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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.

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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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China Insight

“This is Swedish Police!” – Sweden under Fire in China for “Brutal Abuse” of Chinese Tourists

Swedish police drag Chinese tourists out of hotel – some call them thugs, but others say it is the Chinese who were misbehaving.

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The maltreatment of a Chinese family in Stockholm earlier this month has ignited major discussions on Chinese social media, and has led to the Chinese Embassy in Sweden issuing a safety alert for Chinese tourists visiting the country. Many netizens are skeptical of the trending incident.

Over the past few days, an incident that took place in Sweden earlier this month has attracted major attention on Chinese social media.

Bystander videos going around Chinese social media show how a Chinese man is dragged out of a hotel by Swedish police, and later shows a woman and young man are crying on the street outside of a hotel (see embedded video below).

According to various Chinese news reports, the incident involves the Chinese family Zeng (曾), a younger man and his two senior parents, that was traveling to Sweden’s capital Stockholm on September 2nd.

When they arrived at their hotel, the Generator Stockholm hostel, it was not yet check-in time. The family suggested they would pay a fee to the hotel as long as they could wait in the lobby until they could check in to their hotel rooms. Zeng’s father reportedly is 67 years old and suffers from cardiovascular disease.

Sina News reports that the hotel refused the family’s request and even called the police to have the Chinese tourists removed from their lobby in the middle of the night, though both parents claimed they were feeling sick.

State media outlet ECNS writes that the police also denied the family’s request to stay at the hotel, and dragged his father out of the lobby and threw him to the ground outside.

The man later claimed on Chinese social media that his father consequently lost consciousness and that his body started twitching. Zeng and his parents were allegedly taken away from the hotel in a police car and were dropped off near a cemetery in the city’s suburbs.

The family then received help from bystanders in getting back to the city center, where they reported the incident to the Chinese embassy.

 

THE AFTERMATH

This has inevitably raised questions over Sweden’s ability to protect human rights and conduct law enforcement in a civilized manner.

 

Chinese media are greatly criticizing Swedish authorities for how they have handled the incident; both that night and during the aftermath. Swedish authorities did not respond to the issue for two weeks after it occurred.

On Friday, September 14, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden issued a safety alert, stating that recently, there are more cases where Chinese tourists have been victims of theft and robbery, as well as cases where victims were treated poorly by Swedish police.

A day later, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden also issued a statement regarding the “brutal abuse of Chinese tourists by Swedish police,” writing:

Around midnight on 2 September, three Chinese tourists were brutally abused by the Swedish police. The Chinese Embassy in Sweden is deeply appalled and angered by what happened and strongly condemns the behavior of the Swedish police. The Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China have made solemn representations to the Swedish government respectively in Stockholm and Beijing, stressing that what the police had done severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens. We urged the Swedish government to conduct thorough and immediate investigation, and respond to the Chinese citizens’ requests for punishment, apology and compensation in time. We cannot understand why the Swedish side has not given us any feedback. We hope that the Swedish side will handle the case in accordance with law, and urge the Swedish side again to take immediate actions to protect the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in Sweden.”

Swedish media first reported the incident on Saturday, September 15 (Aftonbladet). On Sunday, September 16, the Swedish Embassy finally responded to the issue.  A statement on their official Weibo account said that the Embassy is aware of the case and is assigning a special prosecutor to investigate the case and to determine whether or not the Swedish police have used improper violence. As clarified by a spokesperson of the Embassy of Sweden to What’s on Weibo: “The Embassy has not assigned the special prosecutor, as you can read in our statement. Instead, the prosecutor is assigned automatically every time an incident of alleged police misconduct is reported.”

According to a column on the website of English-language Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, the incident is now also one about a Swedish human rights protection:

(..) the way the local police in downtown Stockholm conducted themselves during the incident in a city hotel and on the streets on September 2 has inevitably raised questions over Sweden’s ability to protect human rights and conduct law enforcement in a civilized manner.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSES

Is this the police or the criminal underworld?

 

On Chinese social media, responses to the incident have been mixed. Many people feel that the family unnecessarily “made a big scene,” and condemn the young Mr. Zeng for “falling down on the ground as a crying baby.” They also say that these Chinese tourists are a “disgrace”: “They might as well have buried them at the graveyard,” some commenters write.

But there are also those who do not understand why the Swedish police handled the case in this way, taking the family in a police car and dropping them on a suburban curbside some six kilometers away, instead of bringing them to the police station or another hotel for the night.

“Perhaps the behavior of these three Chinese citizens was not very appropriate, but two of them are old people, they are not familiar with the area. To throw them out in the early morning, miles away at a cemetery where there are no hotels or stores, is really incorrect behavior by the Swedish police.”

From hotel lobby to suburban curbside; screenshot posted by Chinese netizens.

One well-known law blogger (@易辩任煜) wrote on Weibo: “It’s ok to enforce law and to bring people back to the police station and to give them a fine or something like that, but to throw them out like that? Is this the police or the criminal underworld?

There are also Chinese (micro-) bloggers who claim that the fact that this incident is making headlines in Chinese state media now relates to the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Sweden, writing: “China just needs a reason to put pressure on them.”

“This is all about the visit of the Dalai Lama Sweden on the 12th,” many others claim.

By now, the hashtag “Chinese Tourists Maltreated by Swedish Police” (#中国游客遭瑞典警察粗暴对待#) has received more than 100 million views.

This is not the first time the maltreatment of Chinese tourists abroad receives mass attention in Chinese media. In January of 2016, pictures and a video of two Dutch boys emptying boxes of milk powder over Chinese tourists in Amsterdam also ignited major discussions.

The milkpowder incident.

In 2017, a video of a Chinese-looking man being dragged out of an overbooked United Airlines flight also went viral online in China, attracting tens of thousands of outraged posts on the discrimination of Chinese abroad. It later turned out that the passenger involved in the incident, now called the “United Express Flight 3411 Incident“, was not a Chinese citizen, but a 69-year-old Asian-American doctor from Kentucky.

About this incident, some Chinese social media users say that they think it will affect international relations between China and Sweden.

Update: since this original article was published on Sunday (Sept 16), this news item has made international headlines. For the latest developments and news facts in this matter check, for example, this Washington Post article.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Victim of Violence or Rage-driven Killer? BMW Owner Attacking a Bike Driver Stabbed to Death with Own Knife

The BMW driver pulled a long knife to stab the biker, but the knife killed himself instead.

Gabi Verberg

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A road rage incident occurring in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, has become a trending topic on Chinese social media this week, when the driver of a BMW pulled a knife to attack a man riding a bike. Unexpectedly, it was the BMW driver who turned out to be a victim of his own violence. Is this a case of “self-defense” (防卫过当) or “intentional injury” (故意伤害)?

An incident in which a BMW driver hit a man on a bike was captured on surveillance cameras and attracted major attention on Weibo and Wechat this week.

Update: Video link here (YouTube) (NOTE! Viewer discretion advised, this video is the direct surveillance video and is not blurred.)

The incident occurred in the night of August 27 in Kunshan, Jiangsu, when a BMW switched from the car lane to the bicycle lane, colliding with a man driving his bike, who seemingly refused to give way.

Two men then stepped out of their BMW vehicle to confront the cyclist, with one man going back to his vehicle, suddenly pulling out a long knife.

The moment the BMW switches to the bike-lane is captured by surveillance cameras from one angle (the incident was captured from two different angles).

Circulating videos of the incident show that the BMW driver tries to attack the bike driver with the knife, the bike-driver (in white shirt) seemingly not fighting back.

Electric bike driver (white shirt) is attacked by the BMW driver with a knife.

In the midst of the fight, however, the BMW owner suddenly lets the knife slip out of his hands, after which the bike owner quickly picks it up. With the knife in his hands, he now starts attacking the BMW driver.

Tables are turned when the bike driver picks up the knife and goes after his attacker.

Various videos (another angle here) show how the bike driver runs after the man, hitting and stabbing him with the knife at least five or six times.

The electric bike driver hits the BMW driver with the knife for the fifth time.

When the police and rescuers arrived at the scene, the BWM driver had already died from his injuries, Kunshan authorities stated.

According to various sources, the man had been drinking before stepping into the car.

 

“I support the bike driver. He is not guilty; this is justifiable defense. He did well.”

 

In response to the incident, a hot discussion sparked on Chinese social media, where a main point of discussion was whether or not the stabbing, which led to the death of the BMW driver, could be called a “legitimate act of self-defense.”

Some netizens argue that the bike owner acted in self-defense, and therefore must not be held criminally responsible for his death. In doing so, many refer to Article 20 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which states that people who act out of “legitimate defense” to protect themselves against personal danger should not bear criminal responsibility.[1]

The question is whether the cyclist exceeded the necessary limits to defend himself.

In the Legal Evening News, lawyer Zhou Baomin (周保民), a partner of the Beijing Asia-Pacific Law Firm, states that the bicycle owner might in fact be held responsible for intentional injury and death.

Zhou argues that the video shows that the bicycle rider chases the BMW driver once he gets hold of the knife. At that point, the BMW owner clearly wants to escape, and is not attacking the man anymore – making the stabbing incident one of attack instead of defense.

Although the fatal stabbing is not visible in the videos, the bike rider stabs his attacker many times, which, according to lawyer Zhou, also goes beyond self-defense, since it would require a situation in which the one being attacked is powerless.

Zhou further states that causing deliberate injury leading to death is generally sentenced with more than ten years in prison or the death penalty. However, they add, the supposed fact that the cyclist is not committing a premeditated crime and that he does not own the lethal weapon, are factors that would be taken into consideration by the court.

Most netizens still feel sympathy for the bike owner, saying: ‘If you encounter such a situation, between life or death, the desire to survive will dominate everything. I think that the bicycle owner is not crazy. If he hadn’t defended himself, it would have been him who would have been stabbed to death instead.”

Many Weibo users express their hope that the man will not be punished too severely for his deed, with some even writing: “I support the bike owner. He is not guilty; this is justifiable defense. He did well.”

 

“There are very few purely good or bad people. Most people are neither very good nor very bad.”

 

The appearance and background of the BMW owner also seem to play a role in netizens’ perceptions of the events.

Various media sources report that the deceased man, who is now dubbed ‘BMW Guy’ (Bǎomǎ nán 宝马男), was the 36-year-old infamous ‘Liu Hailong (刘海龙), commonly known as ‘Brother Long,’ who was known to have a criminal record.

But in March of this year, this same man, as Sina News reports, also was allegedly rewarded a certificate of Justice and Courage (见义勇为奖励) from a Kunshan foundation for giving out valuable information to the police about drugs trafficking.

However, many Weibo users write: “Having a long knife in your car that you can use whenever needed – is that what you call being prepared to be brave and handle in the name of justice?!”

Or: “Still talking about his behavior being justified and courageous? Why not talk about him being jailed five times?”

And: “If a person like this, who has the habit of stabbing and driving while being intoxicated by alcohol, with a criminal record as thick as a book, still has recently gained recognition from the government [for his justice and courage], then this is not the tragedy of the people involved in this matter, it’s the tragedy of this country; a tragedy of society.”

But there are also those who express a more nuanced opinion, writing: “Come on, are you all primary school students? It’s not all black or white, not being a very good person doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Most people are grey; they have a good side and a bad side to themselves. There are very few purely good or bad people. Most people are neither very good nor very bad. Could we please discuss such matters in a slightly more mature way?”

This case is currently under police investigation. Meanwhile, the hashtag “Man Chasing Biker with Knife is Killed Himself” (#追砍电动车主遭反杀#) has gathered over 390 million views on Weibo today.

UPDATE: August 30 17:00 (China time):

A day later, this topic is still among the biggest topics being discussed on Chinese social media, as more information emerges on the cyclist in this story. What’s on Weibo was the first news blog to cover this topic in English (just sayin’!), but now other foreign news outlets are following with more information, too.

China Daily USA reports that the cyclist is a 41-year-old man by the name of Yu.

Meanwhile, photos are circulating that show that Yu has injuries to his face. Netizens, siding with the cyclist, are nicknaming Yu “the Terminator of Brother Long”:

Yu is currently being detained by police and has no life-threatening injuries. The hashtag for this incident has now received over 670 million views on Weibo.

UPDATE: CYCLIST IS ACQUITTED!

By Gabi VerbergManya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

[1]”In order to protect the state, the public interest, the personal, property and other rights of the person or others from being illegally infringed upon, and causing damage to the unlawful infringer, it is a legitimate defense and does not bear criminal responsibility. Unlimited legitimate defense refers to violent crimes committed in the situation of serious dangers to personal safety, and the use of defensive behaviors, resulting in unlawful infringement of human casualties. […] If the defense exceeds the necessary limit and causes severe damage, it shall be criminally liable, but the punishment shall be alleviated or exempted.”

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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