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Critical Fans: Weibo Superstar Xie Na Under Attack By Her Own Supporters

Even Weibo’s number one celebrity can clash with their fans.

Gabi Verberg

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Image by CRI International

Chinese idol fans are often known for their unwavering loyalty army-like bearing, especially when defending their messiah from haters. However, as recent cases involving boyband Nine Percent and host Xie Na show, this vitriol might be turned against the celebrities themselves should their engagement with these online legions be lukewarm.

Are the fans there to serve their idol, or the other way round? Fanatical fandom that takes idol-worshipping to extreme heights is nothing new on the Chinese Internet. What is unusual is when the idols themselves get checked by their own fans for inappropriate behavior.

For a couple of days now, host of Happy Camp, actress and no. 1 star Weibo superstar Xie Na (谢娜) has come under attack from her fans for her performance in Chinese hit reality show Viva La Romance (妻子浪漫旅行), where four famous couples go on holiday together. According to Xie Na’s fans, she mentioned her husband, famous singer Jason (张杰), too often during the show despite several warnings from fans in the past to keep her affection under wraps.

To cool down the bubbling dissatisfaction among her fanbase, Xie Na engaged her fans in a Weibo discussion. She soon regretted this decision as the diplomatic initiative blew up in her face when she refused to acknowledge any wrong or listen to her fans’ suggestions. After being continually criticized by her fans, she made it clear how vexing this all was, posting comments such as: “Oh, so this is what prattling on Weibo is like,” “[This is] prattling, I’m out”, and “There is so much resentment, why can’t everybody be happy?”.

This is where it all went really downhill. Xie Na’s intransigence led to a fan walk-out. In a statement on Weibo, a spokesperson for the official Xie Na Weibo fan group announced that it had been handed over to Xie Na’s management. In that same statement, the spokesperson explains: “(Xie Na), you entered the discussion on Weibo where people are giving you no more than 15 suggestions, of which only some were regarding your husband […]. We only try to help you, it is up to you whether you listen or not, but instead, you just write us off by saying we are resentful.”

In reaction to the commotion, Jason posted a lengthy statement on Weibo explaining that the director of Viva La Romance required Xie Na to talk about her husband; after all, the program is all about married couples. He also added that a few days of filming gets edited into a one-hour episode and what does and does not get aired is not Xie Na’s decision, suggesting that the critical fans’ view was somehow skewed.

Picture of Jason and Xie Na, uploaded together with Jason’s statement on Weibo.

Fellow celebrities and co-stars from Viva La Romance, Ying Caier (应采儿), Ying’er (颖儿) and Cheng Lisha (程莉莎) spoke out in defense of Xie Na. In a post on Weibo, Ying Caier wrote: “If we are not to talk about our own husbands, then whose husband are we supposed to talk about? Isn’t the show called Viva La Romance?”. (Note that the English title of the program is not a literal interpretation of the Chinese title which is: “The Wife’s Romantical Holiday”).

The dispute got much attention on Weibo. Both the hashtags “Jason backs Xie Na,” and “Xie Na gets hatred by fans in a discussion about herself” racked up 590 million and 530 million views on Weibo within the first 24 hours.

Xie Na is not the first star to be confronted with disapproving fans. November last year, some fans decided to engage in fantasy “couple pairing” of the popular boyband NINE PERCENT (百分九少年), igniting the anger of both the boyband and other fans by shouting slogans that two members of the boyband, Kun (蔡徐坤) and Wang Ziyi (王子异) were “married.”

 

 

In a short clip that went viral on social media, a dozen fans hold up posters and shout: “Yi (Wang Ziyi) and Kun are real, they are married!” (异坤是真的,异坤结婚了). At the time, the hashtag “Kun and Wang Ziyi couple pairing fans shout slogan” got over 120 million views with many people discussing how far fans meddling in the life of their idols should go.

In some Weibo reactions, many fans showed their support for the two superstars, writing: “Leave them (Kun and Wang Ziyi) alone!”, many others condemned the fans that started the incident by saying: “Is this what you call being a fan?” and “You must be ashamed of yourselves!”

Quickly after the video incident, Kun uploaded a picture on his Instagram account of an empty circle drawn against a white background, with the comment: “My attitude towards the matter is like the picture, I have no words and there is nothing I can do”.

This disinterested approach seemed to have worked, as the clash between the Nine Percent fans soon blew over; perhaps that same approach would have worked for Xie Na as well, who has not yet reacted to her official fan group’s walk-out.

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Eduardo Baptista

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

 

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Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Celebs

Chinese Actor Zhao Lixin Banned from Weibo over Comments on Second Sino-Japanese War

The actor was banned for “downplaying” the Japanese aggression in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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Sina Weibo issued a statement on April 16 that the Weibo account of the Chinese-Swedish actor Zhao Lixin has been terminated following remarks he made about Japan’s invasion of China and the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The Weibo account of Zhao Lixin (赵立新, 1968) has been closed after the Chinese-Swedish actor made controversial comments on the Second Sino-Japanese War.

On April 2nd, Zhao Lixin, who had more than 7 million followers, posted a message on Weibo that questioned why the Japanese military did not pillage and destroy the Beijing Palace Museum during the Second Sino-Japanese War:

The Japanese occupied Beijing for eight years. Why didn’t they steal relics from the Palace Museum and burn it down [during that time]? Is this in line with the nature of an invader?

The actor also commented on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, suggesting that it was a consequence of Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion.

Zhao’s post led to much controversy in early April, followed by a lengthy apology statement from the actor on April 3rd, in which he said he did not phrase his comments carefully enough and that he was remorseful over the storm of criticism he had ignited. His controversial Weibo post was soon taken offline.

Many people were mostly angered because they felt Zhao’s comments “defended” the Japanese invaders. “Zhao’s permit to work in China should be terminated forever!”, some commenters posted on Weibo.

The Second Sino-Japanese War is still a highly sensitive topic in China today, with anti-Japanese sentiments often flaring up when Japan-related topics go trending on Chinese social media.

The ‘Nanjing massacre’ or ‘Rape of Nanjing’ is an especially sensitive topic within the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War, also because some Japanese politicians and scholars consistently deny it even happened, heightening the tension between the two countries. For a Chinese celebrity to seemingly ‘downplay’ the aggression and atrocities committed by Japanese invaders in the 1937-1945 period is therefore highly controversial.

Despite Zhao’s apologies, Sina Weibo issued a notice on April 16 “Relating to Harmful Political Information” (关于时政有害信息的处理公告), stating that the account of Zhao Lixin, along with some others, had been closed for spreading this kind of information.

The hashtag relating to Zhao’s social media suspension received more than 57 million views on Weibo today.

“It’s good that his account was taken down,” a popular comment said: “It’s insulting our country.” Others said that Zhao should not have posted something that is “out of line” “considering his position as an actor.”

Zhao Lixin is mainly known for his roles in TV dramas such as The Legend of Mi Yue, Memoirs In China, and In the Silence.

Zhao is not the first KOL (Key Opinion Leader) to have been banned from Weibo after making controversial remarks relating to China’s history. In 2016 the famous entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang disappeared from Weibo after publishing various posts on his experience with communism in the past, and the status quo of media in China.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Zhai Tianlin’s Alleged Plagiarism Triggers Discussions on Academic Cheating in Chinese Universities

“Colleges and Universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”

Gabi Verberg

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Earlier this month, Chinese actor Zhai Tianlin (翟天临) drew the public’s attention for his appearance at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, where he starred as a police officer preventing his parents from being scammed. Now, Zhai, again, is at the center of attention: not for his acting skills, but for allegedly committing academic fraud.

The famous actor is a Beijing Film Academy Ph.D. graduate and postdoctoral candidate at Peking University, one of China’s most renowned universities.

His alleged academic misconduct has been a topic of discussion for some days now. During a live broadcast with fans, Zhai apparently said he did not know what CNKI (知网) is, an academic database that all scholars in China will be familiar with.

It led to suspicions on Zhai’s academic standing, and people on the Quora-like Q&A platform Zhihu accused Zhai of not publishing any academic papers in recognized scholarly journals – something that is mandatory for Ph.D. students in China in order to fulfill their graduation requirements.

Zhai’s academic records increasingly became the focus of attention on February 9th, when one Weibo user (PITD亚洲虐待博士组织), a graduate student from Beijing, posted the results of a plagiarism detection test that was run on one of Zhai’s papers.

The test result revealed that of the 2783 words used in the paper, that was published last year, 1482 words were copied from other texts, indicating a 40.4% similarity score.

After the Beijing Film Academy released a statement that they would be investigating Zhai Tianlin, state media outlet China Daily posted a message on their Weibo account, stating that “academic standards must be the same for everyone” and that “postdoctoral researchers are a university’s greatest honor, ” and that “who wants to carry the crown should also carry the weight.”

On that same day, Peking University also published a statement saying that they are investigating the incident.

Zhai Tianlin (1987), who is also known as Ronald Zhai, is most known for starring in various popular Chinese TV shows and dramas, such as White Deer Plain and The Advisors Alliance.

The plagiarism allegation case has become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media this week. The hashtag “Peking University Responds to Zhai Tianlin Case”  (#北大回应翟天临事件#) has been viewed a staggering 650 million times on Weibo at time of writing, while the hashtag “Beijing Film Academy Sets Up Zhai Tianlin Investigation Team” (#北电成立翟天临事件调查组#) received more than 490 million views.

The storm is not likely to blow over soon, as new reports now also allege that Zhai’s MA-thesis relies heavily on the scholarly work of Chen Kun, a famous Chinese actor who also attended the Beijing Film Academy.

Although the scandal has triggered countless reactions condemning Zhai, there are also many people on social media who are directing their anger towards the universities and state media, with one typical comment saying: “By solely focusing on Zhai, you are avoiding the real problem. Colleges and universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”

Another person wrote: “I feel like the public opinion is focused too much on this case of ‘academic misconduct.’ What the media should be investigating is: why was the paper not checked for plagiarism before its publication? What the Beijing Film Academy should be looking into is how somebody can graduate with a paper that is not up to standard? And how someone who clearly doesn’t hold the appropriate academic abilities has access to its programme.”

“Peking University and Beijing Film Academy are both responsible for this fraud. How could they ever enroll such a fraudulent person?!” others wrote. 

Some commenters seem to have no trust in China’s academic standard, saying: “Are you telling me you [the universities] didn’t know about this when you admitted him? Now you are setting up investigation teams, but it is all just for show.”

Academic corruption in the Chinese educational context has been a well-known problem for years. As early as 2002, the Ministry of Education implemented various policies to combat academic misconduct, defining it as an act of academic dishonesty that is punishable, but the problem is still widespread (Kai 2012).

Some studies suggest that one of the factors that play a role in plagiarism in China relate to the fact that ‘plagiarism’ is something that is often defined in very general terms, with university handbooks nor policies clearly codifying instances of “appropriate and inappropriate source use” (Hu & Lei 2015, 236).

There are also many other factors at play, however, such as the pressure for doctorate students to publish their papers, and the phenomenon of  “publishing cash incentives,” which would allegedly trigger more academic fraud.

On Chinese social media, many people express that they hope that the institutions involved will “set an example” for other universities and “be transparent” in the way they’ll handle Zhai in case he is found guilty of plagiarism.

Many also pointed out the irony in the fact that it was Zhai who played the police officer that prevented his parents from being scammed during the CCTV New Years’ Eve Gala.

“This is just all so embarrassing,” some write: “Now it looks like not just Zhai’s PhD status should be taken from him, but also his MA title.”

Others suggest that this whole scandal would make an excellent topic for another TV drama, starring Zhai Tianlin, doing what he does best: acting. Some voices suggest that people should wait for the investigations into Zhai’s work to be completed before condemning him. With the massive online attention for this case, it might not take too long for more facts to surface on the case. We’ll keep you updated.

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse

References

Hu, Guangwei and Jun Lei. 2015. “Chinese University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism.” ETHICS & BEHAVIOR 25(3): 233–255.

Kai, Ren. 2012. “Fighting against Academic Corruption: A Critique of Recent Policy Developments in China.” Higher Education Policy (25): 19–38.

 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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