At this time of year, communities across the world are gearing up to celebrate Christmas. In the United Kingdom, many will be preparing turkey and crackers for the 25th of December. In Russian Orthodox communities, January 7th is the day for sweet treats and festivities.
In China, a predominantly atheist country with a small proportion of Christians, Christmas is just another working day. However, the Chinese Christmas experience has been gradually changing over the recent years.
Chinese businesses increasingly have started to incorporate a commercial Christmas theme into their winter seasons. It has sparked online discussion amongst netizens on what the influx of Jingle Bells at this time of year means to them.
According the Council on Foreign Relations, Chinese law allows what is described as “normal religious activities” that do not “engage in activities that disrupt social order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.” The Chinese Communist Party is atheist and Christmas is not a public holiday.
The Mandarin for Christmas (圣诞节, shèngdànjié) roughly translates as “The Festival of the Holy Birth,” however Christmas in China is mostly commercial rather than religious. While some churches will hold Christmas services, Christmas in China mostly seems to be about shopping. Online and in-store, the festive season revolves around retail promotions using secular American and Eurocentric depictions of a white-bearded Santa and reindeer.
This trend shows no signs of stopping, and the idea of a Christmas period or ‘style’ has been growing year on year. This leads to mixed reactions from those keen to participate and those who are frustrated by the holiday hubbub.
Most Chinese citizens do not observe Christmas Day, but China’s foreigner community is often a source of events and parties organized for those who are away from home during the holidays. In Beijing, for example, a SantaCon event* has been held every December for the past few years. SantaCon participants, both local and foreign, dress as shengdan laoren (Santa Claus), sing Christmas songs, and tour the city together. *(SantaCon is a public gathering of ‘Santas’ for a pubcrawl or other activities, a tradition that started in 1994 San Fransisco).
Other similarly-themed public and private events involving fancy-dress, karaoke, Christmas dinners and partying are numerous in Beijing and other Chinese cities in December, despite the fact that this may not be the traditional way it is celebrated back home.
“Christmas is the chance to try out new foods and socialize in a style that is different from the norm.”
For many, the Christmas events and parties are just another chance to meet new people and learn more about other cultures. Former Beijing exchange student Raf tells What’s on Weibo: “Oddly enough, [it] isn’t something I’d do back in my hometown – it was something I only participated in during my time as a foreign exchange student in Beijing. It really felt like a great bonding experience of culture-sharing with your fellow expats when you’re handing out candy and singing Western Christmas carols.” Local citizens were “receptive and pretty welcoming in our revelries,” he adds.
For restaurants, the Christmas season is also a great opportunity to provide bespoke menus. Traditional Chinese celebrations such as Spring Festival are the perfect time for Chinese cuisine, however in December, many restaurants in larger international cities have begun to offer menus containing foods like cheese, baked bread and chocolate.
After welcoming esteemed chef Uwe Opocensky, Beef & Liberty Restaurant in Shanghai has noticed a rise in demand for more festive flavours that are not typically found in Chinese cuisine.
“We created a proper Christmas menu for bigger party bookings,” Taylor Yang from Beef & Liberty’s marketing team told What’s on Weibo: “All the items in there are the favorite Beef & Liberty items with some added festival elements. For example, the warm cookie is a regular popular item on our menu, and we added in orange and cinnamon elements to call it our Christmas cookie – it’s definitely a crowd pleaser.”
It seems that part of the appeal of Christmas is the chance to try out new foods and socialize in a style that is different from the norm.
“In China, Christmas is seen as a fashionable expression of the winter season.”
Despite the foods, costumes, and parties, Christmas in China is not entirely imported from a monolithic idea of ‘Western culture.’ Also influencing large portions of the country’s consumers is nearby South Korea, credited for creating a wave of cultural influence over its neighbors via the soft power channels of pop music, films and television.
According to data gathered by the Pew Research Centre in 2010, Christians accounted for just over five percent of the population in China, compared to almost thirty percent in South Korea. One facet of South Korea’s exported cultural wave is that it rarely alters its content for its foreign consumers.
It is therefore easy to see why the majority of Korean companies operating in China still offer Christmas promotions, such as cosmetic company Innisfree’s ‘Green Christmas’ range.
Over time, Chinese businesses have also utilized Christmas-themed campaigns. Popular hashtags on Weibo include “The best Christmas presents” (#圣诞节最佳礼物#) and Miaopai’s photography-themed “Snap-Crazy Christmas” (#疯拍圣诞节#). This altogether creates a sense that rather than a religious celebration, Christmas in China is seen as a fashionable expression of the winter season.
Despite South Korea and the many other countries and worldwide communities that celebrate Christmas, in online discussions, Christmas in China is often presented hand-in-hand with the West, described as “a foreign” or “Western” festival. Some worry that the Christmas promotions and deals are incompatible with traditional Chinese culture.
In December 2015 a group of Hunan high school students dressed in traditional Chinese clothing (hanfu), protested by holding red placards reading “Boycott Christmas – don’t celebrate foreign festivals.”
“I don’t believe in Christianity and I don’t believe in God. Why would I celebrate the birth of Jesus?”
In response to these protests, netizen Sakura (@百斩少女刘兔兔), who has over ten thousand followers on Weibo, posted pictures of herself wearing hanfu dress in front of a Christmas tree with the caption “I want to tell everybody, as a true advocate of reviving traditional culture, wonderful cultures from both East and West can coexist. Boycott this negative hype, let’s calmly and confidently walk together.”
Discussions over the phrase “boycott Christmas” have since been floating around the web. Often in reaction to the commercial hashtags, some netizens express frustration at the festive frenzy and imply that many forget that rather than just an excuse to socialize and buy things, Christmas is primarily a Christian holiday that is not officially celebrated in China.
“Boycott Western Christmas!” says one Weibo user (@不良风气播报员): “People get so excited about Western festivals. The 25th rolls around and there’s so much trash, so many Santa hats, Christmas trees, Christmas clothes, bells, Santas – it all ends up on the trash heap. Protect the environment and boycott Christmas – oh, I mean Jesus’ birthday!”
@NewStar says: “Boycott Christmas. I don’t believe in Christianity and I don’t believe in God. Why would I celebrate the birth of Jesus? I celebrate Spring Festival, and I believe in my ancestors!”
However, others on Weibo use the phrase a little more light-heartedly: “Boycott Christmas, start the countdown to Spring Festival,” one Weibo user says: “But…the Christmas trees and Hello Kitty’s are just so sparkly, I love them.”
“Mother’s Day is from the West, Christmas is also from the West, so why do some people boycott Christmas but celebrate Mothers’ Day?”
Some netizens are purely excited for Christmas-themed coziness, hot chocolate and fairy lights. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!” writes @LittleGoddessClassroom adding a Santa emoji: “I heard we’re posting Christmas pictures. Good stuff is coming our way!”
In the midst of the debate, some have also explained that boycotting Christmas is not necessarily a matter of ‘East vs West’, but more about maintaining what they view to be traditional Chinese culture: “Mother’s Day is from the West, Christmas is also from the West, so why do some people boycott Christmas and yet rightly celebrate Mothers’ Day?” writes @MrJ-fans.
In a Weibo blog post, one author (@祝太太像宋慧乔) wrote that while Christmas is too small-scale to threaten traditional Chinese festivals, young people in particular embrace Christmas not necessarily for cultural reasons, but, as in the aforementioned fancy-dress events, in order to socialize: “Christmas is about merriment, getting together and enjoying oneself. Christmas songs, Christmas trees, Santa and presents are all for this purpose. You’d be hard-pressed to find another traditional holiday that has so many festive elements.”
Despite varied responses, the general consensus seems to be that while many are getting into the seasonal spirit, most netizens are mostly looking forward to the approaching Spring Festival.
China’s recent restaurant promotions, business campaigns, and online trends show that with the growth of globalization, there is an increased desire to engage with ‘trends’ and cultures from across the world. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that traditional Chinese culture, nor the Chinese internet, will be hijacked by Christmas hashtags anytime soon; the revelry surrounding Christmas is still vastly surpassed by the festivities that take place during the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Let’s not forget that China’s annual televised Spring Festival Gala remains one of the most-watched programs in the world. Despite the Santa hats and Christmas decoration, many stores in China have already begun selling the scarlet Chinese New Year decorations.
Disclaimer: Beef & Liberty restaurant is in no way affiliated with whatsonweibo.com or the opinions expressed by others in this.
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“What’s Modernisation?” – Chinese State Media Explain China’s ‘New Era’ With a Rap Video
No three-and-a-half-hour speech, but a three-and-a-half minute video explains China’s new strategies in this latest propaganda clip on social media.
The much-anticipated 19th Party Congress opened last Wednesday in Beijing with Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech on “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (新时代中国特色社会主义思想), which presented the Party’s new concepts, thoughts and strategies – with Xi himself at its core.
Shi-jiu-da (十九大, ‘big 19’) is the popular abbreviation for the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. This Plenum is held once every five years and is the highest level political meeting in the Chinese calendar. The meeting is also a big topic on Chinese social media; the Weibo hashtag for the ‘big 19’ event #十九大# was viewed over 3,6 billion times on Friday.
As with previous major political gatherings, speeches and rhetoric are not the only means by which the Party and state media seek to convey their message to the wider population. A video titled “What is modernization? Let us tell you in a rap!” (“现代化”是什么化？一段嘻哈告诉你!) is the latest in a series produced by state broadcaster CCTV. The video is being spread through social media.
The clip (click link or see embedded video below), that lays out the government’s stategies for China’s ‘new era’ through rap music with bright graphics, was widely distributed on Chinese social media this week by various media platforms and institutions, from the Economic Observer (@经济观察报) to the Ministry of Public Security.
The translation of the video’s full text* is as follows:
This October in Beijing
…will all be arriving!
The time has come for 十九大（shi-jiu-da）
Listen out for the important voices
十九大 (shi-jiu-da) let’s say a little about it
There is a lot of information here
So, listen out carefully and I’ll speak slowly
In the past, China has always advanced courageously
As we have said before,
When difficult problems are solved then great things can be established!
Our nation is full of vigor and vitality!
Anti-corruption efforts are strong
Many tigers have been taken down
From rocket lift-offs to submarine exercises,
Technology is changing our lives
Haha, Haha, Haha,
As I’m going to show up next, we have plans going forward…
[Xi Jinping’s voice speaking:]
By the time we reach the middle period of this century, we will have built a modern socialist state which is rich and powerful, democratic, civilised, and harmonious. In this way, we will have realized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.
But, building in accordance with the needs of modernization
What even is modernization?
Let me tell you:
[End of rap, start of explanation by lecturer:]
100 years ago, Sun Yat-sen set out a blueprint for modernization in ‘Strategy for Building a Nation’: build train tracks, repair the roads, construct large ports. At that time, this was still considered fantastical and unrealistic.
But today, train lines criss-cross the whole nation! They run N-S between Beijing-Guangdong-Shanghai, as well as across the well-trodden route of Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing. The length of the journey on the bullet trains just keeps reducing!
Again, at the time the People’s Republic was founded, not even a tractor could be built! Thus, building a modern, industrial socialist nation became our aim.
In 1954, the first National People’s Congress was held. This was the first time the aim of achieving the Four Modernizations was clearly referenced. In just the next few years, factory after factory was built, including those of Anshan Steel works and Changchun car manufacturers.
Our workers are powerful!
This was a song I would listen to when I was young, and hearing it I would know my dad would soon finish work for the day and so I would quickly pack away all my marbles. Entering the period of opening and reform, Deng Xiaoping named the Four Modernizations as the way to ‘Chinese Modernization’, as well as wanting to become a middle-income nation.
In the 1970s, when people married, the three major durable consumer goods were still watches, bicycles and sewing machines. In the 80s, this became fridges, color TVs, and washing machines, and by the 90s changed again into air conditioning, cameras, and camcorders.
[Xi Jinping’s voice:]
Now, information technologies such as the internet are changing with each passing day. This is leading a new revolution in society and bringing new dimensions into human lives.
A report from the 18th Party Congress, published on 8th November 2012, mentioned the ‘4 New Modernisations.’ This has led to the implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy. Over the last 5 years, the major technological developments we have made have accumulated further and further. The computing in the Sunway Taihu Light is the most advanced in the world.
The quantum satellite Mozi Hao is unparalleled. The Tiangong 2 satellite has been sent off smoothly. Each of these wondrous engineering projects is a feat of its own! What a country!
In 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping then added one more modernization into the fold, that being to ‘continue to advance the nation’s governing system, and to modernize our governing capabilities.’
Modernisation as a whole is very impressive. Frankly speaking, only this modernization of the inner qualities of officials and organizations will enable them to govern the country and change the civilized norms.We don’t take a break from modernization!
Yeah, now that we have become a middle-class society
We have reached the most important section of our reform agenda
What are the issues that affect the lives of the middle class?
At this stage in the development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,
People are heading in the direction of a better life
The Party must remember
This is a new beginning!
In what direction is the bullet train heading?
After 200 years, will the Chinese dream have been realized?
What expectations do Chinese families have for their future?
Will the 十九大 (shi-jiu-da) answer these questions for you?
Both the design and the genre of the new clip show some resemblance to clips launched during the Belt and Road Summit earlier this year.
On Weibo, a platform that is heavily controlled during the 19th National Congress, the video was shared hundreds of times. Although discussions on the video are limited due to current restrictions, one surprised netizen just posted: “Can I actually comment on this?!”
By Alice Mingay
* Full Text:
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These are the 100 Terms the Communist Party Wants You to Know for the 19th CPC National Congress
100 “must-know” terms for the 19th National Congress, propagated by People’s Daily.
It is the week of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), better known as the “19th Party Congress.” This meeting, that takes place from October 18 to October 24, is a major event that takes place every five years.
On Chinese social media, Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily (@人民日报) presented a vocabulary list for people to know before the huge political event.
During the 19th Party Congress approximately 2280 delegates from across the nation officially come together to select the party’s top leadership for the next five years. The event is also called a “celebration of decisions that have already been taken,” as the key points of the meeting have mostly already been settled behind closed doors.
It is these key decisions for China that will be discussed during the CPC National Congress and then officially announced, representing “new governance concepts, thoughts and strategies proposed by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core” (Xinhua).
In a recent report by APCO Worldwide, Gary Li summarizes what to look out for during the 19th National Congress, writing that it is likely for President Xi Jinping to “consolidate his power further by making changes to the party apparatus,” influencing regulators in various sectors from finance to trade and cybersecurity.
Posting the 9-page list of a total of 100 terms on Weibo, People’s Daily (@人民日报) writes:
“Study time! We want to teach you the translation of 100 hot terms for the 19th CPC National Congress (..) Do you know how to say these things in English? This is how to avoid using Chinglish and to express [these terms] in a more authentic way. They are all useful for CET-4 & CET-6 [national English level tests in China] and other exams. Let’s learn these!”
By October 18, the list was shared 19000 times on Weibo and received many comments.
One netizen said: “With these 100 words you can understand a new China.” Others complained that they still think the English translation of these Chinese terms “sounds like Chinglish.”
Relevant Words: Policy Trends & Digital Focus
The vocabulary list, which was selected from China Daily‘s “Little Red Book of Hot Words” (热词红宝书), is an interesting combination of terms that says a lot about the focal points of the National Congress and the trends that are emphasized for the coming five years.
In the recent APCO report, Gary Li mentions Ideological Tightening as a crucial policy trend. This promotion of “Chinese values” is clearly visible in the vocabularly list, that includes terms such as “the Chinese Dream” (中国梦), “Stay true to the mission” (不忘初心), and “cultural confidence” (文化自信).
Another important policy trend on the government agenda is Anti-Corruption, which is represented by the term “anti-corruption TV series” (反腐剧).
The list also includes some Internet slang terms such as “give a like” (点赞) or “phubber”/”bowed head clan” (低头族), referring to people who constantly look down to their smartphone.
It also includes a catchphrase that became especially popular on Chinese social media in 2016 when it was used by Chinese swimming champion Fu Yuanhui during an interview about her winning medal during the Olympics – (“用了洪荒之力”), which can be translated as “I’ve used my primeval powers!”, basically meaning “to give one’s full play.”
The inclusion of some typical internet catchphrases is especially noteworthy because in 2014, Chinese state media published that programs and commercials should not use Internet language to preserve traditional expressions.
The entire list has a clear Digital Focus when it comes to different industries, including government, media, finance, and traveling, introducing words such as “in-flight Wifi services” (空中上网服务), “face scan payment” (扫脸支付), 5G era (5G时代), and taxi-hailing app (打车软件).
The list also includes words that emphasize the Belt and Road Initiative and China-centric Relations for Economy and Trade, such as the “New type of major-power relationship” (新型大国关系).
The List: 100 Hot Words for the 19th National Congress
This is the full list of the 100 terms as shared by the People’s Daily through screenshots, typed out by What’s on Weibo. The pinyin and tones are also provided by What’s on Weibo.
Bù wàng chūxīn
Stay true to the mission
Liǎng gè yībǎi nián
Two centenary goals
Zhōngguó zhìzào 2025
Made in China 2025
Double First-Class initiative
Zhōngguó tiānyǎn:500 Mǐ kǒujìng qiúmiàn shèdiàn wàngyuǎnjìng (FAST)
China’s Eye of Heaven: The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
J-20 Stealth Fighter
Domestically built aircraft carrier
Homemade passenger jet
Kěrán bīng shì cǎi
Sampling of combustible ice
Liàngzǐ wèixīng “mò zi hào”
Quantum satellite “Micius”
Běidǒu wèixīng dǎoháng xìtǒng
Beidou navigation system
Fēngyún sì hào A xīng wèixīng
Zhòngxíng yùnzài huǒjiàn
Heavy-lift Carrier Rocket
Hù gǎng tōng
Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Shēn gǎng tōng
Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Jīng jīn jì yītǐ huà
Xióng ān xīnqū
Xiong’an New Area
Zì mào shíyàn qū
Pilot Free Trade Zones
Gōngjǐ cè gǎigé
Sǎo liǎn zhīfù
Face scan payment
Èr wéi mǎ zhīfù
Two-dimensional barcode payment
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank
Dī tàn chéngshì
Yī xiǎoshí tōng tōngqín quān
One-hour commuting circle
Lán sè jīngjì
Zòngxiàng héngxiàng jīngjì zhóu dài
North-south and east-west intersecting economic belts
Zhòng chuàng, zhòng bāo, zhòng fú, zhòng chóu
Crowd innovation， crowdsourcing，crowd support and crowdfunding.
Zhànlüè xìng xīnxīng chǎnyè
Emerging sectors of strategic importance
Xiānggǎng huíguī zǔguó 20 zhōunián
The 20th anniversary of Hong-Kong’s return to China
Give a like
Real name authentication
Targeted poverty reduction
Community of shared interests
Chéng jì lièchē
Belt and Road Initiative
“Sīchóu zhī lù jīngjì dài”
The Silk Road Economic Belt
21 Shìjì hǎishàng sīchóu zhī lù
21st- Century Maritime Silk Road
Gǔ sīchóu zhī lù
The Ancient Silk Road
Establish and Strengthen Partnerships/Connectivity
Xīnxíng dàguó guānxì
New type of major-power relationship
Kě tìdài néngyuán qìchē
Alternative energy vehicle
Kě zài rén wú rén jī
Kōngzhōng shàngwǎng fúwù
In-flight Wifi services
Hǎiwài gòu wài
Overseas shopping representative
Cross-border online shopping
Duō cì wǎngfǎn qiānzhèng
Multiple entry visa
Gēn tuán yóu
Wú xiànjīn zhīfù
Anti-corruption TV series
Dài jià fúwù yè
Designated driver business
Dān shuāng hào yínháng
Traffic restrictions based on even- and odd-numbered license plates
Lǜsè jīnróng gǎigé xīn shìyàn qū
Pilot zones for green finance reform and innovations
Chāo guómín dàiyù
Xiàndài yīyuàn guǎnlǐ zhìdù
Modern hospital management system
Jīyù zhī chéng
Cities of opportunities
Live stream economy
Hùliánwǎng +zhèngfǔ fúwù
Internet Plus government services
Chuàngxīn xíng zhèngfǔ
Wú rén jī jǐnjí jiùyuán duì
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) emergency rescue team
Èr hái jīngjì
Fùqīn jià; péi chǎnjià
Dài xīn xiūjià
Yòngle hónghuāng zhī lì
Give one’s full play
Yíng gǎi zēng
Replace business tax with value-add tax (VAT）
Chuàngxīn xíng réncái
Jīfēn luòhù zhìdù
Points-based hukou system
Hùnhé suǒyǒuzhì gǎigé
Tax reduction and exemption
Shēngtài bǎohù hóngxiàn
Wǎng yuē chē
Yí jū chéngshì
Shuāng chuàng réncái
Innovative and entrepreneutrial talent
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