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China and Covid19

Chinese Tourism Bureau Chiefs Go Viral for Trying Really, Really Hard to Attract More Post-Covid Domestic Tourists

It’s a Culture & Tourism Bureau social media battle: China’s local tourist offices are fighting to go viral to attract more visitors.

Manya Koetse

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Hoping to attract more domestic tourists in the post-Covid-era, Chinese local government officials are trying really hard to promote their hometowns. Various tourism bureau chiefs from across China are going viral on Weibo, Douyin, and beyond for dressing up in traditional outfits and creating original videos with low to zero budget.

Another local Chinese tourism bureau chief went viral today – it’s an entire trend by itself. Tourist department offices under several local governments in China are trying really hard to promote their hometowns these days in hopes of attracting more domestic tourists in China’s post-Covid era.

Government officials are showing their best side – and their most creative one – on social media to convince tourists to visit their region. In doing so, these local bureau chiefs have been attracting online attention for appearing in promo videos in various creative ways (#为了让你去玩儿文旅局长们能有多拼#).

Since early 2020, China’s tourism industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic and China’s strict Covid measures and lockdowns. At various moments during the pandemic, China’s domestic tourism saw an increase in holiday bookings as tourists still wanted to travel but could not easily travel abroad.

Now that China has lifted blockades on foreign travel, the post-zero-Covid itch to travel is back in full swing. As travel to other countries is seeing a boom again (while tourist visas to mainland China are still halted), local tourist offices are doing all they can with a minimal budget to encourage domestic travel to their lovely hometowns.

The trend of China’s tourist bureau chiefs finding innovative ways to promote their regions or towns via social media has been going on for some time already, but it wasn’t until recently that they really gained nationwide attention for their efforts.

The recent viral trend is not only generating more attention for the specific towns and regions promoted in the videos, it is also bringing more recognition for the drive of China’s Culture & Tourism Bureau chiefs – officials who usually rarely get the limelight. Many Chinese netizens agree that it must take a lot of talent and creativity to become a local tourism bureau chief nowadays.

 

1. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF ZHAOSU COUNTY (XINJIANG)


Riding a horse through a windy snowy country, He Jiaolong (贺娇龙) was the first local official to feature in a social media video to promote the Yili region. The video of the vice-county head of Zhaosu, all dressed up, went viral in the winter of 2020.

Chief He later told reporters that she did not expect the video to go as viral as it did. According to Shine, He Jiaolong said: “I invited two horse lovers to help us promote local tourism on social media. We borrowed the costume from a local art troupe. They posted my horse-riding videos on Douyin and received enthusiastic responses.”

A ‘behind the scenes’ video later published on Douyin showed He falling over and battling the cold during the filming, only making the local official more popular for her dedication.

 

2. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF SUIZHOU (HUBEI)


In October of 2022, Xie Wei (解伟), director of the Suizhou Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism in Hubei province, made headlines for his performance in videos produced and directed by himself.

As reported by South China Post, Xie made the videos himself because the local tourism bureau did not have the budget for a professional production. Although the videos made by Xie went viral, they also received some criticism because of how Xie was role-playing and dressing up as an ancient knight.

Nevertheless, Xie Wei did breathe new life into this creative approach to destination marketing, inspiring other Culture and Tourism Bureaus across China to take a similar social media strategy and join on the battleground to win over the hearts of domestic travelers.

 

3. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF TIBETAN AUTONOMOUS PREFECTURE


In February of 2023, it was the bureau chief of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Tourism Office, Liu Hong (@甘孜刘洪), who went viral with various videos featuring him in traditional clothing, which earned him the nickname of “most handsome bureau chief” (“最帅局长”).

It was not the first time for Liu to star in his own tourism promotion video, as there was another video in 2022 in which he also did some cosplay to promote the Garze region (Sichuan).

Liu Hong is now known as one of China’s “celebrity tourism bureau chiefs” (网红文旅局长). The videos actually helped to promote the region but also turned Liu into a celebrity.

 

4. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF DAWU COUNTY (SICHUAN)

On February 10 of 2023, it was the Cultural Tourism Bureau chief Jiangze Duoji (@降泽多吉) of Dawu County who professionalized the social media video trend and featured in a super slick 3-minute video with beautfiul shots and a creative idea.

In the intro of the video, Jiangze Duoji speaks English when he talks about his life question of “Who am I?” The video then shows the local official dancing in an astronaut’s costume in Moshi Park, one of the area’s most beautiful scenic spots that will make you feel like you’re in outer space.

The local official is then dressed as a Tang emperor at the Daowu dwellings, moves on to be a an old painter in the Yuke grasslands and King Gasar while galloping over the Longdeng prairie.

The video did not just go viral, it was also promoted by several state media outlets, making it among the most famous videos in this list. It’s also on Youtube here.

 

5. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF TAHE COUNTY (HEILONGJIANG)

On February 27, the Heilongjiang Tahe Culture and Tourism Bureau (Daxing’anling prefecture) released a video in which a team of 34 people simulated a rocket launch in the snow.

Du Bo (都波), director of the Tahe County Bureau of Culture and Tourism, told reporters that the decision to shoot the video like this was made during lunch, with the position plan drawn out on a napkin.

With this original video, the local tourist office literally took the social media battle to another level (#塔河县文旅局长卷出新高度#). But Du Bo also stated that other tourist offices in China should not hold back and be scared to join the social media battle, saying they were all in this together to recover China’s domestic tourism industry (“不要怕卷,这种卷是一件好事,大家凝聚在一起,共同期待文旅行业的复苏”).

The tourist office also released a second video that gained popularity online, featuring a ‘snow queen’ in beautiful snowy landscape.

 

6. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF MEISHAN (SICHUAN)


This video, which premiered late February of 2023, is also professionally made, with the Meishan Tourism Office taking the video trend very seriously.

The bureau chief demonstrates the beauty of kung fu in this short film, which also received many thumbs up on social media (#文旅局长用功夫带你游眉山#).

 

7. TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF GAOPING (SHANXI)


On March 7, a video from the tourist office in Gaoping, a county-level city in Shanxi’s Jincheng, also went viral on Chinese social media as “yet another tourist office chief joining the war” (#又一文旅局长申请出战#).

The video shows the local tourist bureau chief “going to war” in traditional costume to promote Gaoping as the hometown of Emperor Yan (#文旅局长戏服代言炎帝故里#).

 

8: TOURISM BUREAU DIRECTOR OF HUANGGANG (HUBEI)

The video posted on social media ‘on behalf of’ the Tourism Bureau of Huanggang, Hubei, also attracted a lot of attention online since many people believed the cosplaying bureau chief had suddenly turned into a handsome young idol.

It later turned out that this video was actually not an official one and was posted on social media without the permission of the tourist office by enthusiastic locals.

 

9. TOURISM BUREAU DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF SUQIAN (JIANGSU)


The hashtag is “Jiangsu’s Culture and Tourist Office Bureau Chief Joins the Battle” (#江苏文旅局长卷起来了#). Liu Bing (刘冰), the deputy director of the Tourism and Culture Bureau in Suqian, Jiangsu, is another local official who is going viral these days for his appearance in a self-produced promo video on social media (#江苏一文旅局长变装项羽代言家乡#).

In the video, Liu Bing is dressed as Xiang Yu (项羽), Hegemon-King of Western Chu, to endorse Suqian tourism. Suqian is the hometown of Xiang Yu (232–202 BC), who is considered one of the greatest military leaders in ancient China.

Although Suqian is one of the later Tourism Bureau hypes to join the hype, the video – published on March 9 – is still welcomed by netizens and is actually putting some pressure on other Chinese cities and regions to come up with their own videos featuring their own historical local heroes.

 

10. TOURISM BUREAU STAFF OF FUJIAN



 

Fujian might be a bit late in “going to war” and joining the social media battle between the Chinese Tourism and Culture Bureau chiefs, its new video (March 9) obviously took a lot of effort, as it features different members of staff in various tourist spots in Fujian province.

The hashtag “Fujian Culture and Tourism Bureau Joins the Battle” (#福建的文旅局长卷起来了#) circulated on Thursday, attracting nearly five million views on Weibo in one day.

 
By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Miranda Barnes


 

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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.

©2023 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 and Covid19

Sick Kids, Worried Parents, Overcrowded Hospitals: China’s Peak Flu Season on the Way

“Besides Mycoplasma infections, cases include influenza, Covid-19, Norovirus, and Adenovirus. Heading straight to the hospital could mean entering a cesspool of viruses.”

Manya Koetse

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In the early morning of November 21, parents are already queuing up at Xi’an Children’s Hospital with their sons and daughters. It’s not even the line for a doctor’s appointment, but rather for the removal of IV needles.

The scene was captured in a recent video, only one among many videos and images that have been making their rounds on Chinese social media these days (#凌晨的儿童医院拔针也要排队#).

One photo shows a bulletin board at a local hospital warning parents that over 700 patients are waiting in line, estimating a waiting time of more than 13 hours to see a doctor.

Another image shows children doing their homework while hooked up on an IV.

Recent discussions on Chinese social media platforms have highlighted a notable surge in flu cases. The ongoing flu season is particularly impacting children, with multiple viruses concurrently circulating and contributing to a high incidence of respiratory infections.

Among the prevalent respiratory infections affecting children are Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, influenza, and Adenovirus infection.

The spike in flu cases has resulted in overcrowded children’s hospitals in Beijing and other Chinese cities. Parents sometimes have to wait in line for hours to get an appointment or pick up medication.

According to one reporter at Haibao News (海报新闻), there were so many patients at the Children’s Hospital of Capital Institute of Pediatrics (首都儿科研究所) on November 21st that the outpatient desk stopped accepting new patients by the afternoon. Meanwhile, 628 people were waiting in line to see a doctor at the emergency department.

Reflecting on the past few years, the current flu season marks China’s first ‘normal’ flu peak season since the outbreak of Covid-19 in late 2019 / early 2020 and the end of its stringent zero-Covid policies in December 2022. Compared to many other countries, wearing masks was also commonplace for much longer following the relaxation of Covid policies.

Hu Xijin, the well-known political commentator, noted on Weibo that this year’s flu season seems to be far worse than that of the years before. He also shared that his own granddaughter was suffering from a 40 degrees fever.

“We’re all running a fever in our home. But I didn’t dare to go to the hospital today, although I want my child to go to the hospital tomorrow. I heard waiting times are up to five hours now,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Half of the kids in my child’s class are sick now. The hospital is overflowing with people,” another person commented.

One mother described how her 7-year-old child had been running a fever for eight days already. Seeking medical attention on the first day, the initial diagnosis was a cold. As the fever persisted, daily visits to the hospital ensued, involving multiple hours for IV fluid administration.

While this account stems from a single Weibo post within a fever-advice community, it highlights a broader trend: many parents swiftly resort to hospital visits at the first signs of flu or fever. Several factors contribute to this, including a lack of General Practitioners in China, making hospitals the primary choice for medical consultations also in non-urgent cases.

There is also a strong belief in the efficacy of IV infusion therapy, whether fluid-based or containing medication, as the quickest path to recovery. Multiple factors contribute to the widespread and sometimes irrational use of IV infusions in China. Some clinics are profit-driven and see IV infusions as a way to make more money. Widespread expectations among Chinese patients that IV infusions will make them feel better also play a role, along with some physicians’ lacking knowledge of IV therapy or their uncertainty to distinguish bacterial from viral infections (read more here)

To prevent an overwhelming influx of patients to hospitals, Chinese state media, citing specialists, advise parents to seek medical attention at the hospital only for sick infants under three months old displaying clear signs of fever (with or without cough). For older children, it is recommended to consult a doctor if a high fever persists for 3 to 5 days or if there is a deterioration in respiratory symptoms. Children dealing with fever and (mild) respiratory symptoms can otherwise recover at home.

One Weibo blogger (@奶霸知道) warned parents that taking their child straight to the hospital on the first day of them getting sick could actually be a bad idea. They write:

“(..) pediatric departments are already packed with patients, and it’s not just Mycoplasma infections anymore. Cases include influenza, Covid-19, Norovirus, and Adenovirus. And then, of course, those with bad luck are cross-infected with multiple viruses at the same time, leading to endless cycles. Therefore, if your child experiences mild coughing or a slight fever, consider observing at home first. Heading straight to the hospital could mean entering a cesspool of viruses.”

The hashtag for “fever” saw over 350 million clicks on Weibo within one day on November 22.

Meanwhile, there are also other ongoing discussions on Weibo surrounding the current flu season. One topic revolves around whether children should continue doing their homework while receiving IV fluids in the hospital. Some hospitals have designated special desks and study areas for children.

Although some commenters commend the hospitals for being so considerate, others also remind the parents not to pressure their kids too much and to let them rest when they are not feeling well.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

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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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

Repurposing China’s Abandoned Nucleic Acid Booths: 10 Innovative Transformations

Abandoned nucleic acid booths are getting a second life through these new initiatives.

Manya Koetse

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During the pandemic, nucleic acid testing booths in Chinese cities were primarily focused on maintaining physical distance. Now, empty booths are being repurposed to bring people together, serving as new spaces to serve the community and promote social engagement.

Just months ago, nucleic acid testing booths were the most lively spots of some Chinese cities. During the 2022 Shanghai summer, for example, there were massive queues in front of the city’s nucleic acid booths, as people needed a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours for accessing public transport, going to work, or visiting markets and malls.

The word ‘hésuān tíng‘ (核酸亭), nucleic acid booth (also:核酸采样小屋), became a part of China’s pandemic lexicon, just like hésuān dìtú (核酸地图), the nucleic acid test map lauched in May 2022 that would show where you can get a nucleic test.

Example of nucleic acid test map.

During Halloween parties in Shanghai in 2022, some people even came dressed up as nucleic test booths – although local authorities could not appreciate the creative costume.

Halloween 2022: dressed up as nucliec acid booths. Via @manyapan twitter.

In December 2022, along with the announced changed rules in China’s ‘zero Covid’ approach, nucleic acid booths were suddenly left dismantled and empty.

With many cities spending millions to set up these booths in central locations, the question soon arose: what should they do with the abandoned booths?

This question also relates to who actually owns them, since the ownership is mixed. Some booths were purchased by authorities, others were bought by companies, and there are also local communities owning their own testing booths. Depending on the contracts and legal implications, not all booths are able to get a new function or be removed yet (Worker’s Daily).

In Tianjin, a total of 266 nucleic acid booths located in Jinghai District were listed for public acquisition earlier this month, and they were acquired for 4.78 million yuan (US$683.300) by a local food and beverage company which will transform the booths into convenience service points, selling snacks or providing other services.

Tianjin is not the only city where old nucleic acid testing booths are being repurposed. While some booths have been discarded, some companies and/or local governments – in cooperation with local communities – have demonstrated creativity by transforming the booths into new landmarks. Since the start of 2023, different cities and districts across China have already begun to repurpose testing booths. Here, we will explore ten different way in which China’s abandoned nucleic test booths get a second chance at a meaningful existence.

 

1: Pharmacy/Medical Booths

Via ‘copyquan’ republished on Sohu.

Blogger ‘copyquan’ recently explored various ways in which abandoned PCR testing points are being repurposed.

One way in which they are used is as small pharmacies or as medical service points for local residents (居民医疗点). Alleviating the strain on hospitals and pharmacies, this was one of the earliest ways in which the booths were repurposed back in December of 2022 and January of 2023.

Chongqing, Tianjin, and Suzhou were among earlier cities where some testing booths were transformed into convenient medical facilities.

 

2: Market Stalls

Market stalls instead of nucliec acid testing booths. Image via Sina.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu province, the local government transformed vacant nucleic acid booths into market stalls for the Spring Festival in January 2022, offering them free of charge to businesses to sell local products, snacks, and traditional New Year goods.

The idea was not just meant as a way for small businesses to conveniently sell to local residents, it was also meant as a way to attract more shoppers and promote other businesses in the neighborhood.

 

3: Community Service Center

Small grid community center in Shizhuang Village, image via Sohu.

Some residential areas have transformed their local nucleic acid testing booths into community service centers, offering all kinds of convenient services to neighborhood residents.

These little station are called wǎnggé yìzhàn (网格驿站) or “grid service stations,” and they can serve as small community centers where residents can get various kinds of care and support.

 

4: “Refuel” Stations

In February of this year, 100 idle nucleic acid sampling booths were transformed into so-called “Rider Refuel Stations” (骑士加油站) in Zhejiang’s Pinghu. Although it initially sounds like a place where delivery riders can fill up their fuel tanks, it is actually meant as a place where they themselves can recharge.

Delivery riders and other outdoor workers can come to the ‘refuel’ station to drink some water or tea, warm their hands, warm up some food and take a quick nap.

 

5: Free Libraries

image via sohu.

In various Chinese cities, abandoned nucleic acid booths have been transformed into little free libraries where people can grab some books to read, donate or return other books, and sit down for some reading.

Changzhou is one of the places where you’ll find such “drifting bookstores” (漂流书屋) (see video), but similar initiatives have also been launched in other places, including Suzhou.

 

6: Study Space

Photos via Copyquan’s article on Sohu.

Another innovative way in which old testing points are being repurposed is by turning them into places where students can sit together to study. The so-called “Let’s Study Space” (一间习吧), fully airconditioned, are opened from 8 in the morning until 22:00 at night.

Students – or any citizens who would like a nice place to study – can make online reservations with their ID cards and scan a QR code to enter the study rooms.

There are currently ten study booths in Anji, and the popular project is an initiative by the Anji County Library in Zhejiang (see video).

 

7: Beer Kiosk

Hoegaarden beer shop, image via Creative Adquan.

Changing an old nucleic acid testing booth into a beer bar is a marketing initiative by the Shanghai McCann ad agency for the Belgium beer brand Hoegaarden.

The idea behind the bar is to celebrate a new spring after the pandemic. The ad agency has revamped a total of six formr nucleic acid booths into small Hoegaarden ‘beer gardens.’

 

8: Police Box

In Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, authorities have repurposed old testing booths and transformed them into ‘police boxes’ (警务岗亭) to enhance security and improve the visibility of city police among the public.

Currently, a total of eight vacant nucleic acid booths have been renovated into modern police stations, serving as key points for police presence and interaction with the community.

 

9: Lottery Ticket Booths

Image via The Paper

Some nucleic acid booths have now been turned into small shops selling lottery tickets for the China Welfare Lottery. One such place turning the kiosks into lottery shops is Songjiang in Shanghai.

Using the booths like this is a win-win situation: they are placed in central locations so it is more convenient for locals to get their lottery tickets, and on the other hand, the sales also help the community, as the profits are used for welfare projects, including care for the elderly.

 

10: Mini Fire Stations

Micro fire stations, images via ZjNews.

Some communities decided that it would be useful to repurpose the testing points and turn them into mini fire kiosks, just allowing enough space for the necessary equipment to quickly respond to fire emergencies.

Want to read more about the end of ‘zero Covid’ in China? Check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse,

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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