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China’s ‘Dancing Grannies’ Anger Stressed-Out Students Ahead of Gaokao Exams

They gather at dusk and dawn to dance, for their good health and social catch ups. But during the most important exams of the year, the rowdy gatherings of China’s ‘dancing grannies’ lead to angered reactions from students with exam stress.




They gather at dusk and dawn to dance, for their good health and social catch ups. But during the most important exams of the year, the rowdy gatherings of China’s ‘dancing grannies’ lead to angered reactions from students with exam stress.

Square dancing or plaza dancing is a common sight in public spaces like parks or squares across China. It is mostly elderly retired women who meet each other in the mornings and evenings to perform synchronized dance routines together to loud music. For these so-called ‘dancing grannies’, square dancing is both a cheap way to stay fit and a nice occasion to socialize with friends and neighbors.

In the days before the gaokao, China’s national college entrance exams, many square dancers across China decide to skip dancing for some days to give stressed students some silence to study.

For most Chinese students, the gaokao is the most important exam of their lives. Getting a high score might be the ticket to a good job and bright future. The period around these exams is like a national event, with construction workers halting their projects near examination rooms and police cars patrolling the streets to keep things quiet.

In Huizhou, Guangdong, however, some ‘dancing grannies’ were not willing to skip their exercise on June 6 and went ahead with their dancing as usual. A video report by Pear Video about these stubborn dancers drew thousands of angry comments on Weibo.

“The exams are tomorrow, not now, and we need to work out!”, one person told Pear Video reporters in this video clip. Another older man asked the journalists: “Why don’t you take the health of the elderly into consideration, too?!”

Some plaza dancers refuse to stop dancing to give students in the neighbourhood some peace to study. Image via Pear Video.

The video of the Huizhou dancers went viral on Weibo on June 8. Many people are angered with the inconsiderate dancers, saying that elderly people should know better than to be so selfish: “We shouldn’t respect the elderly just because they are old – they did not have to do anything for that -, we only have to respect the good morals and conduct that come with growing old.”

One of the most popular comments said: “I respect the elder but do not respect those without morals, I love young people but don’t like those without teachings”(‘吾敬老不敬无德之老,吾爱幼不爱无教之幼”).

“These are the kind of people who have enough energy to dance during the night, but will make you give up your seat on public transportation during the day so they can sit down,” another person writes.

“Don’t they have grandchildren taking exams, too?”, some wonder.

This is not the first time China’s dancing elders make headlines for their being rowdy and loud. In response to the growing complaints about square-dancing grannies, Chinese authorities started introducing fines and penalties since 2015 for dancers who cause too much nuisance.

On Weibo, bothered students ask: “Grannies, don’t you know how important these exams are to us?”

The topic “Good luck with the exams” (#高考加油#) is the number one trending topic today. “There are a thousand ways to exercise,” one commenter says: “but our college entrance examination is the only way out.”

By Manya Koetse

©2017 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 Local News

Massive Fire Breaks Out Near Qipan Mountain in Shenyang




In the afternoon of April 17, local time, a massive fire broke out near Qipan Mountain in the city of Shenyang in China’s northeast Liaoning Province.

Videos circulating on Chinese social media show how thick clouds of black smoke could be seen from a distance.

News sources on Weibo say the fire broke out earlier in the afternoon and was soon spreading due to strong winds in the area.

People’s Daily reports that over 1300 people are currently involved in a major operation to clear the area and fight the fire, including some 300 people from the fire department and 500 military staff.

The hashtag “Shenyang Qipan Mountain on Fire” (#沈阳棋盘山着火#) was one of the top trending topics on Chinese social media by Wednesday night.

Qipan Mountain is the biggest natural scenic zone in Shenyang, covering 190 square kilometers. According to China Daily, the zone includes plant and animal reserves, a water sports area, a ski area, a hunting area, and a villa area.

At time of writing, there are no sources confirming what caused the fire and if it is under control yet.

The nearby Shenyang Zoo, however, did confirm on Weibo that the fire had not spread to its area and that the necessary emergency measures were taken to protect the wellbeing of their animals.

Many netizens expressed their concerns over the safety of the animals earlier in the day. Photos of animals being burnt in the fire were refuted and labeled as ‘fake news.’

By Manya Koetse

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

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China Digital

Online Controversy over Mandatory GPS Tracking Smartwatches for Chinese Street Cleaners

Being a street cleaner in 2019 China now involves wearing a mandatory smartwatch with GPS tracking.

Gabi Verberg



Image via

The times of chatting with the neighbors, taking a break, or doing some shopping during work hours are seemingly over for Nanjing’s street cleaners now that their every move is monitored through a special smartwatch. News of the mandatory GPS tracking bracelets for sanitary workers triggered public outcry earlier this month. But it’s not just Nanjing street cleaners that are subjected to this policy.

Earlier this month, the introduction of smartwatches tracking the movements of street cleaners in Nanjing attracted the attention of Chinese netizens and international media after the new policy was made public on April 3rd.

In March of this year, the sanitation department in the Hexi area of Nanjing, Jiangsu, started a pilot with a smartwatch that sanitation workers are obliged to wear. The watch has a built-in real-time GPS tracking system, allowing the Nanjing Hexi Smart Sanitation Center to monitor workers’ movements.

In a short video published by Toutiao News, a spokesperson of the Smart Sanitation Command Center* explained that the smartwatch currently allows the company to assess the workers in three ways: they can register workers’ attendance, collect statistics of workers leaving their designated work area, and report on workers that remain in the same position exceeding the allowed amount of time.

Sanitation workers also commented on their new working system. One person interviewed said: “Why wouldn’t I be allowed to have a half-an-hour break? Look, the street is all clean, there is nothing to be cleaned up. They are crazy for making us move up and down the street for no reason.”

Street cleaners also said that the system would automatically report them if they had been in the same spot for more than twenty minutes. The smartwatch would then subsequently encourage them to move, calling out “Jiayou! Jiayou!” (“Come on! Come on!”).

That particular function was reportedly removed shortly after public outcry on the policy.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Smartwatch Automatically Yells ‘Jiayou'” (#智能手表自动喊加油#) received over 2,5 million views, with the majority of commenters strongly rejecting the new approach.

Most commenters on this issue argued that the implementation of the smartwatch is “immoral” and that the Nanjing workers are “treated as criminals.” Many others also pointed out that the workers, often senior citizens, should be able to rest for more than 20 minutes.

In light of the new policy, many people on social media also referred to the infamous fictional character Zhou “Bapi” (周扒皮). In the novel The Killing Wind, this landlord Zhou would stick his head into the henhouse stirring up the roosters to wake his laborers up earlier, so they would start working.

Some netizens came with an alternative solution, suggesting that the leaders of the company should wear the smartwatches themselves instead.

While the controversial function was eliminated, the GPS tracking function still stands.

Nanjing is not the first city to introduce GPS tracking smartwatches for its sanitary workers. Other cities where the same policy has been introduced are, for example, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Qingdao, according to Chinese media outlet Global Times.

In the summer of 2018, various Chinese media outlets already reported about the introduction of smartwatches for street cleaners in Guangzhou. At the time, the smartwatch policy was described as an innovative way to solve staff deployment and management problems, giving team leaders more insights into the real-time position of the street cleaners.

Whether or not the smartwatches do indeed improve work efficiency of street cleaners is still unclear, but there are no indications that the smartwatch policy will be changed at this point.

The tough work conditions of Chinese street cleaners, who work long hours and receive minimal pay, regularly become an issue of debate on Chinese social media. Besides praising the hard work of China’s public cleaners, Chinese netizens often express their sympathy for the bad circumstances under which street sweepers have to work.

By Gabi Verberg

* (南京河西建环”智能环卫”综合调度监控指挥中心 Nanjing Hexi Jianhuan “Intelligent Sanitation” Integrated Dispatching Monitoring Command Center)

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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 ©2014-2018


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