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Chinese Netizens on Lady Gaga: “You Can’t Blame the Ignorant”

The recent meeting between popular singer Lady Gaga and the Dalai Lama led to much international media coverage on the negative reactions from Chinese fans. Although some netizens express their anger with Gaga, there are many who say Chinese people can’t blame her “ignorance”.

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The recent meeting between popular singer Lady Gaga and the Dalai Lama led to much international media coverage on the negative reactions from Chinese fans. Although some netizens express their anger with Gaga, there are many who say Chinese people can’t blame her “ignorance”.

Although most news about the Dalai Lama is usually censored on Chinese (social) media, the recent meeting between the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) and American pop star Lady Gaga (嘎嘎小姐/女神卡卡) has become a much-talked about topic on Sina Weibo.

According to the official website of the Dalai Lama, his meeting with Lady Gaga took place during a US Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26. Lady Gaga reportedly interviewed the Dalai Lama for her Facebook live broadcast.

After meeting with the Dalai Lama, Lady Gaga posted on social media: “Thank you for this special day. Science tells us kindness improves health, let’s take care of the body of our nation.”

gaga

The Dalai Lama is a sensitive issue on China’s social media. After the spiritual leader fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, Beijing regards him as a separatist. Last year, a senior Communist Party official warned Tibetan cadres to “remain vigilant” of “separatist motives” of the Dalai Lama, SCMP reported.

Creative ways to refer to the Dalai Lama used by Chinese netizens to circumvent censorship include those that only use part of his name or who simply name him ‘DA’,’DL’, or ‘DA Lai Lama’ (Da赖喇嘛).

Although some English media sources claimed any mention of ‘Lady Gaga’ was now blocked from social media in China, the popular singer was still a topic of discussion on China’s Sina Weibo throughout June 28 and 29 – with some messages disappearing not long after they were posted.

Many netizens say that “Lady Gaga has officially left the Chinese market,” waving her goodbye with laughing emoticons: “She is no longer our idol – if she wants to know why, we can explain.”

dl

“If you do stupid things, you’ll have to pay the price,” media site Purple Web writes on its Weibo account.

Many international media reported that Lady Gaga has been officially “banned” from China, based on reports by The Guardian and Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily. Chinese state media did not report an official ban of Lady Gaga.

One Weibo netizen named Tomie wrote about the meeting:

“Before when I traveled to the United States, I visited an elementary school and saw a poster of the Dalai Lama there, together with those of other great persons such as Gandhi, Marie Curie, and even Confucius. They were up there together, and above it said “Love and Peace”. In front of the Philadelphia Independence Hall, there are many photos of celebrities who took a photo there, including the Dalai Lama.

I was flabbergastered to see this, and then slowly started to understand that the Dalai Lama is a celebrity in the eyes of foreigners; he is the embodiment of love and peace to them. He’s also the chicken soup leader (鸡汤教主) on Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore, the vast majority of foreigners have a very muddled understanding of China’s modern history besides what they know of Chairman Mao, the Taiwan issue, or the Tibetan and East Turkistan separatist problems. They do not understand the significance of this history to us, just as we don’t understand what their history means to them. Also, this is linked to the fact that the majority of foreigners have freedom of speech and do not accept any control over what they say or do.

So when celebrities shake hands with the Dalai Lama and pose for a picture with them, they will be framed in the same “love and peace” cadre as him. And our voices opposing this will only make him look more like an “innocent” old man that is verbally attacked by us in their eyes – they will even defend him.

We often say that you can’t blame people for being ignorant, and this is the case here.

I studied in Australia before, but I always loved my country. I refused to make friends with Taiwanese students in favor of Taiwanese independence. On Facebook, I condemn Taiwanese Independence, and I’ve also condemned the British Virgin Atlantic Airways event [link]. I think it is worth it, and it is what I should do. But in this case, I think I have the right to say no: I will not keep changing my favorite singers all my life when they meet with the Dalai Lama just because they don’t know any better.

I am writing this just because I wanted to tell you – do not go along with the same vision of hatred and hostility to the people. After all, all great developments start with tolerance.”

Many other netizens share the view of this Weibo blogger, saying: “She can meet whoever she wants – it is her freedom.”

One other Weibo user writes: “China has always shut her out anyway, so she actually has no obligations to take the feelings of her Chinese fans into account…” Lady Gaga songs were previously censored in China for being “vulgar”.

The same Weibo user named Tomie also confirms this: “Lady Gaga has stopped caring about China for a long time, because her concerts here were repeatedly refused, her songs are illegally downloaded, her interviews are prohibited to be broadcasted. She can do whatever she wants – it’s not our business what she does.”

Others also say that Lady Gaga cannot be blamed for being “ignorant”: “I am Chinese and to this day I still unsure what the deal is with the Dalai Lama, all I vaguely know about is from some junior high school textbook – so how can you expect foreigners to understand these political disputes? If you’re all so clever, then tell me, isn’t the Dalai Lama a Buddhist fellow? And for the rest..?”

Another Weibo user also said: “In fact, foreign media are mostly positive about the Dalai Lama, with many distinguished celebrities wanting to befriend him.” “If we would shut out Lady Gaga because of this,” another person adds: “then wouldn’t the people we shut out become a bit much?” Throughout the years, the Dalai Lama has met with many politicians and celebrities, from Bono and President Obama to British Prime minister Cameron, from Russel Brand and the Clintons to Chancellor Merkel.

“We need to divide politics from idols,” one netizen argues: “For example, I really like Japanese style, but I oppose their political stance.”

Other netizens just do not see what all the fuss is about. “If I had the opportunity, I’d also wanna meet him!”, one Weibo user says: “What’s the problem?!”

– By Manya Koetse

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Comic & Games

KFC China’s Psyduck Toy is a Viral Hit

As Psyduck goes viral, KFC Children’s Day toys are deemed “too childish for children but just perfect for us adults.”

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American fast-food chain KFC recently introduced three new Pokémon toys to go with its kids’ meals in various regions across China, with one of the toys, in particular, becoming a viral hit: Psyduck (可达鸭).

The new Pokémon toys were introduced on May 21st to celebrate Children’s Day (June 1). As reported by Shanghai Daily, the toys are randomly distributed in Children’s Day meals and will be released in different regions at different times.

Psyduck is a yellow duck-like Pokémon that is known to be confused because it’s bothered by headaches. One of the reasons why the Psyduck toy might be more popular than its fellow (Pikachu) toys, is because it dances, with its arms going up and down, and because of the catchy tune that starts once it starts moving. Psyduck is also a bit more dopey and ‘uncool’ than Pikachu, which makes him all the cooler (remember the Peppa Pig craze?)

Since its release, many people have been going crazy over the KFC toy. Psyduck fans have been hunting for the KFC treasure, and some have even turned it into a side business: they offer their services in getting as many KFC meals as necessary before grabbing the Psyduck toy – you’ll have to pay for their meal – and they’ll send the toy to their ‘customers’ later on.

The #Psyduck hashtag saw the first spike on Weibo on May 21st, the day of its release, when it received nearly 135 million views.

Although the toys were released for Children’s Day, most of these Psyduck fans are not kids at all. In one interview moment that went viral, an older man was asked about the Psyduck while he was standing in line at KFC. “I’m only here because my son wants it,” the man says. When he is asked how old his boy is, he answers: “He’s over thirty years old.”

A popular comment about the craze over the kids’ meal toys said: “This toy is perhaps too childish for children, but it’s just perfect for us adults.” The comment received nearly 20,000 likes.

If you buy a set meal including the toy, you will spend in between 59-109 yuan ($9-$16), but the reselling price of Psyduck has reportedly been as high as US$200 for just the Pokémon figure alone. KFC China has stated that it does not support this kind of reselling.

Illustration about the Psyduck crazy by New Weekly (@新周刊).

Especially among students, it has become popular to stick messages to the arms of the dancing Psyduck with motivational or humorous messages. Some students say the Psyduck keeps them company while they are studying.

Since short funny videos featuring Psyduck are going viral on Weibo and Douyin, a lot of Psyduck’s appeal relates to its social media success and joining in on the hype. People post videos of themselves unboxing their Psyduck, introducing it to their cat, imitating it, or they use the Psyduck in various creative ways.

This is not the first time for KFC toys to become a national craze. Earlier this year, KFC came out with limited edition blind boxes in a collaboration with Chinese toymaker Pop Mart. To get one of the dolls, customers needed to buy a 99 yuan (US$15.5) family set meal.

But the blind box sales also sparked criticism from China’s Consumer Association for promoting over-purchasing of its food and causing food waste. In order to get all of the six collectible dolls, including the rarest ones, customers would start buying many meals just for the dolls. As reported by SCMP at the time, one customer went as far as to spend US$1,650 on a total of 106 meals to collect all six dolls.

KFC is the most popular fast-food chain in China. People outside of China are sometimes surprised to find that KFC is so hugely popular in the mainland.

As explained in the book written about KFC China’s popularity (“Secret Recipe for Success“), its success story goes back to 1987, when the restaurant opened its first doors near Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Some reasons that contributed to KFC’s success in China are the popularity of chicken in China, the chain’s management system, the restaurant’s adaptation to local taste, and its successful marketing campaigns.

Now, Psyduck can be added as one of the ingredients in KFC China’s perhaps not-so-secret recipe for success.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Featured image via @Baaaaaaaaal, Weibo.com

Image via Weibo

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Elementary School Textbook Triggers Controversy for Being “Tragically Ugly”

This elementary schoolbook by the People’s Education Press went viral for being ugly.

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The illustrations in a Chinese schoolbook series for children have triggered controversy on social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “People’s Education Press Math Teaching Material” (#人教版数学教材#) attracted over 860 million views by Thursday afternoon, with the “People’s Education Press Mathbook Illustration Controversy” (#人教版数学教材插图引争议#) garnering over 190 million views.

The illustrations went viral after some netizens spotted that the quality of the design in one math textbook series stood out from other books in how ‘aesthetically displeasing’ it is.

The children depicted in the teaching material have small, droopy eyes and big foreheads. Some commenters think their clothing also looks weird and that the overall design is just strange and “tragically ugly.”

Some images depicting little boys also drew controversy for allegedly showing a bulge in the pants. Adding girls sticking out their tongues, boys grabbing girls, a reversed Chinese flag, and some depictions of children’s clothing in the American flag colors, many people think the books are not just ugly but also have “evil intentions.”

Besides the people who think the design of the textbook series is so ugly that it must have been purposely drawn like this, there are also those who are angry, suggesting China has thousands of talented art students who would welcome a project like this and do it much better.

Some parents are also concerned that such poor quality design will negatively influence the aesthetic appreciation of the children using the books.

Fueling the controversy is the fact that the textbook in question has been published and designed by a team of relatively influential and experienced designers and publishers.

The design was done by, among others, Lu Min (吕旻) and Zheng Wenjuan (郑文娟) of the Beijing Wuyong Design Studio (北京吴勇设计工作室). The book is published by the People’s Education Press.

The People’s Education Press (PEP) is a major publishing house directly under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. Founded in 1950, it is responsible for compiling and publishing all kinds of teaching material for elementary education.

The textbook already caught the attention of some parents in early May. One parent shared photos of the textbook illustration on Q&A site Zhihu.com, writing: “This textbook is so ugly! How did it ever pass the review?”

The ugly textbook design has made many netizens look back on their own childhood textbooks, suggesting that more traditional Chinese design is much better than what is being produced nowadays.

Old textbook design shared online for comparison.

On May 26, the People’s Education Press responded to the controversy on Weibo. In its statement, the publishing house said it would reevaluate its elementary school mathematics textbooks illustrations and improve the quality of the design. In doing so, the publishing house said it would welcome feedback from the public. The statement soon received over 600,000 likes.

Professional graphic design artist Wuheqilin also weighed in on the discussion (read more about Wuheqilin here). In a lengthy Weibo post, Wuheqilin argues it is too easy for people to share their old textbook covers and images to show how much better they used to be, blaming poor design on the quality of illustrators in modern times.

According to Wuheqilin, it is not so much a matter of illustrators who have become worse, but of publishing houses saving more money on illustrations. Publishers do not prioritize design and are still offering the same prices to illustrators as they did a decade ago.

“The market has expanded, illustrators’ prices have gone up, but the philosophy of publishing houses hasn’t kept up with the times. This has led to them not really raising their budgets. When I entered the industry some 12 years ago, publishers could still a good artist for 500-800 RMB [$75-$120] to do a fine cover illustration, but now it would be difficult to find an artist to do it for 8000 RMB [$1188]. Around 2015 I was asked by a publishing house to do the cover of a sci-fi novel series they produced, and the process of our talks all went smoothly, but when I quoted my price they looked displeased and told me that even if they would do their best to give me the highest budget possible, it would still only be one-tenth of my quoted price. The price I quoted was just the normal price for a game poster illustration at the time. I never spoke to that publisher again afterward. And this was 2015, let alone how the situation is nowadays.”

This is not the first time Chinese school textbooks trigger controversy online. In 2017, an elementary school sexual education textbook caused a stir for being “too explicit” (read here).

UPDATE TO THIS STORY HERE.

Read more about (controversial) Chinese children’s books here.

By Manya Koetse

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