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China’s Exam Fever and ‘Gaokao Economy’

It is time for China’s gaokao (高考) – the national college entrance exams. The exams, that are taking place on June 7 and 8, are attracting nationwide attention – both offline and online. Not only does the gaokao dominate the top trending lists on China’s social media, companies also profit from the so-called “gaokao economy” (高考经济).

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It is time for the gaokao (高考) – China’s national college entrance exams. The exams, that are taking place on June 7 and 8, are attracting nationwide attention both offline and online. Not only do the gaokao dominate the top trending lists on China’s social media, companies also profit from the booming “gaokao economy” (高考经济).

China’s gaokao (高考) week, the time of the national college entrance exam, is one of the biggest events of the year. During this time, topics like ‘the 2016 Exams’ (#2016高考#) are trending on social media, and Weibo accounts revolving around the exams, like Sina’s Gaokao Newsflash (@高考快讯), are suddenly very popular.

More than 9 million students are taking the exams this year. The gaokao (literally: ‘higher exams’) are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions, and are usually taken by students in their last year of senior high school. The exams take place during a period of 2 days. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation. Because the exam results are potentially life-changing, the gaokao period is generally a stressful time for students and their parents.

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China’s social media platforms are well-visited during the exam period. Many exam candidates post photos of their study material or go online for support, posting encouraging words to themselves and to their fellow students on Sina Weibo. Weibo is also the go-to platform for parents whose children are taking exams, as these strenuous times are generally stressful for the entire family. Weibo currently therefore also has trending hashtags like “Respect for all parents supporting their kids during exams” (#向高考陪读父母致敬#).

“Gaokao Economy”

Many businesses and universities profit from the nationwide gaokao fever by drawing attention to themselves and trying to make money during this time. “Gaokao economics” (高考经济) refers to this phenomenon of businesses specifically using the exam-period to promote their brands and make more profit.

On Weibo, gaokao economics are mainly visible through brands wishing exam students good luck; making sure they link their logo to the exams. The trending topic ‘2016 exams’, for example, is sponsored by the popular herbal tea brand Wong Lo Kat. wanglaojiThere are also various brands and companies that organize special exam activities and advertise them through social media. Wenzhou radio announced that they are organizing special local taxi’s to drive students to their exam rooms and back.

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App developers and app stores take this opportunity to promote apps focused on studying and concentration. The weekly recommendations of the Chinese Apple app store are specially themed around “Exam Preparation” (专注备考), with various apps listed to help students organize their study information, improve time efficiency, relax in between studying, and meditate for better focus.

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Many educational institutes also profit from the exam fever, either by offering expensive cram courses or by using this time for promotion. While the exams are still in full swing, universities are already trying their best to attract prospective students. Under the hashtag “I Will be Waiting for You in University” (#我在大学等你#), many universities are posting their campaign videos and publicity photos, featuring university students holding signs saying “I will be waiting for you at [university name]”.

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But the gaokao economy goes far beyond the digital environment. Many companies jump at this opportunity to offer anything students might need, from clothes to food and other basic needs. There are also many hotels, for example, providing hourly rooms and special discounts for gaokao candidates who need some room for study or accommodation. These so-called ‘exam rooms’ (高考房) are currently very popular, as they give students the opportunity to concentrate and get a good night sleep. One Shijiazhuang hotel provides free yogurt and chocolate for exam candidates, as well as lucky signs in their hotel rooms to boost their chances of success.

There are also companies offering special ‘gaokao nanny’ (高考保姆) services, as reported by 961 News. ‘Gaokao nannies’ do everything they can to make the exam student as comfortable and focused at possible; cooking them the right food, taking them to the exam room and alleviate their stress through talking.

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As the ‘gaokao economy’ has grown bigger through the years, there are also media criticizing the phenomenon. Some media say businesses shouldn’t profit from students, others say it is not good as it puts extra strain on those families that are already having financial struggles, as they cannot afford to spend more during their child’s exam period.

But not all netizens agree with the media’s critical stance: “Don’t these companies just need to make money too? It’s not like they’re cheating people,” one netizen writes: “I am not in this business, but you’re making a big fuss over nothing.” Another Weibo user responds: “There are just so many people who need to make money in this country – and they’ll think of anything to do so.”

– By Diandian Guo & Manya Koetse

©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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China Local News

Another Didi Murder Shocks China: 20-Year-Old Woman Raped and Killed by Driver on Her Way to a Birthday Party

Xiao Zhao is the second woman in China to have been killed by her Didi driver this year, raising concerns among Chinese regarding the safety of the car-hailing app.

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The 20-year-old Xiao Zhao, who went missing after she arranged a ride through Didi, China’s popular Uber-like car-hailing app, has been found raped and murdered. Police have since arrested the suspect, the 27-year-old driver.

A 20-year-old woman from Wenzhou, Zhejiang, went missing on August 24 after taking a Didi taxi from Yueqing (乐清) to Yongjia (永嘉) county at one o’clock in the afternoon to attend a birthday party.

Her parents contacted the police when they could not reach their daughter Xiao Zhao after 14:00, which is when she had sent a message to a friend that she was in trouble.

“Help me,” Xiao Zhao cried for help through message before her phone lost contact.

Although her friend (@Super_4ong) immediately tried to contact Didi after Xiao Zhao had cried out for help, she was allegedly told to wait and no immediate action was taken.

Hours later, in the early morning on Saturday, August 25, police arrested the suspect responsible for the woman’s disappearance, the 27-year-old driver from Sichuan.

Yueqing authorities reported that the body of Xiao Zhao was discovered in a mountainous area nearby, after the driver told police he had killed her and had thrown her body off a cliff. Local police report on their official Weibo account that the driver had also admitted to raping the woman.

It now appears that the driver had been reported by another female passenger earlier this week for indecent behavior. She came forward through WeChat today, claiming the same driver had harassed her around the same place where the murder took place. She was able to get away, and says she later contacted Didi to have his license removed but that Didi had not taken action yet.

Didi Chuxing (滴滴顺风车) is China’s biggest ride-sharing company. Like Uber, it allows customers to arrange a taxi via the app or Wechat programme. Didi has around 450 million users in more than 400 cities across China.

The case is seemingly similar to another shocking Didi murder that occurred earlier this year. In May of this year, the murder of a 21-year-old flight attendant raised concerns among Chinese regarding the safety of car-hailing app Didi.

The 21-year-old Lucky Air flight attendant Li Mingzhu (李明珠) was killed in the early morning of May 6th after she had arranged a ride through Didi, and was on her way home from Zhengzhou Airport in Henan province. A friend of Li had received messages from her while she was on her way home, saying that her driver was “acting strange” and was telling her that he was “tempted to kiss her.”

Unable to contact their daughter later that day, Li’s family reported her missing on the afternoon of May 7. Her body was discovered by local police the following day. Police confirmed that the woman was killed by the driver with a weapon. The body of the driver was later retrieved from a river nearby.

At the time, Didi Chuxing issued an apology for Li’s death, and said they had “incumbent responsibility.” They also promised to improve their safety measures for passengers, but apparently have not succeeded in doing so; before yesterday’s brutal killing, at least ten other Didi incidents also occurred since May, including the rape of a young female passenger on May 15 in Nantong (Jiangsu), the rape of an intoxicated woman in Foshan (Guangdong) who took a Didi taxi after going for a night out on May 13, and the sexual assault of another woman in Huai’an (Jiangsu).

Today, the company again issued a statement on Chinese social media, in which they said they were “filled with grief” over Friday’s violent crime, and that they are deeply sorry: “We fell short of your expectations,” they wrote. The statement received over 200,000 comments today.

The Didi murder is a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media today, with the hashtag “Wenzhou woman murdered when taking Didi” (#温州女孩乘滴滴遇害#) having been viewed more than 16 million times on Weibo at time of writing. Another similar hashtag (#女孩乘滴滴顺风车遇害#) was viewed more than 430 million times. Five of the top 10 ‘hot search’ list topics relate to the murder.

Five out of ten trending topics on Weibo relate to the Didi incident.

One commenter (@Babylily杨杨莉莉) wrote: “As someone of the same age as she was, and me using Didi all the time, I’m just happy nothing has happened to me before. But I hope Didi can undertake action so that all women can safely use their services.”

“I’m too afraid to ride with Didi now,” others said. Amid safety concerns, some netizens now say they want Didi to incorporate an alarm button into its app, so that users can send for help immediately the moment they are being harrassed by their driver.

Others encourage women to quickly change settings in their app to allow the option to automatically share one’s ride with friends, so they can exactly follow the location of the car.

There are also many people who simply do not want to use Didi’s services anymore; they are posting screenshots of them deleting the Didi app from their phones.

UPDATE: More details emerge.

By Manya Koetse, and 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 Marketing & Advertising

Remarkable Rebranding: Employees Confused and Angry about “58 Transport” Name Change to “Fast Dog Drivers”

Some workers at Fast Dog would’ve rather seen a cat in their company’s remarkable rebranding campaign.

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During the dog days of summer, Chinese transport company ’58 Suyun’ has made a remarkable move: they’ve rebranded under the name ‘Fast Dog Drivers’ (快狗打车). But since ‘dog’ is a derogatory term in Chinese that can mean ‘damned’ or ‘bastard,’ employees are reluctant to drive around with the new sign that marks them as ‘damned drivers.’

Chinese logistics and delivery company “58 Transport” (58 Suyun/58速运) recently changed its name to “Fast Dog Drivers” or “Fast Dog Pickup [Service]” (loose translation of Kuài gǒu dǎchē 快狗打车), but workers are not happy about the name change.

A Chinese media news report (video) shows how workers in Zhengzhou have gathered at the office to express their anger about the name change. (Video also on Youtube here).

Many drivers feel the name has a double meaning, implying that either the drivers themselves are ‘dogs’ or that the people they serve are ‘dogs,’ or that they are actually picking up dogs.

‘Dog’ in Chinese (狗 gŏu) can be used as an insult, meaning ‘damned’ or ‘cursed.’ The words gǒudàn (狗蛋, lit. ‘dog egg’) or gǒuzǎizi (狗崽子, lit. ‘dog bastard’), for example, can be translated as ‘loser’ or ‘son of a b*tch.’

But ‘dog’ also pops up in many other vulgar or derogatory terms. Gǒupì (狗屁, lit. ‘dog fart’) meaning ‘bullsh*t’ and gǒurì (狗日) meaning ‘lousy.’

Many Chinese (negative) idioms also use the word ‘dog.’ Gǒu yǎn kàn rén dī (狗眼看人低, lit. ‘dog-eye-look-people-down’)means ‘to act like a snob.’ Or gòu gǎi bù liǎo chī shǐ (狗改不了吃屎), literally ‘a dog can’t stop himself from eating shit,’ meaning ‘bad habits are hard to change.’

Some employees at the “Fast Dog Drivers” are afraid their new name might get in trouble, and refuse to have the new name sign on their minivans, asking: “Why can’t the main company just change its name, and let us carry the old name on our vans?”

The new Fast Dog sign on a delivery van.

Some drivers have even put up signs on their van, saying: “We are respectful! We are no ‘dogs’!”

One employee speaking to reporters (video) said: “If I call up a customer, am I supposed to say, ‘Hello, this is ‘Fast Dog’ [‘fast bastard’] speaking? I can’t say that! I’d be scolding myself and the company!”

“Hello this is Fast Dog speaking, I can’t say that!”

The employee further tells reporters: “Our company told us that JD.com also has a dog in its logo, yeah, but their name is still JD.com!” He says: “Just look at Tmall [e-commerce site 天猫 lit. ‘day cat’], they have a ‘cat’ [in their name] and that’s not insulting. Nobody uses ‘cat’ as a bad word, now do they, telling someone they’re a ‘cat’ doesn’t do anything, now does it?”

E-commerce companies JD.com uses a dog in its logo, whereas Tmall uses a cat in both logo and Chinese name.

On Weibo, news about the name change is also causing some surprise: “Is this for real?”, some say: “This name is so undignified!”

The name change surely is for real; ’58 Transport’ has also changed its Weibo account to ‘Fast Dog Drivers’ (@快狗打车官方微博). But the name introduction on its Weibo page has also attracted some dozen reactions saying: “Are your drivers ‘dogs’ [‘damned’]?”

Some people, however, mention the fact that one of China’s biggest search engines also has a ‘dog’ in it: Sougou (搜狗) literally means ‘searching dog.’

’58 Transport’ or ‘Fast Dog Drivers’ is a company that operates in more than 25 major cities across China. It offers services in picking up goods, moving services, and other transport services, and especially stresses the speed of delivery and quality customer services as its main company strengths.

For now, according to reports, the workers in Zhengzhou do not need to put the new name on their minivans – if they do not have them yet – until the headquarters release instructions about the future marketing strategy of the ‘Fast Dog’ company.

By Manya Koetse

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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