On the evening of August 10, Chinese state media outlet Global Times published an editorial that clarified that in the case of an altercation between North Korea and the US, it would not help North Korea if it would first launch missiles on US territory, but that it would intervene if the US attacked first and would try to overthrow North Korea’s government.
Now, the United Morning Paper (Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报), the largest Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper, says that some of China’s most prominent experts on the issue hold a different view.
“The Cold War is over – there will be no re-staging of the 1950s ‘Resist USA, Help North Korea.'”
The United Morning Paper spoke to Zhang Liangui (张琏瑰), a professor at the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and a noted North Korea specialist. According to Professor Zhang, China will be unlikely to intervene in the matter, no matter who attacks first. “The Cold War is over, and there will be no re-staging of the 1950s ‘Resist USA, Help North Korea’ [抗美援朝].”
‘Resist the USA, Help North Korea’ (or: “Resist American Aggression and Aid North Korea”) was a propaganda slogan launched in October 1950. China came to the assistance of North Korea after the war with the South had broken out in June that year, and the UN forces intervened in September. The government, led by Mao Zedong, sent troops to fight in the war. Mao’s own son, Mao Anying, was killed in action by an air strike a month after the start of this 3-year war against US aggression in support of North Korea. The war ended with the armistice of July 1953.
Zhang said that North Korea is now destroying peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and that taking military actions against Pyongyang would not be unreasonable: “According to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charters, if the Security Council considers the actions of a state an endangerment to world peace, they can take sanctions against this state – also military ones.”
The professor added: “Although China principally does not agree with resolving disputes through military force, it is clear that the culprit of this problem is North Korea. (..) China has no reason to get involved in this conflict.”
“It is better to keep a neutral position than to side with North Korea.”
The United Morning Paper also quoted the international relations scholar Deng Yuwen (邓聿文), who said: “China should consider how any involvement in [this] war would impact Sino-US relations. It is better to keep a neutral position than to side with North Korea.”
The article made its rounds on Weibo on August 13. The Weibo post by the United Morning Paper attracted over 218 shares, 800 likes and 430 reactions, but they all remained invisible to others; just showing a message that said “no comments.”
Although discussions of the issue seem to be controlled by Weibo’s censors, some people did vent their opinion on the issue.
“Not only should we not ‘Resist America, Aid North Korea,’; we should oppose it,” essayist Wang Ruoguo wrote.
“Sooner or later, North Korea’s nuclear weapons are going to cause great suffering. There is no shame in working together with America.”
But there were also other voices. An anonymous Weibo user wrote: “Not ‘Resisting America and Aiding North Korea’ goes against Mao’s thoughts; it goes against everything he stood for.”
“We should not even think of it as ‘abandoning’ North Korea. China has wiped North Korea’s ass for too long.”
It is not the first time the relations between China and North Korea become a topic of debate in the Chinese media. In 2014, the question of ‘how should China deal with North Korea?’ was also a central one, as two prominent figures in the China-North Korea debate publicly announced their perspectives on the future of the bilateral relationship.
At the time, What’s on Weibo reported how the retired People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Lieutenant Wang Hongguang both shared his views on the future of the China-North Korea alliance, saying that “China is not North Korea’s savior,” and that “China has wiped North Korea’s ass for too long.”
General Wang’s essay “China’s Non-Existent ‘Abandoning North Korea’ Problem” (“中国不存在“放弃朝鲜”的问题“) attracted much attention in December of 2014, as Wang stated that North Korea was never really China’s true ally to begin with, and that their ‘non-existent’ alliance, therefore, could never be ‘abandoned.’
In Wang’s view, North Korea jeopardizes the peace and security of the entire region – and therefore does not share any interests with China: “China has to think from its own perspective and has to take a stance against North Korea harming our interests. (..) We should not even think of it as ‘abandoning’ North Korea. China has wiped North Korea’s ass for too long.”
He also said that China should not go to war for North Korea: “China’s younger generations should not fight a battle for a country that is not theirs.”
Although the rising tensions between USA and North Korea are making international headlines, the issue is not among the main trending topics on Sina Weibo.
The announcement that China, implementing UN sanctions, will stop importing coal, iron ore, fish, and other goods did trigger some online discussions on August 14.
Most commenters say that they still think it is too weak of a sanction, and wonder why China announces it beforehand: “Would North Korea announce it before it shoots a missile?” Another commenter wrote: “Why don’t they intervene stronger in their regime, and bring back socialism instead of a dictatorship?”
There are also many people who feel that there are other countries, mainly India, deserving more punishment than North Korea. As China-Indian relations are worsening over the Doklam border dispute, many netizens seem to think that a possible conflict with India is currently a more relevant topic to discuss than the heightening tensions between the US and North Korea.
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Anorexia in China – Same, But Different
What’s on Weibo gives an overview of how anorexia nervosa is discussed in China and on Chinese social media.
“Does anorexia exist in China?” is one amongst the millions of questions recently posted on the Chinese Quora-like platform Zhihu.com. It is a question that pops up on Chinese social media every now and then, as the eating disorder is not often discussed in a Chinese context.
The empty dialogue page on Zhihu.com is telling for the general discussion of anorexia in China today. Anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight that receives relatively little attention on Chinese online and social media compared to the English-language online environment, where there are countless support groups, discussion forums, and even the so-called unhealthy ‘Pro Ana’ communities where the behaviors related to anorexia are promoted.
Both anorexia in general, and the pro-ana communities in specific, received ample attention from Western media over the past few years. ITV recently reported about an “alarming rise in social media sites encouraging anorexic sufferers to starve themselves,” and that social media worsens the condition of people with anorexia who flock to these kinds of websites.
A “WESTERN” PHENOMENON
“Eating disorders seem to be an exotic phenomenon to many Chinese, but it actually is not.”
General discussions of anorexia nervosa on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, mostly relate to cases of the disease in Western, Caucasian women. The young Australian model and performer Phoebe Combes attracted some attention on Weibo in 2017 for suffering from anorexia. “How come every time I read about [this disease] it concerns foreign women?”, one netizen wondered.
Sporadically, speculative discussions do arise on social media about Chinese celebrities who may or may not be suffering from anorexia. Talk show host Chen Luxu (陈鲁豫), for example, became a topic of discussion when netizens started worrying about her frail appearance and said she was “too thin.”
For many netizens, however, the issue is often simplified to a mere “they should just eat more.” Despite general public unawareness about anorexia in China, more doctors and specialists are stepping forward to talk about the issue.
“When a Chinese doctor raised the issue of anorexia in China some twenty years ago at an international conference, foreign experts doubted if eating disorders existed in China,” one professional support site dedicated to anorexia and bulimia in China says: “We now want to promote awareness about eating disorders to patients and their families.”
In 2017, deputy director Ma Yongchun (马永春) of a hospital in Tongde, Zhejiang, spoke out to Chinese media website AcFun.com, saying that although eating disorders seem to be an exotic phenomenon to many Chinese, it actually is not. She also warned about the negative effects of social media platforms promoting unhealthy body images or unhealthy eating patterns.
THE STORY OF YUN
“Her condition spiraled out of control when she spent days on end watching live streams on Chinese social media that promote unhealthy eating habits.”
The AcFun article featured the story of one of Ma’s patients named Yun (alias), a 33-year-old former athlete from Zhejiang who weighed only 36 pounds with a height of 160 cm when she was at her lowest point – and on the verge of death.
She told AcFun that she became anorexic after being forced to eat a restrictive diet by her grandparents during her teens. When her entire athlete team suffered from gastroenteritis, her grandmother only allowed to her to eat bean curds and rice for months on end.
Unable to continue eating her forced diet and not allowed to eat anything else, the young Yun developed an eating disorder. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with anorexia by doctors at the Tongde hospital – a diagnosis that was followed by years of ups and downs. Yun’s condition spiraled out of control when she spent days on end watching live streams on Chinese social media that promote unhealthy eating habits.
Weighing only 36 pounds at her low point, Yun was barely able to move. One day, when she was alone with her sister’s small baby, she found herself too weak to pick up the infant went it was desperately crying. For Yun, it was a turning point in her decision to beat the illness.
Although many doctors gave Yun low chance of survival, a team of doctors including Ma Yongchun eventually were able to give Yun the help she needed. She now maintains a healthy weight.
UNHEALTHY ONLINE TRENDS
“Vomit Bars are online forums where netizens nicknamed ‘Rabbits’ encourage each other to vomit after eating.”
Doctors such as Ma Yongchun are part of a growing group of specialists in China raising awareness on eating disorders in China and warning against unhealthy online trends – which are on the rise.
Over the last years, online discussion boards such as Baidu Tieba have seen the phenomenon of ‘Vomit Bars’ (催吐吧) – a phenomenon somewhat comparable to the online ‘pro-ana’ movement on English-language internet sites.
‘Vomit Bars’ are online forums where netizens nicknamed ‘Rabbits’ (兔子) encourage each other to vomit after eating. Several live streaming sites also have people promoting weird or unhealthy eating habits, such as eating non-food products or binge eating – something Dr. Ma strongly condemns.
On Chinese social media, organizations helping those suffering from anorexia or other eating disorders are present, but not popular.
Although the Chinese Eating Disorder Recovery Web (@进食障碍康复网) only has a weak following online, their offline mission is strong: “China’s health care system can no longer ignore the growing group of eating disorder patients in China.”
ANOREXIA ON THE RISE OR NOT?
“There are no official statistics on the occurrence of anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders in China in the past and present.”
The topic of anorexia in China has also received more attention in international media and academic publications over the past decade.
Some English-language media, such as the LA Times, suggest that with changing beauty standards, skinny trends, and more influence from Western popular culture, eating disorders are “on the rise” in China.
Whether or not this is actually true is hard to say; there are no official statistics on the occurrence of anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders in China in the past and present. A study from 2013 among Chinese female college students in Wuhan, considered one of the best estimates of national rates, however, found levels similar to Western countries (Tong et al 2014).
In Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation, the authors (French & Crabbe 2010) also suggest that eating disorders such as anorexia are indeed present in society and that an increasing number of urban Chinese, mainly young women, are suffering from it (171).
Even if anorexia were to occur as much in China as in the West – which has neither been refuted nor confirmed – the way in which the disease is described and/or experienced seems to be significantly different.
SAME DISEASE, DIFFERENT MANIFESTATIONS
“Chinese patients showed few, if any, of the classical concerns associated with anorexia.”
Various studies over the past years have established that there are differences between Western countries and China in how anorexia develops with regards to patients’ preoccupations concerning appearance and body image.
In “The Myth of Chinese Barbies: Eating Disorders in China including Hong Kong” (2014), researcher M. Getz writes that eating disorders are traditionally conceptualized as a Western mental health issue, specifically because the ‘fat phobia’ aspects of the illness are often stressed the most. According to study, this attention towards appearance seems to be less important to Chinese patients (746-747).
This idea is further strengthened by Sing Lee, an expert in eating disorders in Chinese communities, who argues that Chinese patients “showed few, if any, of the classical concerns associated with anorexia” (747).
A major way in how anorexia in China is often different than in other (Western) countries is that it is somaticized. This relates to the fact that mental illnesses in China still carry a stigma and often go undiagnosed due to the lack of mental health care institutions.
Since physical problems are more socially accepted in China than mental health issues, people who suffer from anorexia in China are more prone to talk about their problems in the form of somatic symptoms such as distaste for food and not being hungry, or abdominal problems (Getz 2014, 750).
Levels of industrialization, media influence, eating habits, societal pressure to be thin, family pressure to succeed, etc., all may play a role in the occurrence of anorexia. Especially One-Child Policy generation children allegedly experience more pressure in their lives to perform.
As the development of anorexia in China goes hand in hand with social stigmas and superstitions regarding mental health issues, a traditionally strong food culture, a general unawareness on eating disorders, and many other cultural factors that may influence the manifestation of the disease, one can see why studies have found that “eating disorders are not culture-bound or culture-specific, but rather culture-reactive.” The reasons why patients develop anorexia and how it is manifested can, therefore, radically differ per culture (Pike & Dunne 2015).
“I simply can’t eat any food. I have no interest in food. Even if I am starving I still do not want to eat.”
These findings are also apparent on the various anorexia support message boards in China, where people suffering from the disease share their experiences. Rather than talking about fear of being fat, many commenters only discuss their loss of appetite and stressful lives.
One netizen on Zhihu.com writes:
“I am suffering from anorexia right now. The pressure at school is too much for me. I don’t have any time to relax. It’s all about studying. I simply can’t eat any food. I have no interest in food. Even if I am starving I still do not want to eat.”
Another person writes:
“I think I have anorexia. But I am not sure. (..) I simply do not want to eat. If I see food, I have no desire to eat it. I only eat some breakfast and some dinner, an egg at 7.30 and some rice at 17.30.”
A new study on anorexia in China by Zaida Aguera et al (2017) confirms the idea that anorexia in Chinese patients is often experienced or communicated physical rather than psychological, as they are “culturally encouraged to use denial and minimization to cope with conditions deemed taboo” (9).
Because the way anorexia presents itself is different, researchers argue that its treatment also requires a different approach in China than in other countries that have developed own national standards on treating eating disorders.
The treatment options in China, however, are still limited. The first and only closed ward for eating disorders opened in Beijing six years ago. But the recent increased media attention raised by doctors such as Ma Yongchun and heightened focus on mental health care in China indicate that there will be more options for Chinese anorexia patients in the future.
As for the Zhihu poster who asked about anorexia in China – they are still waiting for an answer. In the meantime, they have suggested an own solution in the underline, writing: “There just is so much tasty food in China, that anorexia in China is probably is much rarer here than in any other country in the world.” No one else responded.
Agüera, Z., Brewin, N., Chen, J., Granero, R., Kang, Q., Fernandez-Aranda, F., & Arcelus, J. 2017. “Eating Symptomatology and General Psychopathology in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa from China, UK and Spain: A Crosscultural Study Examining the Role of Social Attitudes.” PLoS ONE, 12(3), 1–13.
French, Paul, and Matthew Crabbe. 2010. Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation. Imprint: Anthem Press.
Getz, M.J. 2014. “The Myth of Chinese Barbies: Eating Disorders in China including Hong Kong.” Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 21: 746-754.
Pike, Kathleen M., and Patricia E. Dunne. 2015. “The Rise of Eating Disorders in Asia: a Review.” Journal of Eating Disorders 3:33. Available online https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-015-0070-2 [17.1.18].
Tong, J., Miao, S., Wang, J. et al. 2014. “A Two-stage Epidemiologic Study on Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Female University Students in Wuhan, China.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 49(3): 499-505.
Are you suffering from an eating disorder and need help? For information on eating disorders and how to help if you are worried about someone, Beat (UK) or ANAD (US) has advice for sufferers, friends and family.
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#MeToo in China is #WoYeShi: Sexual Misconduct Allegations Rock Beijing University
With the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (‘me too’), one Chinese scholar stands up for a #metoo movement in China against sexual harassment.
On the first day of the new year, a ‘#metoo’ scandal has hit China’s academic world. It concerns allegations made public on Weibo by former doctoral student Luo Qianqian (罗茜茜), who accuses her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu (陈小武) of sexually harassing her and several other students at Beihang University, a major public research university located in China’s capital.
Caixin Global, a Chinese media outlet, reported the news in English on January 2nd with an article titled “Global ‘Me Too’ Movement Against Sexual Assault Hits Chinese Academia,” in which journalists Li Rongde and Yuan Suwen state that “the “Me Too” movement has extended from the U.S. into China with the recent allegations.”
Luo Qianqian, a Chinese scholar now living in the US, claims that her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu tried to “force himself upon her behind a locked door” twelve years ago at Beihang, when Luo was working on her doctoral degree.
“A voice in me said ‘me too'”
Luo wrote that she “no longer wants to remain silent,” and wanted to “come out” with her story.
In the morning of January 1st, Luo published an article on her own Weibo page (@cici小居士) titled: “I Want to Report the Beihang Professor and Zhejiang Scholar Chen Xiaowu under My Real Name, for Sexually Assaulting Female Students” (“我要实名举报北航教授、长江学者陈小武性骚扰女学生”).
In this blog post, Luo writes that she was inspired to come forward when she first heard about the Harvey Weistein scandal in October of 2017 and the launch of the “#metoo” campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
“A voice in me said ‘me too,'” Luo writes, as she describes how she came in touch with other former fellow students through the Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu.com. It was on this platform that Luo first shared her story of how her supervisor lured her to come his sister’s home, who was not at home, where he attempted to force himself upon her. After she began crying and pleading with Chen, he drove her home and told her he was only testing her character and that she was not to tell anyone about what had happened.
Luo also posted several testimonies online to support claims that Chen also sexually assaulted at least seven other students. State media outlet Global Times also reported that, according to Luo, one student became pregnant after Chen had sex with her and that the renowned professor then tried to silence her by offering her money.
By January 2nd, Luo’s account was viewed over 3,7 million times on Weibo and had received more than 16,000 shares.
“Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected.”
Netizens responded to the issue in various ways, with some saying that there are many “beasts like Chen” in China’s higher education, while others said that it was “only a matter of time” before the case would be pulled offline.
According to Caixin, Chen Xiaowu has stated that he is aware of the accusations from former students, but says that he denies the allegations and will leave the matter to investigators.
Beihang University has responded with a statement on its official website on January 1st, saying that the institute is now researching the case and has temporarily suspended Chen Xiaowu from his duties.
Although Caixin claims the current case signals a greater movement of the “Me Too” movement into China, and despite the media attention for Luo’s case, the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (#我也是) is not taking off on Chinese social media.
The South China Morning Post addressed the issue in an article of early December 2017, writing that even if more Chinese women try to come forward on sexual harassment cases, they face insurmountable obstacles such as police inaction and state crackdowns on activism. Among other reasons, sexual harassment in China therefore often is underreported and under-prosecuted.
Nevertheless, there are thousands of comments on Weibo in support of Luo Qianqian. “We are rooting for you. Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected,” one person comments.
“We are all standing by your side,” some say: “Please keep reporting on this issue. We will follow you.”
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