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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”.

Manya Koetse



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.”


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.”


“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

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of 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, or follow on Twitter.

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China Arts & Entertainment

China’s New Hit Drama ‘Nothing But Thirty’ Thrives in the “She Era”

Chinese latest hit drama ‘Nothing but Thirty’ has 20 billion views on its Weibo hashtag page.

Yin Lin Tan



China’s latest TV drama hit Nothing But Thirty is flooding Weibo discussions. With over 20 billion views on its hashtag page, the show is one of the most popular shows of the season and demonstrates that China’s ‘she era’ (ta shidai 她时代) dramas are all the rage. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin Tan explains.

“Have you heard of ‘independent at the age of thirty’ (sān shí ér lì 三十而立)?” Wang Manni asks, her hair pulled back neatly and white shirt cleanly pressed. “I hope that, before I’m thirty, I’ll be promoted to supervisor.”

Riding on the wave of female protagonist (‘heroine’ 大女主) shows that have been taking over China’s entertainment scene, Nothing But Thirty (三十而已) is a 43-episode drama by Dragon Television that follows the challenges of three different women who have reached the ever-important age of thirty.

In a society where women are often expected to be married by their late twenties, a show like this, which tackles women’s present-day struggles, both in their personal and professional lives, has resonated with many.

In fact, the show is so popular that at the time of writing, the show’s hashtag (“Nothing But Thirty”, #三十而已#) has over 20 billion (!) views on Weibo.


Depicting the struggles of China’s thirty-something women


Nothing But Thirty revolves around the lives of three female leads from different walks of life. Gu Jia (Tong Yao) is a capable businesswoman turned full-time housewife; Wang Manni (Jiang Shuying) is an independent, career-oriented sales assistant; and Zhong Xiaoqin (Mao Xiaotong) is your run-of-the-mill office lady.

For Gu Jia, the birth of her son was what truly transformed her into a full-fledged housewife. In many ways, she seems like a perfect wife and mother: well-educated, capable, and thoughtful. But, eventually, she too has to face life’s challenges.

Driven and hardworking, Wang Manni is confident in both her looks and abilities. Her immediate goal, at least at the start of the show, is to achieve professional success. Throughout the show, her resilience is put to the test, personally and professionally.

Zhong Xiaoqin is described by many netizens as the most “average” or “normal” character. She is kind-hearted -sometimes to the point of being a pushover -, and has spent years at the same company without rising the ranks. Though her story might seem mundane at first, this peace is disrupted when her marriage takes a turn for the worse.


A story that resonates with the masses


“The show attracted wide attention, and it strongly resonated with female audiences. Many thirty-something working women saw their own lives reflected in the show,” Xinhua recently wrote about the show.

Nothing but Thirty currently carries a 7.6 out of 10 rating on Douban, an online reviewing platform.

Though some reviewers criticized how the later episodes of the show were unnecessarily draggy, most praised it for its portrayal of strong female characters, good acting, and largely realistic depiction of women above the age of thirty.

“I saw myself, and also saw the friends beside me,” a reviewer notes.

In China, women are, more often than not, burdened with expectations of getting married and settling down by the time they are in their late twenties. If you’re single and thirty, that’s made even worse.

Those who fall into this category carry the derogatory label of “leftover women” (剩女), a term that reflects how single women above the age of thirty are seen as consolation prizes or even unwanted goods.

Thirty is thus an incredibly important number, especially for women — something that’s clearly reflected in the show’s concept trailer.

Aside from societal expectations of starting a family, some women now also take it upon themselves to build their careers. In fact, you can chase after professional success without burdening yourself with the idea that you must be married – a notion exemplified by the character of Wang Manni.

Nothing But Thirty also showcases the sheer diversity of experiences for women above thirty: you don’t have to be married, you don’t have to be super capable, and you don’t have to be thinking about having children. Each woman goes through her own unique struggles and isn’t necessarily endowed with the so-called “protagonist’s halo.”

Ultimately, the popularity of the show is driven by the three female leads and the actresses who bring these strong characters to life.

By telling a story that is relatable and touches on relevant social issues, namely on expectations of women in society, Nothing But Thirty was able to achieve widespread popularity and is adding another notch on the trend of China’s ta shidai (她时代) dramas. 


The rise of ta shidai shows


Ta shidai literally translates to “her era” or “the ‘she’ era.”

Ta shidai shows explore what it’s like to be a woman in China today. The female characters are diverse when it comes to both their backgrounds and character arcs; they might have different jobs, different levels of education, or different personalities. These shows mostly center around a strong female lead and/or a main cast that is primarily female.

More importantly, they often feature capable women and how these women overcame the odds to achieve success.

Recent shows like The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊) and Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风破浪的姐姐) also fall under this category, as do somewhat older hit shows such as Ode to Joy (欢乐颂) and Women in Beijing (北京女子图鉴).

The Romance of Tiger and Rose is set in a society in which women are in charge and men are subordinate, in a daring reversal of gender roles. Though the show has been criticized for using social issues to attract attention, it gained a decent following for tackling topics like gender inequality and women’s rights.

The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊)

A reality TV competition that swept the Chinese entertainment scene, Sisters Who Make Waves attempted to rebuke stereotypes of women over 30 as “leftover women.”

The show brought together female celebrities above the age of 30 (the oldest competitor was 52), and had them go through a series of challenges, culminating in a girl group formed by the final competitors.

Nothing But Thirty is just another example of a show that’s attempted to depict the realistic struggles of women in modern-day China.

More Chinese dramas that feature women — specifically, their struggles and the expectations that society places on them — are slated to be released in 2020.

Over the past few years, more attention has been focused on women’s rights in China. As feminism becomes an increasingly important topic of discussion in China, strongly facilitated by social media and not without controversy, companies are likely to hop on the bandwagon and continue producing shows that fall squarely in the ta shidai category, given the genre’s rising popularity.

Though we can’t expect every single show to perfectly, accurately, and realistically portray women’s struggles, the fact that more stories like these are being produced already helps bring such conversations into the mainstream. 

Hopefully, the trend of ta shidai shows is a sign that these issues won’t just be tackled on camera, but in real life as well. 

Read more about Chinese TV dramas here.

By Yin Lin Tan

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China Arts & Entertainment

Two Hour Time Limit for KTV: China’s Latest Covid-19 Measures Draw Online Criticism

China’s latest COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures are drawing criticism from social media users.

Manya Koetse



First published

No more never-ending nights filled with singing and drinking at the karaoke bar for now, as new pandemic containment measures put a time limit as to how long people can stay inside entertainment locations and wangba (internet cafes).

On June 22nd, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (文旅部) issued an adjusted version to earlier published guidelines on Covid-19-related prevention and control measures for theaters, internet cafes, and other indoor entertainment venues.

Some of the added regulations have become big news on Chinese social media today.

According to the latest guidelines, it will not be allowed for Chinese consumers to stay at various entertainment locations and wangba for more than two hours.

Singing and dancing entertainment venues, such as KTV bars, can only operate at no greater than 50% maximum occupancy. This also means that private karaoke rooms will be much emptier, as they will also only be able to operate at 50% capacity.

On Weibo, the news drew wide attention today, with the hashtag “KTV, Internet Cafe Time Limit of Two Hours” (#KTV网吧消费时间不得超2小时#) receiving over 220 million views at the time of writing. One news post reporting on the latest measures published on the People’s Daily Weibo account received over 7000 comments and 108,000 likes.

One popular comment, receiving over 9000 likes, criticized the current anti-coronavirus measures for entertainment locations, suggesting that dining venues – that have reopened across the country – actually pose a much greater risk than karaoke rooms due to the groups of people gathering in one space without a mask and the “saliva [drops] flying around.”

The comment, that was posted by popular comic blogger Xuexi, further argues that cinemas – that have suffered greatly from nationwide closures – are much safer, as people could wear masks inside and the maximum amount of seats could be minimized by 50%. Karaoke rooms are even safer, Xuexi writes, as the private rooms are only shared by friends or colleagues – people who don’t wear face masks around each other anyway.

Many people agree with the criticism, arguing that the latest guidelines do not make sense at all and that two hours is not nearly enough for singing songs at the karaoke bar or for playing online games at the internet cafe. Some wonder why (regular) bars are not closed instead, or why there is no two-hour time limit for their work at the office.

Most comments are about China’s cinemas, with Weibo users wondering why a karaoke bar, where people open their mouths to sing and talk, would be allowed to open, while the cinemas, where people sit quietly and watch the screen, remain closed.

Others also suggest that a two-hour limit would actually increase the number of individuals visiting one place in one night, saying that this would only increase the risks of spreading the virus.

“Where’s the scientific evidence?”, some wonder: “What’s the difference between staying there for two hours or one day?”

“As a wangba owner, this really fills me with sorrow,” one commenter writes: “Nobody cares about the financial losses we suffered over the past six months. Our landlord can’t reduce our rent. During the epidemic we fully conformed to the disease prevention measures, we haven’t opened our doors at all, and now there’s this policy. We don’t know what to do anymore.”

Among the more serious worries and fears, there are also some who are concerned about more trivial things: “There’s just no way we can eat all our food at the KTV place within a two-hour time frame!”

By Manya Koetse

*” 餐饮其实才更严重,一群人聚在一起,而且不戴口罩,唾沫横飞的。开了空调一样也是密闭空间。电影院完全可以要求必须戴口罩,而且座位可以只出售一半。KTV其实更安全,都是同事朋友的,本身在一起都不戴口罩了,在包间也无所谓。最危险的餐饮反而都不在意了”

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