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China’s Belt and Road Propaganda Machine Running at Full Speed: An Overview

The Beijing ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) summit is about to take place, and the Belt and Road propaganda machine is running at full speed. Chinese state media spotlight children in promotional campaigns, and emphasize the idea of China as a harmonious global leader.

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The Beijing ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) summit is about to take place, and the Belt and Road propaganda machine is running at full speed. Chinese state media spotlight children in promotional campaigns, and emphasize the idea of China as a harmonious global leader. Here is an overview of the various recent public promo videos backed by different state media outlets, including the latest one by People’s Daily.

As the ‘One Belt, One Road’ (aka OBOR or Silk Road Economic Belt) summit takes place in Beijing on May 14-15, the promotion of this enormous development strategy is in full swing. Chinese state media outlets China Daily, CCTV, and People’s Daily have all published their own OBOR promotion clips through Youku or Weibo.

All the latest promo clips on the Belt and Road strategy have clear characteristics in common. Besides that young people and children play a major role in them, they are all global focused; they use many languages and feature people of various backgrounds.

 
1. Communist Party: The Belt and Road is How
 

Over the past week, it was especially the Sesame Street-style video with children from various countries singing about the Belt and Road that made international headlines. It was the only promotion video that was posted on Chinese social media by a wide range of official media, including China Daily, People’s Daily, PLA Daily, Communist Youth League, China National Radio, Xinhua, and CCTV.


The Belt and Road Song by Fuxing Road Studios posted by whatsonweibo

In the video, fifteen different children sing along in English to a catchy song with cartoon graphics. The political video was made by Fuxing Road Studios (复兴路工作室), a company that often produces English-language propaganda videos on China’s policies.

China’s English-language public communication videos are not necessarily only targeted at foreign audiences. The Belt and Road is How video was widely shared by official channels on Chinese social media, and was initially not even posted on YouTube. The use of an English song (providing Chinese subtitles) helps convey the idea of the Belt and Road as a very global initiative, both for Chinese and non-Chinese audiences.

Featuring a group of cute and diverse children in this clip also boosts the global image of the OBOR project, and stresses its unthreatening character. Although the Chinese government and state media have continuously represented the initiative as one of peaceful development that has no regional or military agenda, there are still international concerns over China’s strategic goals. The choice for such a “Sesame Street-style” promo video, in that sense, is quite telling; the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative couldn’t be represented in any cuter or more innocuous way.

Fuxing Road Studios has covered numerous major China-related events in the past, including state leaders’ overseas visits. Using pop songs and modern graphics, their videos target the younger, social-media generations. Although the company is secretive about its affiliation, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016 that the production house is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s international department.

 
2. China Daily: Belt and Road Bedtime Stories
 

State newspaper China Daily recently launched its ‘Bedtime Stories’ campaign. It is a series of clips in which Erik Nilsson, assistant director at China Daily, tells his little daughter Lily stories about the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative before she goes to sleep.

These China Daily series are mainly aimed at English-speaking audiences; newspaper China Daily has pushed these videos through its official channel on YouTube, a platform that is inaccessible from mainland China. They were also posted on Weibo, but the videos made less of an impact on Chinese social media than they did on YouTube, where the last clip received over 63,000 views within 24 hours.

When China Daily introduced the first video of the bedtime series on its official Weibo account on May 9, it emphasized the video’s sentence “It is China’s idea. But it belongs to the world,” as a key sentence from the campaign. This sentence is crucial in the promotion of the idea behind the Belt and Road initiative, that emphasizes China as the harmonious leader that helps the whole world become a more prosperous place.

The concept of ‘bedtime stories’ gives China Daily the freedom to tell the story of the Belt and Road initiative in a very clear way through a father explaining the strategy to his daughter. This makes it easy for all people to understand, also for those who are not familiar with OBOR.

 
3. CCTV: Prosperous Together
 

China’s state broadcaster CCTV published its own promo video this week that shows, amongst others, children from around the world playing with miniature cars, boats, and trains that then turn into reality along the Silk Route belt (see video below). The video’s main theme is how OBOR connects the people of the world.


CCTV One Belt One Road Promo Video by whatsonweibo

The clip, titled “Together Prosperous,” ends with the slogan: “Discuss Together, Build Together, Enjoy Together” (“共商, 共建, 共享”). It very much highlights the international impact of the One Road One Belt initiative – something that is given more weight through the use of dramatic music.

As in the other clips, this public communication video also gives prominence to the role of children from different countries. The point is not that these videos are targeted at kids, but that they are the perfect propaganda messengers: they represent the new future of China and the world.

 
4. People’s Daily: WE Make It Happen
 

On May 12, another video came out which shows students from eight different countries painting together and talking about their home and interests. They mostly speak in Mandarin Chinese, but some also speak in their native languages. The students come from Hungary, Kenya, Spain, Argentia, Russia, China, Kazakstan, and Thailand.


“WE Make It Happen” – One Belt, One Road Promo… by whatsonweibo

While the other students talk about soccer, food, and dance, the Russian and Chinese students bring out the video’s main message.

“Today, I drew a bridge,” the Russian student named Mikhail says: “It connects Russia and China. Two different countries, two different nations. They can get to know each other. Every person or every nation can act as a bridge.”

The Chinese student Yu then tells: “The kite was invented by ancient Chinese people. I think they had a dream. They wanted to know the outside world. A bigger world.” The students then put their paintings together, forming the word “WE”, followed by the message: “The Belt and Road – WE make it happen.”

The video is an initiative by Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and was shared on Weibo by various media sources, including the Global Times.

Like the other videos, the focus is on how the Belt and Road strategy connects people of various nations. It is a new kind of public promo video, as Chinese public campaigns commonly always include references to the flag of China or other national symbols like the panda or the Forbidden City; something which does not comes up in this clip.

On China, netizens have responded in different ways to the various videos. Although many people said they think the Fuxing Road Studios clip is somewhat “awkward,” the other campaigns are more popular.

Especially the “WE make it happen” campaign seems to be liked by many netizens. Many people comment on the video with: “We like WE!”

“This is a successful promo video,” one person says: “It makes people feel proud.”

The CCTV promo video also received praise on Sina Weibo. “It’s very well done,” many said.

“When I finished watching, I felt like this is the best Chinese promo video I’ve seen thus far,” one Weibo user writes.

There are also those who wonder about the role of the USA, as America seems to play no role whatsoever in the various Belt and Road promo films. But there were also those who were not surprised about America’s invisiblity in the videos: “This is the ‘One Belt, One Road’,” one person commented: “And it is China that is leading the way.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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China Insight

Devastating Rain and Floods in Henan – A Hashtag Timeline

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The torrential rainfall and floodings in China’s Henan Province have completely overwhelmed the region, with dozens of cities and villages seeing massive disruption to everyday life. What’s on Weibo lists the main Chinese social media hashtags to go trending over the past week during the deadly floods.

Disastrous rain and floodings continue to plague China’s Henan province, where Zhengzhou city and surrounding towns and villages have been dealing with the strongest rainfall ever recorded.

Henan, home to 99 million residents, has seen extreme rain since Friday, July 16, leading to floods and critical situations in the region on July 20, when the city of Zhengzhou was hit especially hard.

According to reports on July 24, the death toll from the torrential rains has risen to 56. More than a million of people were relocated and over 7,5 million people are affected.

In this blog, we will list some of the main stories relating to the floods in Henan that have gone trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo over the past week. (Note: Still being updated).

 

TRENDING TIMELINE

 

July 20

 

PASSENGERS TRAPPED IN ZHENGZHOU SUBWAY (Hashtag: #郑州地铁5号线一车厢多人被困#)

On the late afternoon of July 20, a terrible flood occurred around the Wulongkou parking lot of Zhengzhou Metro Line 5. On Tuesday night, around 18:00, the water burst into the underground area between Shakou Road station and Haitansi station, trapping a train with approximately 500 passengers in it. The critical situation led to terrifying images and videos of passengers caught in the carriage, the water reaching up to their necks. Due to the lack oxygen in the carriage, many people fainted.

Image via Chinatimes.

After several hours, rescuers were able to get people out through the roof of the carriage. Although hundreds of people were saved, at least twelve did not survive. Footage that circulated on social media showed lifeless bodies lying on the floor of the station during the rescue operation.

The incident is one that kept generating online discussions after it happened, with survivors telling their stories and saying it felt “like the Titanic sinking.”

Around 20:00, twelve people were trapped in at the subway line 14 Olympic Sports Center station, with the water running up to two meters high. The fire department was able to rescue all twelve.

 

ZHENGZHOU HOSPITAL POWER OUTAGE (Hashtag: #暴雨中的郑州医院#)

The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, one of the biggest hospitals in the world, ran into major problems on July 20 when there was a power outage due to major flooding.

On social media, Weibo users cried out to request help for resources to rescue patients. This led to city residents coming in to bring electricity generators. The next day, on July 21st, the hospital’s critical patients were all evacuated to other medical facilities.

 

July 21

 

STRANDED PASSENGERS AT ZHENGZHOU EAST STATION (Hashtag: #郑州东站 音乐是有力量的#)

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Zhengzhou East Station when all services were suspended after 2:00 AM on July 21st. A youth orchestra group decided to pull out their instruments and perform in the station’s main hall.

The kind gesture moved many Chinese social media users to tears.

 

CONTROVERSY OVER HENAN REAL ESTATE COMPANY ‘HIGHLAND’ ADVERTISEMENT (Hashtag: #康桥地产致歉#)

An ad by the local real estate company Kangqiao Real Estate promoting its ‘high lands’ properties led to online controversy. The Kangqiao Group poster highlighted the height advantage to its real estate locations, using the slogan: “Highland – live in the highland and only let the wind and rain be your scenery.”

The ad started making its rounds while Henan was in the midst of a huge rainstorm and flooding. Many deemed the timing of the ad insensitive, as well its wording. “Let the wind and rain just be your scenery” could also be understood as staying away from the hardships experienced by so many in Henan. Many felt the company was taking advantage of the disaster in Henan to promote its own real estate.

On July 21, Kangqiao Real Estate issued a statement of apology, saying that the advertising was canceled and that those responsible for its content would be removed from their position.

 

BABY RESCUED FROM DEBRIS (Hashtag: #三个月大婴儿被埋废墟一天一夜获救#)

A 3-month old baby was pulled from the ruins of a collapsed house in Xingyang, Zhengzhou. The infant reportedly was rescued a day after the building collapsed to landslides caused by the heavy rainfall. The child was sent to the hospital. The child’s mother was initially said to be still missing. BBC later reported that the mother died after bringing her baby to safety. The child is unharmed.

 

FIREFIGHTER COLLAPSES AFTER RESCUE (Hashtag: #郑州消防员救出最后一个孩子后累瘫#)

Around 14:30 in the afternoon, a fire erupted in a residential building in Zhengzhou, leaving 23 residents in a dangerous situation. Local firefighters managed to carry out all residents, mainly elderly and children. Due to the extreme weather conditions and high temperatures in the building, one firefighter collapsed at the scene. His colleagues immediately provided medical assistance.

 

ZHENGZHOU INSTALLS TEMPORARY PUBLIC WATER TAPS (Hashtag: #暴雨后郑州街头安装临时水龙头#)

As the majority of residential buildings in the city of Zhengzhou were cut off from water after the torrential rains and floodings, the city installed temporary water taps on July 21st.

 

July 22

 

WEIHUI AND HUIXIAN EMERGENCY SITUATION (Hashtag: #卫辉暴雨#, #辉县暴雨#)

In the early morning of July 22, the people in Weihui sounded the alarm over the situation in their town. Around 4.00 AM, water started flooding into people’s homes due to excessive rain and overflowing reservoirs.

As the rain still continued, water levels kept rising up to waist level and there was a lack of sandbags. A similar situation unfolded in the Huixian area.

Weihui is a county-level city with about 480,000 inhabitants, Huixian has approximately 790,000.

 

HUIXIAN HOSPITAL FLOODED (Hashtag:#辉县暴雨#)

Some 300 patients and staff at the local Gongji Hospital (辉县市共济医院) were trapped by the water. With power being cut off, not enough food available, and not enough manpower, the staff started reaching out for help via social media.

 

ELECTRICITY TO BE RESTORED IN ZHENGZHOU (Hashtag: #郑州力争今晚恢复高层居民小区供电#)

The Zhengzhou local government held a press conference on the afternoon of July 22 that they expected electricity in the city to be partially restored on Thursday night.

 

ONLINE ANGER OVER COMPANIES USING “HENAN FLOOD MARKETING” (Hashtag: #多家地产公司借暴雨营销#)

After the online outrage over a local real estate company promoting its ‘highland’ property in light of the floodings, other companies also sparked controversy for using the Henan floods as a marketing strategy.

Two local companies selling parking space used the devastating floods, in which countless cars were flooded, as a way to promote their supposedly safe parking lot. The companies, Yongwei (永威) and Yaxing (亚星), were denounced for promoting their company in this way at a time when the entire country was still praying for Henan and going out to help those in need.

 

July 23

 

CRITICAL DAY FOR XINXIANG FLOODS (Hashtag: #新乡大块镇上万村民被洪水围困#)

Xinxiang, a city of 5.8 million people just 70 km north of Zhengzhou, also saw extreme rain and floods this week, leading to a critical situation on July 23. Efforts to block the Wei river from flooding villages near Hebi failed. Thousands of locals were trapped without water and electricity.

Global Times reported that reporters tried to get to the hardest-hit counties in Xinxiang on Thursday morning, but were informed that the situation was so severe that teams without boats could no longer get in. Firefighters and rescuers used forklift trucks and rubber boats to evacuate the residents from the flooded villages in Xinxiang.

 

CHINESE SPORTSWEAR BRAND ERKE BECOMES ONLINE HIT AFTER DONATING 50 MILLION (Hashtag: #鸿星尔克的微博评论好心酸#)

The domestic sportswear brand named Erke (鸿星尔克) donated 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) to the Henan flood. This attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media, since Erke is a relatively small and low-profile brand that seemingly has not been doing too well over the past years.

After people found out that the company donated such a high amount of money to help the people in Henan despite its own losses, its online sales went through the roof – everyone wanted to support this generous ‘patriotic brand.’ While netizens rushed to the online shops selling Erke, the brand’s physical shops also ran out of products with so many people coming to buy their sportswear. One female sales assistant was moved to tears when the store suddenly filled up with so many customers.

 

ONE-LEGGED MAN COMES TO THE RESCUE IN XINXIANG (Hashtag: #独腿小哥自发驰援新乡转运老人孩子#)

A man with one leg attracted attention on Chinese social media when footage and images came out of the Puyang resident helping the elderly and children in Xinxiang get away from the water. The young man pulled a boat and made many trips to get people across the water. The man’s hometown of Puyang is about two to three hours from Xinxiang – he came down to Xinxiang to help locals out.

 

July 24

 

ENORMOUS LOSS OF CROPS AND LIVESTOCK (Hashtag: #暴雨后百余只羊仅找回一只#)

With ongoing rescue efforts in the region, more ‘after the rainstorm’ videos and social media posts came out on Saturday showing the devastating consequences of the heavy rainfall and floods. Many villagers have lost their homes, crops, livestock, and belongings.

People’s Daily reported that one family in Xingyang county that had more than a hundred sheep, only had one animal left after the floods.

 

THE FLOODS IN HEBI (Hashtag: #鹤壁暴雨#)

The Olympics have started, and many of the trending topics on Weibo were no longer related to the floods on Saturday. Many Weibo commenters were therefore calling out to generate more attention for the situations in Henan’s rural areas, particularly in Anyang, Xinxiang, and Hebi, which are still underwater and are seriously affected by the floods.

“We’ve been doing online volunteer work in the disaster area in Henan, and the reality is far more serious than we can even imagine,” one Weibo user commented.

This article will be updated later.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

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 Digital

How Social Media Is Speeding Up Zhengzhou Flooding Rescue Efforts

Chinese social media are speeding up local rescue efforts after Zhengzhou saw the heaviest rain in 1,000 years.

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Social media is utilized as a tool in the response to the floodings in Henan province. Once again, Weibo facilitates active public participation to provide immediate assistance to the people facing this natural disaster. 

On Tuesday, July 20, heavy rainfall caused major disruptions in the central province of Henan. The amount of rain over the last three days in Zhengzhou is reported to be the same as what it would usually receive in an entire year.

It is reported that Henan Province has initiated the highest-level emergency response to floods, and China’s State Flood Control and Drought Relief Bureau has dispatched a workgroup to Henan, initiating level III emergency response rescue work.

Since the evening of July 20, news and information streams on the heavy rains and floods have been dominating Chinese social media. In the midst of the disastrous events, Weibo has become an online space for people seeking help, those disseminating information on available resources, and for other related activities that help netizens engage in emergency management and accessing information.

The volume of such messages is huge, with thousands of netizens seeking ways to help speed up rescue work and actively contribute to the emergency relief efforts.

The organically improvised response protocol on social media includes the following guidelines:

  • Verify, summarize, highlight, and spread online help requests posted by people from different locations
  • Remind people to delete help-seeking posts once they have been rescued or have found assistance.
  • Disseminate relevant knowledge relating to emergency care and response, and public health information, such as how to deal with different disaster scenarios, warning people about the safety of drinking water during floods, etc.
  • Share information regarding mental health and psychosocial support during the different phases of the disaster.

 

When posts of people trapped by the heavy rain started to be published on Weibo, many online influencers, no matter what subject they usually focus on, participated in spreading help-request posts that were not getting a lot of online attention.

Erdi 耳帝, a music influencer with nearly 15 million fans on Weibo, has been retweeting the online posts of people asking for help since the night of July 20.

The social media influencer Erdi has been kept retweeting asking-for-help posts since the night of July 20.

An example of such an online emergency help request (求助贴) is the following post of July 21st, 17:15 local time:

Our entire neighborhood is cut off from water and electricity, the water level is rising to chest level, and we currently have no drinking water at the moment. Need help urgently.

Status: Verified, pending rescue.
Seeking help: Wu M**, phone 13*****27
Number of people to be rescued: five or six thousand
Location: Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, Zhengdong New District, Shangdu / Xuzhuang Street intersection, east courtyard of Shangdu Jiayuan Muzhuang district (we can’t exit the building, there is no water, no electricity, no supplies, and it’s been 24 hours)

Once people who have been trapped by the water are rescued, the user who published the post will delete the original post to make sure other emergency posts are also noticed and disseminated.

Some Weibo users engage in organizing scattered online information in one single post, e.g. posts regarding local electricity leakage, making this information more accessible and easier to understand.

One post that was among the top-shared ones this week, is a picture that includes contact information of rescue teams of both officials and civilians. When realizing that some people were unable to upload the picture due to poor internet connections caused by the heavy rain, an up-to-date and full-text version was quickly shared by netizens.

Some Weibo users listed various methods to get assistance for hearing-impaired and deaf-mute people affected by the floods, advising people to download various apps to help to communicate and translate.

Besides the more general practical advice and emergency action plans shared by Chinese social media users, there are also those who pay attention to the importance of personal hygiene during these times. Some are sending out information about menstrual hygiene needs during floods, reminding women to frequently change sanitary pads and try to keep the genital area clean and dry due to the risk of infection. A hashtag related to menstruation during the flooding momentarily ranked fifth in the top search lists (#河南暴雨 如果你出在经期<).

Information on mental health support is disseminated all across social media.

People also try to provide mental support in other ways. A student orchestra spontaneously performed at the Zhengzhou station, where dozens of passengers were left stranded in the night. The video clips of the performance went viral, with the young musicians playing two widely-known songs, “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) and “Ode to the Motherland” (歌唱祖国). Many social media users shared the clips and expressed how the performance moved them to tears.

Some video clips that show how ordinary people save ordinary people amid such a natural disaster have also been widely shared. One video shows citizens of Zhengzhou standing in a line and use a rope to pull people from an underground floor where they were trapped by the water flooded.

In all the aforementioned ways and many more, Weibo has become a public platform for Chinese people to respond to the Henan disaster, efficiently communicate and keep track of help requests, organize and disseminate related information, and provide access to timely knowledge and relevant advice.

With so many online influencers and ordinary netizens voluntarily joining in, the online information flows are quickly circulating, allowing for necessary public communication channels while other resources and communication methods are still overwhelmed or in the making. The last time Weibo was used as an efficient emergency communication tool was during the early days of the COVID19 outbreak in Wuhan.

“Please stand strong, Zhengzhou” and “Hang on, Henan,” many commenters write: “Help is underway!”

Also see our previous article on the situation in Zhengzhou here.

By Wendy Huang

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.

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

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