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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

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

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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