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China Virus Outbreak Dominates Discussions on Weibo

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What’s on Weibo editor-in-chief Manya Koetse joined BBC World News live on January 24th to comment on the social media environment in China during the coronavirus outbreak.

Watch the short segment here.

For more about the Coronavirus, please click here.

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China Insight

Li Wenliang Remembered One Year Later: His Life, Death, and Legacy on Chinese Social Media

This is the What’s on Weibo podcast #5. The death of Li Wenliand caused a social media storm in February 2020. It’s been a year – time to look back.

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Some say he was a whistleblower, others say he was not. The death of Dr. Li Wenliang and everything that happened before and after caused a storm on Chinese social media.

It has been one year since the tragic death of Dr. Li dominated Chinese social media and made headlines all over the world.

His passing on February 7 in 2020 was a huge moment over the past year, as there was an unprecedented outpour of anger, distrust, and despair flooding Chinese social media in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic in China.

In this podcast, we are going to revisit the story of Dr. Li and explore how he is remembered one year later.

Listen to this episode here:

This is the 5th episode of the What’s on Weibo podcast. For previous episodes, see this list.

By Manya Koetse

Correction: At the podcast at one point it is said that Dr. Li Wenliang was 33 years old when he passed away – this should be: 34 years old.

The featured image consists of several images taken from social media and we could not find the right persons to credit here; please let us know if you are the artist or anyone you know is the artist.

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©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 Society

No Chunyun but Staycation: Chinese New Year Won’t Be the Same This Year

From local governments to brand commercials, “staying put for the holidays” (就地过年) is the trend of this Spring Festival.

Manya Koetse

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As China is seeing the worst wave of new infections since March of last year, staying put for Chinese New Year is the trend for this holiday season.

China’s chūnyùn (春运), the travel season around Chinese New Year, started on January 28. It usually is a chaotic and exciting time as people travel home to be reunited with their families.

But this year, Chinese New Year and its travel season, which starts 15 days prior to the Spring Festival and lasts 40 days, will be different from other years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and local outbreaks across China, with the country seeing the worst wave of new infections since March of last year: 2,016 cases were reported from Jan. 1-30.

Nevertheless, officials still expect about 1.7 billion trips to be made during this time period. Although this number is higher than last year, when Spring Festival commenced just shortly after the initial Wuhan outbreak, the number of total trips is lower than during other years. In 2016, for example, around 2.9 billion trips were made and in 2019 that number rose to around 3 billion.

In order to minimize domestic migration during Chinese New Year, many places around China encourage people to stay put instead of going back home to celebrate, with some Chinese media calling “staying home” the trend of the year.

The keywords this year are “stay put for the holidays” (jiùdì guònián 就地过年) and “New Year’s policies” (guònián zhèngcè 过年政策). State media outlets like Xinhua also initiate hashtags on social media such as “This Year Stay Put For New Year’s” (#今年就地过年#).

 

Stay Home Subsidies

 

One way to encourage people to refrain from traveling during Chinese New Year is by offering people monetary compensation when they stay home. These measures are called “subsidy policies” (bǔtiē zhèngcè 补贴政策).

Earlier in January of this year, the city of Suzhou announced that it would offer compensation of 500 yuan ($77) to people who stay home during the Spring Festival. The city of Beijing promised domestic helpers in Beijing to give them a bonus if they would continue working from February 4 to February 26.

The city of Yiwu, Zhejiang, also gives out 500 yuan to every resident who does not travel from February 1st to February 26th to cover their electricity bill. The city also gives out 20GB of mobile data for all phone users to use for free, and promises free public transport to Yiwu residents during the Spring Festival period. The initiative was promoted on social media using the hashtag “Yiwu Issues 500 Yuan Consumption Vouchers to Encourage Staying Put for the New Year’ (#义乌发500元消费券鼓励就地过年#).

The cities of Hangzhou, Hefei, and Foshan also give out bonuses from 1000 up to 2000 yuan ($155-310) to various (migrant) working groups to stay put.

Various incentives across China, explained by CCTV.

There are many more initiatives though, such as Beijing giving out 20GB of free mobile data and companies in cities such as Zhejiang, Ningbo and Quanzhou issuing “red packets” for workers choosing not to go home.

Checking local policies via Alipay.

There are various ways for residents to check which benefits they could get if they stay put this year. The Alipay app, for example, allows people to check the local policies in their area (“各地过年福利政策查询”服务”).

 

Quarantine & Testing

 

For those people who would still like to travel despite the various incentives to stay home, there are some extra hurdles to take.

China’s National Health Commission has stated that people returning to rural areas will need to produce a negative Covid-19 test issued up to seven days before their departure during the Spring Festival, BBC reports.

In fact, virtually everyone taking part in the chunyun travel season will need to have a negative Covid-19 test with them. All travelers entering or returning to Beijing will also need a negative Covid-19 test taken within seven days.

Travelers will also have to be under a 14-day “home observation” period. This means they need to monitor their health and temperature daily. They are still allowed to leave their home, but they cannot participate in any group activities.

Chinese state media CCTV also reminds travelers to make sure they wear their mask the right way and to maintain hand hygiene.

 

Promoting Staycation

 

The ‘staycation’ New Year is also promoted in various other ways. Commercial brands are sending out the message of celebrating the Spring Festival at home through their ads and commercials.

The new ad video by antibacterial soap brand Safeguard (舒肤佳), for example, shows a family preparing for New Year’s festivities.

Although it first seems as if the grandparents, children and grandchildren are all celebrating together in one home, it then turns out that they are all ‘united’ at the dinner table via video connection.

The brand’s message is that this year, the most valuable gift families can give each other is the gift of safeguarding each other’s health.

There is also public service advertising initiated by local governments to promote staying at home during Chinese New Year. The image below was published through social media by Linyi city, Shandong.

Meanwhile, in a video promoted by Chinese state media People’s Daily, Zhang Wenhong (张文宏), leader of the Shanghai Covid-19 Medical Treatment Expert Group, said that “spending New Year’s in situ is a sacrifice,” also adding: “I have great admiration for the comrades who spent New Year’s Eve locally”, calling it “a contribution for all Chinese people.”

A hashtag page added to Zhang’s words received over 490 million views at time of writing (#张文宏称就地过年是作出了牺牲#).

Although many people express their understanding of the situation, not going home to spend New Year’s with their families is a big disappointment for many Weibo commenters – especially when it’s the second year to skip the Spring Festival family reunion.

“We’ve been setting aside too much over Covid-19,” one commenter writes, but others say: “Special circumstances require special treatment. It’s ok, we can stay put for Spring Festival.”

But there are also those who are just sad about missing out on the celebrations. “I understand the reasoning. But I’ll be spending Chinese New Year all alone by myself. Just thinking of it makes me want to cry.”

“I’ll spend New Year’s at home. I can have a family reunion another time. I just want this pandemic to go away.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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