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CCTV’s New Year’s Gala 2016 Liveblog

It is time for the CCTV New Year’s Gala, Chunwan in short, the special annual evening variety show that captures millions of viewers on the night of Chinese New Year. Read all about the ins and outs of the 2016 edition here.

Manya Koetse

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It is time for the CCTV New Year’s Gala, Chunwan; the special annual evening variety show that captures millions of viewers on the night of Chinese New Year. What’s on Weibo provides you with the ins & outs of the 2016 Gala and its social media frenzy, with updates before, during and after the show. *After the live stream of the Gala, we have added most of the videos of all the show’s acts (yes, also the robots) into this blog so you can (re)watch them. The live blog is now closed.*

CCTV Gala Liveblog Updates Chinese Time Zone UTC+8

17:00 Three hours before the show starts! What can we expect tonight? According to the directors, it will be all about singing and dancing today; about 80% of the show’s performances are music and dance. One of the Gala’s directors, Zou Wei, tells CCTV: “We’ve come up with some innovative approaches for the song and dance numbers. We’ll also be moving and changing the stage a lot. The audience will get a very refreshing take. Ninety percent of the song and dance programs are newly created; the remaining 10 percent are a salute to the gala’s past classics.” Besides dance and music, there will also be acrobatic performances and comedy sketches (‘crosstalk’).

17:30 2,5 hours to go. The theme of this year’s CCTV Gala is “You and Me, Our Chinese Dream – Building a Moderately Prosperous Society”. Every year the Gala has a different theme. Last year’s theme was “Family Harmony Yields Success”. The CCTV Gala is known for its political messages, as it is a way for the government to reach an audience of millions.

18:30 There will be a total of 37 acts in tonight’s gala. Amongst the performers are many veterans who have performed at the Gala before, but there are also newcomers, such as the TFBOYS, one of China’s most popular pop groups – they will be performing at the show for the first time. They have a fanbase of nearly 7.5 million on their official Weibo account.

18:45 The TFboys are in the building! The three boys looked somewhat nervous as they entered the Gala venue earlier today. The popular boy band will perform in tonight’s during the show as the 5th act. They told the host their families have all come to Beijing to celebrate the New Year together, eating and exchanging hongbao (red envelopes). When the host asked them how much money was in the hongbao they received from their parents, they did not really want to answer. They might be the ones giving their parents hongbao now..

tfboys

19:00 One hour to go! This year’s gala will be extra special, because it has four extra venues apart from the main one at the CCTV Beijing studio. The additional venues are in southeast China’s Quanzhou city, northwest China’s Xi’an city, south China’s Guangzhou city and Hulun Buir city in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, representing the east, west, south and north of China: a gathering of the whole country.

19:30 Just thirty minutes before the start of the show. Tonight’s Gala will be presented by well-known CCTV faces. In the Beijing main venue the gala will be hosted by a total of six presenters, three men and three women, namely: Zhou Tao (周涛), Zhu Jun (朱军), Dong Qing (董卿), Sa Beining (撒贝宁), Li Sisi (李思思) and Nigel Amat. All of them presented the CCTV Gala before, the 51-year-old Mr. Zhu Jun has hosted the gala since 1997. The other venues in Xi’an, Guangzhou, Hulun Buir and Quanzhou will be hosted by, amongst others, Zhu Xun, Ma Yue, Li Jiaming and Ren Luyu, along with some newcomers from local TV stations.

19:50 The biggest show of the year is about to start! The chief director of today’s show is Lu Yitao. Just 38 years old, he is the youngest chief director of the Spring Festival Gala ever.

20:00 Here we go. The opening act is a dance performance called “Spring brings Good Fortune” by, amongst others, actress Yan Ni (闫妮, dressed in blue) and other movie stars. The dancers in the background just formed the shape of ‘fu’, the character for prosperity. The hosts of the night welcome the audiences to CCTV’s 2016 Spring Festival Gala.

20:15 Zhou Tao and Zhu Jun are the first hosts to welcome everybody. They represent the older CCTV generation, having presented the Gala multiple times since 1997.

The CCTV Gala is an annual event since 1983. This year is extra special for the several venues where the Gala is aired: Quanzhou city, Xi’an city, Guangzhou city and Hulun Buir city. Every city has its own hosts, welcoming the audiences in their own local dialect or language.

The second act tonight is a joined act by the two famous bands Phoenix Legend and Jiuye Qiji (玖月奇迹), who sing about “A Beautiful China Rises” (美丽中国走起来). Most of the songs presented tonight are new works made for the CCTV Gala. The performers on the left are the musical performers named ‘Phoenix Legend’, the right band is Jiuye Qiyi.

20.20 Most of the performances tonight are dance and singing, but there will be a total of 7 spoken acts. This short sketch is called ‘Happy grandpa’, performed by Feng Gong (冯巩) who is a familiar face at the CCTV Gala. The sketch is about spending New Year’s Eve, although some netizens seem to have no clue what it was actually about..

20.30 “Let’s Follow the Path of Peace” is a song sung by Chinese singer Zhang Ye (张也, 47 years old). She is especially famous in China for her song “Into a New Era” (走进新时代).

In the meantime, the Gala has become the number one trending topic on Weibo, together with the TFboys, who will soon perform in the show.

20.40 Time to shake your mobile phone! Viewers of the Gala can shake their smartphones to grab a hongbao (red envelope) from CCTV. This is a game that was first introduced last year as a cooperation between WeChat and CCTV.

Here we go for the much-anticipated act of the TFBoys. Aged around 13/14 years old, they are one of China’s most popular acts, often becoming a trending topic on Weibo. They perform together with Yueliang Jiejie, presenter of a children’s show. They are accompanied by dancing cartoons – all China-made.

I am not sure if everybody heard it, but during their act the sound went terribly off during the live broadcast.

20.50 The sixth act of the evening is a short sketch called “Don’t worry” by Sun Tao and other actors about scamming practices per phone in China, and people being oversensitive to being afraid of people cheating you- even when they are not. This act, that is liked by most netizens, is followed by a special performance by different singers from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who sing about the ecological heritage of China in the song “Beautiful mountains and rivers of China” (山水中国美). Some of the singers sing in their local dialect. The woman in yellow is the famous Gigi Leung from Hong Kong.

During the show, there seem to be some problems with the sound system. If things would really go wrong, the 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. We would probably not even know if we were watching the live or the taped version!

21.10 The 8th act of the night will not be performed in the Beijing main location, but in southeast China’s Quanzhou city. It is a song called “Happy Thought of You” (快乐想念). The dancing puppets are typical for the region.

This performance is followed by a quite stunning dance act by the Atlanta Morningstar dance school by overseas Chinese.

21.30 2.5 hours to go until Chinese New Year! We first see a short film followed by the 11th act; one of the few short sketches of the night called “The General and the Soldiers”. The video of marching troops and the sketch about China’s troops and army life in preparation for the 2015 parade show a strong China. One of the actors is the famous actor Hou Yong (Weibo), who has performed at the Gala two times before. In the sketch, roles are reversed as the soldier teaches the general how to do it right – suggesting equality amongst the people of different positions and sending out a clear message to corrupt officials: don’t forget to be a good communist.

Presenter Dong Qing, in a beautiful red dress, honors China’s veterans, with one old veteran being honored on stage.

21.45 Singer Lei Jia (雷佳) performs the song “I want to tell you” (多想对你说). According to the CCTV, it has always been her dream to perform at the Gala. Her dream has already become a reality multiple times, as she has become a familiar face in the show. The song has been specially produced for the Gala. In the background, we see 55 different ethnic minorities of China in traditional dress, a recurring feature of the annual Chunwan.

The 13th act of the night takes place in Xi’an, one of the four alternate locations where the Gala is taking place tonight. Impressive drums, similar to what we saw during the opening act of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are followed by the song “The Silk Road”, promoting the success of China’s Go West policy.

The only piece of Chinese opera in this year’s show is part of the Journey to the West (act number 14), in which the main character is the Monkey King.

pekingopera

22:00 We have arrived at the 15th act, are you still awake?! Two more hours before New Year’s! This act is shown as a part of showcasing Chinese cultural heritage, introducing the loud Huayin singing style (华阴老腔) at the Gala, with main performances by the pretty Tan Weiwei (谭维维) and Zhang Ximin (张喜民). The 34-year old Tan was the runner-up of the third season of Super Girl, a popular singing contest in China.

22.15 The next act is one of the seven spoken acts of the night, a comical skit about a courier played by several well-known actors.

Meanwhile, complaints about the show are pouring in through social media. It is somewhat of a tradition to comment on the show and complain about it; criticism on the Gala is actually so commonplace that the sentence “there’ll never be a ‘worst’, just ‘worse than last year‘ (央视春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂) has become a popular saying over the years. One of the current critiques is that Liu Xiao Ling Tong (六小龄童, see photo below), the most famous performer of the Monkey King, was not invited to participate in the Journey to the West act.

monkey

22:25 “Father and Son” (父子) is supposed to strike the audience’s emotional chord tonight. Singer Yang Yang is one of the more popular acts of the night, attracting younger audiences to watch the show, together with the TFboys. Yang Yang has become especially popular over the last two years. Here, he sings together with famous singer Tong Tiexin. The song is followed by a “public welfare commercial” (公益广告) about the bond between father and son.
*FYI: We are supposed to reflect on our lives and cry here*

22:35 This is the only martial arts act of the night by Donnie Yen or Zhen Zidan (甄子丹) and the Shandong martial arts group. Donnie Yen is a famous Hong Kong actor and martial artist.

 

donny

22.45 Amazing display of communist nostalgia during the 20th act of the night, with a performance of different revolutionary songs including the old ‘Without the Communist Party, There is No New China’ (没有共产党就没有新中国), ‘The Bright Red Flowers of Shandan’ (山丹丹花开红艳艳) and ‘The Motherland’ (我祖国). Although the majority of tonight’s compositions are new songs, these are old songs that most Chinese will be very familiar with, especially those growing up during the cultural revolution.

awhatsonweibo

awhatson

22.50 We have moved from Beijing to Guangzhou for the 21st act of the CCTV Gala. Together with Quanzhou city, Xi’an city and Hulun Buir city, Guangzhou is one of the different alternate venues from which the show is broadcasted this year.

Don’t ask me why, but singer Sun Nan (孙楠) is now performing his song together with 540 dancing robots. He sings about the future ahead – this reinforces the image of Guangdong as the home of China’s tech startups.

robot

23.00 While the noise of fireworks and crackers is starting to fill the streets all over China, we are seeing the only acrobatic act of tonight, performed by Li Tong and the Dengfeng Shaolin college.

23.15 In the final hour of the New Year’s Gala, there are some very famous performers on stage. In this comical sketch, we see actor Donglin Guo (郭冬临) – a Chinese actor and xiangsheng (comic dialogue) performer who always performs in the annual Gala. He has made appearances ever since the 1993 edition. The sketch is about 50,000 yuan that has ‘miraculously’ appeared on Donglin’s bank account, after which his wife accuses people of putting it there for favours. But then their daughters friend appears, and it turns out Donglin lend him money as he was setting up a software company, and this is the money he returned to him. This turns Donglin from a possible corrupt official into a good guy government official who believes in the future of China’s youth.

The comic dialogue is followed by one the night’s many dance performances. This one is title “In Your Embrace” by famous Uyghur dancer Mahire Emet (马依热·艾买提江). The dancers are dressed in traditional clothing, showcasing China’s many colorful & cheerful ethnic minority groups. They just seem to always be happy. It sometimes reminds me of Disneyland’s “It’s a small world after all…”

happywhatsonweibo

23.30 The last venue of the night is Inner Mongolia’s Hulun Buir city, where we see the hosts dressed in local traditional clothing and speaking some of the local language. It is interesting to see the contrast between the venue cities tonight, where some, such as Hulun Buit, are portrayed as being very ‘ethnical’ and others, such as Guangzhou (with the robots), is showcased as very modern, trendy and technical.

The act is followed by a performance of the famous Vicky Zhao. She is one of the bigger stars of tonight’s Gala. She is a Chinese actress, pop singer, and film director. An incredibly popular actress in various top TV shows in China, she is considered one of the top four actresses in China and is one of the most famous Weibo celebrities; she has over 73 million followers!

23.40 We have arrived at the 27th act of the night, and there are just twenty minutes left before the Year of the Monkey starts. Chen Sisi (陈思思) sings ‘Snow Love’ with performers from the Beijing Sports Academy – this, according to the hosts, is in honor of Beijing being the first city to host both the Summer and the Winter Olympics (2022).

23.45 This is the last spoken sketch for tonight, only followed by a xiangsheng (comic dialogue) just before the end of the show. This sketch is about internet shopping, and features Chinese skit actor Pan Changjiang. In his early years, he regularly appeared in the Gala.

23.55 Almost time for the New Year! The hosts first list all the country embassies wishing China a happy new year, before Yin Xiumei (殷秀梅) sings the song ‘Honor & Glory’: a moment to reflect on China, the great nation, and its leaders. In the video behind the singer, we see Mao Zedong and other leaders, with special focus on ‘Daddy Xi’.

mao edong

honor

chunyun

0.00 Happy new year! The hosts wish everybody a Happy Year of the Monkey (and so does What’s on Weibo).

0.05 The New Year is welcomed with the song “Meeting Spring” by various famous singers such as the famous baritone Liao Changyong. The song is immediately followed by one of the evening’s “public welfare commercials”, in which the importance of family ties is emphasized – part of the China dream.

0.10 A young man named ‘Yif’ is tonight’s magician. Yif also seems to have done some magic on his own face. He is a professional magician from Taiwan. On his official Weibo account, he told his fans that he was incredibly nervous for tonight’s performance, as it is the first time he appears on the CCTV Gala.

yif

The Gala’s hosts Zhu Jun and Zhou Tao announce the next act, which is a xiangsheng act. Xiangsheng, also known as ‘crosstalk’, is a traditional comic dialogue, which is mostly performed as a dialogue between two performers (in this case, by Li Yinfei 李寅飞 and Li Ding 李丁). The focus is on language jokes, which are sometimes hard to grasp for a laowai like myself. It is one of China’s most popular performing arts, and is typically performed in the Beijing accent. Some Chinese media wrote about the fact that this year’s Gala only features one xiangsheng act, as there previously were more. This year, the focus of the evening clearly is on song and dance.

0.20 We are nearing the end of the show, but not before the show puts more emphasis on the Gala’s theme: “You and Me, Our Chinese Dream – Building a Moderately Prosperous Society”. This song, titled “Small and Big Dreams” is sung by Wang Zineng and Ping An.

0.35 The last two acts of the night are the songs “Lucky Lucky” and “Unforgettable Night”. The first is sung by Sa Dingding 萨顶顶 who is joined by a dancing group from Yunnan.

The last song of the night is performed by various performers, bringing together some of the country’s major celebrities from different generations including the 71-year-old folk singer Li Guyi (李谷一) and the 8-year-old child star Zhou Anxin (周安信). They conclude the night with a song about their good homeland China. The hosts wish you all a happy new year.

child

0.45 That’s a wrap – happy new year 新年快乐!

About the Gala

The CCTV New Year’s Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会 or Chunwan 春晚) is an annual live television event that is broadcasted by state enterprise CCTV on the evening of Chinese New Year. It has been broadcasted since 1983, and is watched by over 700 million people. It is the most-watched variety shows in the world and is much anticipated every year – somewhat comparable to the Oscars or the Super Bowl. The Gala features different acts, including singing, dancing and comedy, in a time frame of around 4 hours.

It is a tradition for families to gather around the TV to watch the Gala before the New Year comes at midnight. It is also somewhat of a tradition to comment on the show and complain about it; criticism on the Gala is actually so commonplace that the sentence “there’ll never be a ‘worst’, just ‘worse than last year‘ (央视春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂) has become a popular saying over the years (Wang 2015, 192).

The 2016 Edition

This is the 34th edition of Chunwan (February 7th, 2016). This year the show lasts a total of 4 hours and 18 minutes, starting on 20.00 and ending 00.18.

This year’s show, like last year’s, has its own mascot. As this will be the Year of the Monkey, it is a colorful monkey named Kang Kang. The mascot was revealed on CCTV’s Weibo account on the evening of January 21st. The mascot was ridiculed by netizens, who thought it was ugly. The 3D design (image below, on the right) was different from the original sketch (left). According to the majority of Weibo’s netizens, the designers of the 3D version had mistaken Kang Kang’s paws for balls, resulting in a Kangkang with ‘tumors on his ears’.

whatsonweibokangkang

The current version of Kang Kang as pictured below has been adjusted; he no longer has ‘tumors’ growing from his head.

kangkangwhatsonweibo

Social Media

Chunwan is a hot topic on Sina Weibo and WeChat, as millions of people are watching and share their comments on the show through social media. The Gala’s official Weibo account has over 7,5 million followers. Sina Entertainment (17+ million followers) also writes about the show through their official Weibo account.

One important new feature of the show that links it to social media platforms is the exchange of hongbao, red envelopes with money, which is a Chinese New Year’s tradition (also read our article about Lucky Money). During the show, viewers are able to receive virtual hongbao by shaking their smartphones. This new cooperation between the CCTV Gala and the WeChat app first started in 2015. Last year, when the game was announced during the live broadcast, WeChat users shook their phones 11 billion times. The value of these monetary gifts was around 500 million RMB (76 million US dollar).

The hongbao game attracts more people to watch the show, which is often considered boring or old-fashioned by younger generations. This year the game will start again, increasing the Gala’s viewer ratings. One Weibo netizen comments: “Actually, there are many people who want to watch the Gala now. The reason is simple: it’s not for the show but for the red envelopes.”

The Live Show

Although the Gala is a live broadcast from CCTV’s No.1 Studio, every year’s show has a taped version of the full dress rehearsal. As described by Scocca (2011), 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.

According to the CCTV, the committee members of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China already attended the full dress rehearsal on Friday night.

Please check out this blog on Sunday, February 7th, from 19.00 China Standard Time (CST) +0800 UTC (12.00 CET) for more information about the show and its programme. New updates will be added on the top of this page.

By Manya Koetse

References

Wang Ge. 2015. “Popular Spring Festival Gala language: Sociocultural Observations.” In Linda Tsung and Wei Wang, Contemporary Chinese Discourse and Social Practice in China, 185-200. Amsterdam/Philadelpia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Scocca, Tom. 2011. Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Featured image from ZZM3.com: http://www.zzm3.com/gear/rs/457.html

©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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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joey

    February 8, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Is it possible to publish a reverse version of the article? For those who want to read the liveblog after the fact 🙂 Now you have to go all the way down and scroll up.

  2. Manya Koetse

    Manya Koetse

    February 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Ok Joey, check back in about an hour.

  3. Avatar

    Joe

    February 8, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you so much for this!!!

  4. Pingback: UK Dog News

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China Celebs

Weibo Blows Up after Fan Bingbing Announces Breakup

It’s been a tough year for Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing.

Manya Koetse

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First published

Two years after their engagement, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing and actor Chen Li have announced their breakup.

On the night of June 27 (China Standard Time), news came out that Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing is breaking up with her partner, Chinese actor Chen Li.

It was Fan herself who announced the separation through a post on social media, writing:

We go through all kinds of farewells during our lifetime. The love and warmth we gain throughout our encounters become everlasting forces. I want to thank you for all the love and support you’ve given me. Thank you for your care and love in the future. We are no longer ‘we’, but we are still ourselves.

The post soon received over 180,000 comments and more than 650,000 likes.

Chen Li also posted a message on his Weibo account, saying:

From friends to lovers, and now back to friends. Emotions can change, but the purest feeling between you and me will not change. The trust and support we have for each other will always be there. We are no longer ‘we’, but we are still ourselves.”

This breakup comes after a difficult year in Fan’s career. In summer of 2018, the 37-year-old actress was at the center of a social media storm due to a tax evasion scandal.

She disappeared from the public eye for months, and then returned with an emotional apology on Weibo.

The announcement of the split has triggered thousands of reactions on Weibo, where the hashtag “Fan Bingbing and Li Chen Split Up” (#范冰冰李晨分手#) had received 380 million views by Thursday night.

At time of writing, the breakup is dominating Weibo’s top trending topics, with many netizens commenting that Weibo is ‘exploding’ and that Weibo servers must be overheating due to the celebrity news.

It is often celebrity news that causes Weibo to blow up. A recent incident of Chinese teen idol smoking inside a Beijing restaurant also triggered millions of views and comments.

When Chinese singer and actor Lu Han announced his relationship with actress Guan Xiaotong in 2017, it even led to a rare temporary breakdown of Weibo’s servers.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©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 Celebs

Faking Street Photography: Why Staged “Street Snaps” Are All the Rage in China

Staged street photography is the latest “15 minutes of fame” trend on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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It looks as if they are spontaneously photographed or filmed by one of China’s many street photographers, but it is actually staged. Chinese online influencers – or the companies behind them – are using street photography as part of their social media strategy. And then there are those who are mocking them.

Recently a new trend has popped up on Chinese social media: people posting short videos on their accounts that create the impression that they are being spotted by street fashion photographers. Some look at the camera in a shy way, others turn away, then there are those who smile and cheekily stick out their tongue at the camera.

Although it may appear to be all spontaneous, these people – mostly women – are actually not randomly being caught on camera by one of China’s many street fashion photographers in trendy neighborhoods. They have organized this ‘fashion shoot’ themselves, often showing off their funny poses and special moves, from backward flips to splits, to attract more attention (see example in video embedded below).

In doing so, these self-made models are gaining more fans on their Weibo, Douyin, Xiaohongshu, or WeChat accounts, and are turning their social media apps into their very own stage.

 

Street Photography in Sanlitun

 

The real street photography trend has been ongoing in China for years, near trendy areas such as Hangzhou’s Yintai shopping mall, or Chengdu’s Taikoo Li.

One place that is especially known for its many street photographers is Beijing’s see-and-be-seen Sanlitun area, where photographers have since long been gathering around the Apple or Uniqlo stores with their big lens cameras to capture people walking by and their trendy fashion.

A few years ago, Thatsmag featured an article discussing this phenomenon, asking: “Who are these guys and what are they doing with their photos?”

Author Dominique Wong found that many of these people are older men, amateur photographers, who are simply snapping photos of attractive, fashionable, and unique-looking people as their hobby.

But there are also those who are working for street fashion blogs or style magazines such as P1, and are actually making money with their street snaps capturing China’s latest fashion trends.

Image by 新浪博客

People featured in these street snaps can sometimes go viral and become internet celebrities (网红). One of China’s most famous examples of a street photographed internet celebrity is “Brother Sharp.”

‘Brother Sharp’ became an online hit in 2009 (image via Chinasmack).

It’s been ten years since “Brother Sharp” (犀利哥), a homeless man from Ningbo, became an online hit in China for his fashionable and handsome appearance, after his street snap went trending on the Chinese internet.

 

Staged Street Scenes

 

But what if nobody’s snapping your pics and you want to go viral with your “Oh, I am being spotted by street fashion photographers” video? By setting up their own “street snap” shoots, online influencers take matters into their own hands.

It is not just individuals who are setting up these shoots; there are also companies and brands that do so in order to make their (fashion) products more famous. According to People’s Daily, in Hangzhou alone, there are over 200 photographers for such “street snaps” and hundreds of thousands of models for such “performances.”

The photographers can, supposedly, earn about 20,000 to 30,000 yuan ($2,890-$4,335) per day and the models are well paid.

In this way, the “street snap performance” phenomenon is somewhat similar to another trend that especially became apparent in China around 2015-2016, namely that of ‘bystander videos’ capturing a public scene. Although these videos seem to be real, there are actually staged.

One such example happened in 2017 when a video went viral of a young woman being scolded on a Beijing subway for wearing a revealing cosplay outfit.

The story attracted much attention on social media at the time, with many netizens siding with the young woman and praising her for responding coolly although the woman was attacking her. Later, the whole scene turned out to be staged with the purpose of generating more attention for the ad of a “cool” food delivery platform behind the older lady.

In 2015, photos of a ‘romantic proposal’ made its rounds on social media when a young man asked his pregnant girlfriend to marry him using over 50 packs of diapers in the shape of a giant heart. One bag of diapers carried a diamond ring inside. It was later said the scene was sponsored by Libero Diapers.

 

Wanghong Economy

 

Both the latest street snap trend and the staged video trend are all part of China’s so-called “Wanghong economy.” Wǎnghóng (网红) is the Chinese term for internet celebrities, KOL (Key Opinion Leader) or ‘influencer.’ Influencer marketing is hot and booming in China: in 2018, the industry was estimated to be worth some $17.16 billion.

Being a wanghong is lucrative business: the more views, clicks, and fans one has, the more profit they can make through e-commerce and online advertising.

Using Chinese KOLs to boost brands can be an attractive option for advertisers, since their social media accounts have a huge fanbase. Prices vary on the amount of fans the ‘influencer’ has. In 2015, for example, the Chinese stylist Xiao P already charged RMB 76,000 ($11,060) for a one-time product mention on his Weibo account (36 million fans).

According to the “KOL budget Calculator” by marketing platform PARKLU, a single sponsored post on the Weibo account of a famous influencer will cost around RMB 60,000 ($8730).

The current staged street snap hype is interesting for various online media businesses in multiple ways. On short video app Douyin, for example, the hugely popular street snap videos come with a link that allows app users to purchase the exact same outfits as the girls in the videos.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an online survey by Tencent found that 54% of college-age respondents had the ambition to become an “online celebrity.”

 

Making Non-Fashion Fashion: The Farm Field as a Catwalk

 

Although becoming an actual online celebrity used to be a far-fetched dream for many Chinese netizens, the latest staged-street-snap trend creates the possibility for people to experience their “15 minutes of fame” online.

Just as in previous online trends such as the Flaunt Your Wealth Challenge or A4 Waist Challenge, you see that many people soon participate in them, and that they are then followed by an “anti-movement” of people making fun of the trend or using it to promote a different social point-of-view.

The 2018 “Flaunt Your Wealth” challenge, for example, in which Chinese influencers shared pictures of themselves falling out of their cars with their expensive possessions all around them, was followed by an Anti-Flaunt Your Wealth movement, in which ordinary people mocked the challenge by showing themselves on the floor with their diplomas, military credentials, painting tools, or study books around them.

In case of the (staged) “Fashion Street Photography” movement, that now has over 103 million views on Weibo (#全国时尚街拍大赏# and #街拍艺术行为大赏#), you can also see that many people have started to mock it.

“I find [this trend] so embarrassing that I want to toss my phone away, yet I can’t help but watch it,” one Weibo user (@十一点半关手机) writes, with others agreeing, saying: “This is all so awkward, it just makes my skin crawl.”

The anti-trend answer to the staged street shoot hype now is that people are also pretending to be doing such a street snap, but ridiculing it by making over-the-top movements, doing it in ‘uncool’ places, wearing basic clothing, or setting up a funny situation (see embedded tweet below).

Some of these short videos show ‘models’ walking in a rural area, pretending to be photographed by a ‘street fashion photographer’ – it’s an anti-trend that’s become a trend in itself (see videos in embedded tweets below).

Although this ‘anti-trend’ is meant in a mocking way, it is sometimes also a form of self-expression for young people for whom the Sanlitun-wannabe-models life is an extravagant and sometimes unattainable one.

They don’t need trendy streets and Chanel bags to pretend to be models: even the farm field can be their catwalk.

In the end, the anti-trend “models” on Chinese social media are arguably much cooler than the influencers pretending to be photographed. Not only do they convey a sense of authenticity, they also have something else that matters the most in order to be truly cool and attractive: a sense of humor.

Also read: From Mountains of Taishan to Faces of Amsterdam – Interview with Street Photographer Jimmy on the Run

Also read: Beijing Close-Up: Photographer Tom Selmon Crosses the Borders of Gender in China

By Manya Koetse

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