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Chinese Communist Youth League Joins Bilibili – Where Official Discourse Meets Online Subculture

The Central Communist Youth League of China (共青团中央) recently announced its official presence on Chinese video-sharing site Bilibili.

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The Central Communist Youth League of China (共青团中央) recently announced its official presence on Chinese video-sharing site Bilibili – a digital platform focused on anime, comics, games, and subcultures popular among Chinese youth. What’s on Weibo’s Diandian Guo takes a look at what happens when China’s official discourse mixes with online pop culture.

“Did you think the Youth League did not use ‘B-station’? 2017, here we are!” On January 1st 2017, the Central Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL or CYL) published this headline.

It announced the opening of the Party’s youth movement’s official account on Bilibili (哔哩哔哩) or B-Station (B站), a video sharing website for Chinese fans of anime, comics, games and other popular youth subcultures.

 

“Bilibili has become the headquarters for online alternative youth subcultures of China.”

 

This is not the first time the Chinese Communist Youth League enters popular channels of communication. As early as 2009, a central secretary meeting highlighted the important role popular culture could play in propagating its ideology. In 2013, the CCYL opened a Sina Weibo account (@共青团中央), followed by an official WeChat account.

But within the realm of online platforms, Bilibili is a whole new ballgame. Starting as a fandom community in 2009, bilibili.com has become the new headquarters for online alternative youth subcultures of China.

Its ACG focus (anime, comics, and games) is often referred to as the “second-dimensional space” (二次元), marking its distinction from the real world or the “three-dimensional space.”

Communist Youth League account on Bilibili.

Communist Youth League account on Bilibili.

Although its initial users were mostly fans of Japanese manga and anime, Bilibili has now grown into a colorful and culturally diverse space, with the gradual emergence of more cultural products from China, America, or Thailand, among others.

 

“Wherever the good youth of China are, the League will go there to meet you.”

 

Despite the diversity, however, Bilibili forms a tight-knit and vibrant cultural community. All users can submit, view and add commentary on videos called “screen bullets” (弹幕), which appear on the video screen for everyone to see.

By sending these ‘screen bullets’, all users are participating in watching and “making” cultural products together. Through time, Bilibili users have developed their own language and social norms.

Screenshot of Bilibili video showing the screen bullets. This is the hare from Year Hare Affair; an embodiment of the People’s Republic of China.

Screenshot of Bilibili video showing the screen bullets. This is the hare from Year Hare Affair; an embodiment of the People’s Republic of China.

With its unique online environment, Bilibili is a platform where neither reality nor politics are likely to appeal to its young audience – it seems to be worlds apart from an organization like the Communist Youth League, that always conveys the “main melody” of official policies and guidelines.

Yet despite their alternative pop cultural interests, the Central Communist Youth League still identifies this online subculture as the “good youth of China,” and states that “however high the mountains and however deep the waters, wherever the good youth of China are, the League will go there to meet you.”

 

“How to Resist Western Colonization of the Mind, and Why China Wins.”

 

So what exactly is the type of content that the CCYL publishes on Bilibili? Here is an overview:

Online Open Course for Youth (青年网络公开课): this series of open courses have been published in 2016 by the CCYL on another video platform (Youku.com), and has now been listed under CCYL’s new Bilibili account.

The goal of this series of courses is to “invite great minds to teach, inspire and answer questions for young people, so that they can choose the right path in life.” The themes mainly concern China in world politics, including titles such as “How to Resist the Western Colonisation of the Mind” (如何抵御西方精神殖民), “Why China Wins” (中国为什么能赢) and “Challenges and Visions of the Sino-American game” (中美博弈的挑战与前景).

Representing and Redefining China’s ‘Youth’: CCYL targets post-90s, who are entering society today, and who constitute the majority of Bilibili users. While the younger generations on Bilibili may define and represent themselves as geeky and individualistic as possible, CCYL endeavors to also bring them a more political and national perspective.

In “Redefining the post-90s” (重新定义90后), young athletes, technical workers, and volunteers are portrayed as perfect representatives of their generation; conveying the message that young people should have the dream to contribute to the world. Two other short documentaries of a railway worker and a welder convey the idea of the ideal national “model worker.”

Historical Themes: although the previous themes dominate CCYL’s new Bilibili account at the time of writing, more historical themes undoubtedly will pop up later. Among the three newly published videos this year, two are about history.

A video titled “The Japanese Invasion of China: Not Just About Killing” (日本侵华,不只是杀戮), convinces viewers that the main goal of Japanese militarism was never about “abolishing the body,” but about “abolishing the soul.” Another video refers to a historical cartoon Year Hare Affair (那年那兔那些事), a patriotic and sentimental narrative of contemporary history, which is also broadcasted on Bilibili.

 

“So could we say that China’s official discourse perfectly mixes with online pop culture? Perhaps not entirely.”

 

For now, it looks like Bilibili users have whole-heartedly welcomed the Chinese Communist Youth League to their digital platform. One of the most recurring comments is: “Good job, my League!” (厉害了,我的团). Many users state that they have immediately become a fan of the CCYL, and will follow all of its future updates.

Overall, CCYL’s reasoning also seems to have the wide public support of Bilibili users. Under the Japanese invasion video – despite the fact that Bilibili users generally are great fans of Japanese manga – one user wrote: “Japanese manga are not brainwashing in essence, but there are people in those circles who will lead you the wrong way. When you are young and your values are not yet formed, you can be easily misled and it would be difficult to fix that.”

So could we say that China’s official discourse perfectly mixes with online pop culture? Perhaps not entirely. The overwhelming support for CCYL on Bilibili is not completely indisputable. Some users point out that commenters “cannot just write any reaction,” and that “it happens so often that what you wrote appears as ***.”

There are more negative voices. One user wrote that the CCYL “should first deal with corruption, instead of being occupied with ‘image projects.’”

Another user spoke against the blunt promotion of the so-called “Chinese dream” (中国梦), and said that “promoting the Chinese dream to the world without actually solving social problems will end up with people living in a hollow national dream, incapable to fulfill their own personal dreams.”

-By Diandian Guo
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Featured image: screenshot of one of the CCYL’s videos on Bilibili.

Editing by Manya Koetse.
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

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. 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 Celebs

China’s Livestreaming Queen Viya Goes Viral for Fraud and Fines, Ordered to Pay $210 Million

Viya, the Queen of Taobao, is under fire for tax evasion.

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Viya, one of China’s most well-known and successful live streamers, is trending today for allegedly committing tax fraud by deliberately providing false information and concealing personal income.

The ‘Taobao queen’ Viya (薇娅, real name Huang Wei 黄薇) reportedly committed tax fraud from 2019 to 2020, during which she evaded some 643 million yuan ($100 million) in taxes and also failed to pay an additional 60 million yuan ($9.4 million) in taxes.

The Hangzhou Tax Administration Office reportedly ordered Viya to pay an amount of over 1.3 billion yuan ($210 million) in taxes, late payment fees, and other fines. On Monday, a hashtag related to the issue had garnered over 600 million views on Weibo (#薇娅偷逃税被追缴并处罚款13.41亿元#).

Viya made headlines in English-language media earlier this year when she participated in a promotional event for Single’s Day on October 20th and managed to sell 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in merchandise in just one live streaming session together with e-commerce superstar Lipstick King.

China has a booming livestreaming e-commerce market, and Viya is one of the top influencers to have joined the thriving online sales industry years ago. When the e-commerce platform Taobao started their Taobao Live initiative (mixing online sales with livestreams), Viya became one of their top sellers as millions of viewers starting joining her channel every single day (she livestreams daily at 7.30 pm).

With news about Viya’s tax fraud practices and enormous fines going viral on Chinese social media, many are attacking the top influencer, as her tax fraud case seems to be even bigger than that of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (范冰冰).

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing went “missing” for months back in 2018 when she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal. The actress was ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion. The famous actress eventually paid approximately $128,5 million in taxes and fines, less than Viya was ordered to pay this month.

Like Fan Bingbing, Viya will also not be held criminally liable if the total amount is paid in time. This was the first time for the e-commerce star to be “administratively punished” for tax evasion.

Around 5pm on Monday, Viya posted a public apology on her Weibo account, saying she takes on full responsibility for the errors she made: “I was wrong, and I will bear all the consequences for my mistakes. I’m so sorry!”

It is not clear if she will still do her daily live stream later today and how this news will impact Viya’s future career.

Update: Vaya’s live stream was canceled.

Update 2: Vaya’s husband also issued an apology on Weibo.

Update 3: Taobao has suspended or ‘frozen’ (“冻结”) Vaya’s livestreaming channel. Her Taobao store is still online.

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. 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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