuqi doesn’t need to apologize. 699 yuan is truly not enough for celebrities to buy a pair of socks,” implying that the seemingly exorbitant price of the socks is just a regular expense for these celebrities when compared to the extravagant items they commonly wear in their daily lives.

 

“Celebrities have attained an income level that is unimaginable for ordinary individuals in China”

 

Amidst the varying interpretations of Zhang’s statement, there is widespread agreement among netizens that the significant income gap is the primary driving force behind the online discussions.

Professor Liu, in his analysis of the incident, also asserts that income inequality is the core reason why netizens find Zhang’s statement unacceptable. Likewise, Weibo users who believe that Zhang had no intention to flaunt her wealth also acknowledge that celebrities have attained an income level that is unimaginable for ordinary individuals in China.

The potential earnings of celebrities have been a topic of discussion, with a prevailing consensus suggesting that they can earn approximately 2.08 million yuan (about $291,000) per day. This estimation originated from actress Zheng Shuang’s alleged earnings of 160 million yuan ($22.35 million) for the film A Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂), averaging around 2.08 million yuan per day over a span of 77 days.

While Zheng’s case may be regarded as somewhat exceptional, it is widely known that celebrities earn substantial incomes. Reports of various celebrities earning 100 million yuan ($14 million) in six years, 8 million yuan ($1.1 million) in four days, or 1.8 million yuan ($252,000) per episode have been extensively circulated in recent years.

In stark contrast, the disposable income of residents nationwide was 36,882 yuan (about $5,100) in 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

 

“Chinese actor Wang Chuanjun shared he only had 1 million yuan ($140,000) left in his bank account, which caused him great distress.”

 

This is not the first time celebrities’ statements on prices trigger controversies, indicating a sense of disconnect from the reality of everyday expenses.

In 2021, Su Mang, the former CEO of a fashion group and former editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR China, also attracted attention with her remarks on prices. During the variety show “50km Taohuawu (三十里桃花坞),” when actress Song Dandan suggested a daily food expense of 650 yuan ($91) per person, Su immediately exclaimed, “650 yuan is truly not enough. Don’t you have milk and eggs in the morning? We should have better meals! I can’t settle for such low-quality food.”

In response to this incident, some commenters mentioned that 650 yuan could cover their food expenses for an entire month.

Photo of Su Mang claiming that 650 is not enough and questioning whether people have eggs and milk for breakfast in the variety show (via Sohu).

Not only do some Chinese celebrities seem to live in another world where everything costs more, but they also live in a place where “poverty” is differently defined.

Actor Wang Chuanjun (王传君) once shared in an interview that during his most financially challenging period, he just had 1 million yuan (about $140,000) left in his bank account, which caused him great distress.

Similarly, singer Eason Chan expressed unease during the Covid-19 pandemic when he had “only” 30 million in his bank account. (While the original report did not specify the currency, we assume it to be in HK dollars, which would be approximately $3.83 million.)

(Photo of the interview when Wang Chuanjun expressed his anxiety when finding out that he “only” had 1 million yuan left (via Baijiahao)

“It’s too divided,” one Weibo user wrote:

On one side, there are individuals who earn 2.08 million yuan per day, lacking education and expertise, yet dominating a significant portion of public opinion with their extravagant life of luxury. On the other side, there is the marginalized lower class (probably including most of you and me) who are squeezed to the point of being voiceless, pushed to the brink of collapse and even driven to end their lives due to the pressure of just tens of thousands of yuan.”

In the thread below this post, one commenter provided an example to support the argument of individuals being driven to the point of ending their lives. They recounted a case that was recently disclosed by the court, involving a lonely elderly person who attempted suicide by consuming pesticides after being robbed of 45,000 yuan ($6,287).

One Weibo user provided a perspective from common individuals with a relatively average salary:

Considering a monthly income of 5,000 yuan (about $700) and no expenses, it would be possible to accumulate 60,000 yuan ($8,383) in a year. Hypothetically, if someone were to retire at the age of 60 without any expenses, they could potentially have 3.6 million yuan (about $503,000) saved up.

However, this already impractical scenario seems far from reality for many people across China, particularly those residing in smaller cities, who struggle to reach an annual salary of 60,000 yuan.

 

“I no longer know how to place trust in the notion that hard work guarantees success”

 

This striking disparity between the lifetime earnings of average salary earners and the daily earnings of celebrities evokes a sense of both indignation and helplessness. “Isn’t it absurd when some people discuss earning 2.08 million yuan per day? I also find it quite amusing. It’s genuinely pitiful and disheartening,” expressed the user in response to the calculations.

By this point, Zhang’s livestream comment about the ‘699 yuan socks’ has transcended a mere debate about whether she was flaunting her wealth or not. When coupled with other instances where celebrities divulge their astounding earnings and extravagant lifestyles, this incident has become catalyst for individuals to question the ideals of equality and meritocracy in society.

“I no longer know how to place trust in the notion that hard work guarantees success,” wrote one Weibo user.

In these online discussions about privilege and disillusionment with meritocracy, Xiangzi’s name frequently comes up. Xiangzi is a character in Lao She’s book “Rickshaw Boy.” He is a poor rickshaw puller who dreams of escaping the lower class and achieving wealth through hard work. Despite his persistent efforts, he faces continuous failures. In the end, he gives up on working hard and becomes a lazy good-for-nothing.

The book ‘Rickshaw Boy’ (骆驼祥子) by author Lao She.

“Is this still the era where hard work can change the future?” one commenter wonders.

It is clear that the extreme contrast between celebrity earnings and the average disposable income of ordinary people is a topic that many people care about. By now, the hashtag ‘Zhang Yuqi Says She Can’t Buy Socks for 669 Yuan’ (#张雨绮说699我都买不了袜子#) has garnered over 860 million views on Weibo while Zhang Yuqi’s apology received over 410 million clicks, and the influx of comments discussing wealth inequality in China shows no signs of stopping.

“Today I saw workers sleeping in the shade next to a supermarket in the scorching heat. Their faces looked thin, their clothes looked dirty,” one commenter wrote: “How ironic is it that they work so hard and may not even earn 699 yuan in a day? It makes you wonder, with such circumstances, how can societal hostility not increase? It’s a sick society.”

Also read: Online Discussions over Income: “When My Dad Was Young, His Monthly Salary Was 2000 Yuan (And I Still Earn the Same) [link here]

By Zilan Qian

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China World

What’s on Weibo Podcast #3: Trump Versus Biden –The Sentiments on Chinese Social Media (& More)

The third episode of the What’s on Weibo podcast, discussing the latest trends on Weibo.

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age via CGTN https://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404556361521299471

This is the third What’s on Weibo podcast, reporting the biggest topics trending on Chinese social media. In this episode, we’ll talk about China potentially further relaxing its family-planning rules, calls for laws against animal abuse, and shifting public sentiments towards Trump. Joe Biden or Donald Trump, who is the preferred candidate on Weibo?

Check out our latest episode here.

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.

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