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Explosion Near US Embassy in Beijing

Some Beijing residents say they could hear the explosion a kilometer away.

Manya Koetse

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On Thursday afternoon shortly after 13.30 (local time), news of an explosion near the US embassy in Beijing made its rounds on Chinese social media.

“It was an explosion- the sound was really loud,” some people on Weibo write: “This is big.”

“My work unit is about a kilometer from the US embassy, and we could hear it very loud,” one person says.

Various sources on Weibo say the sound of the explosion was very loud.

Chinese journalist Michael Anti wrote on Twitter: “Many sources have confirmed explosion just happened in American Beijing Embassy. Road blocked.”

The entire area around the embassy is currently cordoned off, with police and security present at the scene.

A video making its rounds on Weibo showed people running and big clouds of smoke, with the person filming it saying: “There’s been an explosion at the US embassy” (see below).

After 14:00 local time, various Chinese news sources, such as Phoenix News, but also TV news channels such as United Express (美联社), confirmed the explosion.

While it is still unclear what has caused the explosion and the smoke, some people on Weibo joke that it was just people having an outside BBQ.

At 15:00 local time, local police confirmed on Weibo that one man caused the explosion at one o’clock at the corner of Anjialou and Tianze Road (which is where the entrance of the US embassy is located). A suspected “firecracker installation” caused the explosion.

The man, a 26 year old male from Inner Mongolia, has injuries on his hand, but reportedly has suffered no serious injuries. He has first been taken to the hospital.

Police report on Weibo: one man caused the explosion.

Police also report that no other people were harmed in the explosion and that the situation is now under control. They do not make any statements about alleged motivations behind the explosion and whether or not it was intentional.

“He surely didn’t think it was Spring Festival,” some commenters say – Spring Festival is the usual time for setting off firecrackers.

“Firecrackers are supposed to be a happy sound,” others say.

At time of writing, various threads on Weibo relating to the US embassy explosion have been screened off, but sharing of photos and commenting still continues across Weibo, Wechat, and other platforms.

The BBC states that there were earlier reports today that police had taken away a woman who had tried to set herself on fire near the US embassy just two hours before the blast, although it has not been confirmed if the two incidents are linked in any way.

Update: Chinese authorities have come forward stating the explosion is an “isolated public security incident.”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

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

©2018 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 Celebs

Fandom Meets Matrimony: Sea of Brides at Roy Wang’s Concert as Female Fans Show Up in Wedding Gowns

After showing up as brides at Roy Wang’s concert, some female fans attempted to return their gowns within the store’s 7-day ‘No Questions Asked Return Policy’.

Manya Koetse

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A recent concert by Chinese celebrity Roy Wang (Wang Yuan 王源) has become a hot topic on Chinese social media as female fans attending the show collectively decided to wear wedding dresses to express their love for the singer.

Born in 2000, Roy Wang is best known as a member of the hugely popular TFboys idol group that debuted in 2013, but his solo career has also been thriving for years. Wang is an award-winning musician, who is now among China’s most influential young celebrities. On Weibo, he has nearly 85 million followers.

The sight of so many fans coming to Wang’s Chongqing concert wearing wedding dresses was already remarkable, but it garnered even greater attention when it turned out that some of the women’s boyfriends were so upset over their girlfriends wearing a wedding dress for another man that they ended the relationship because of it.

On Douyin (China’s TikTok), the related discussion made it to the top 5 trending daily topics list.

Female fans partying in their wedding dress. Photo posted on Weibo.

The story gained further traction when reports emerged that some female fans who had recently purchased wedding dresses for the concert attempted to return them to the store the next day, taking advantage of the store’s policy that allows returns within seven days without requiring a specific reason (7天无理由退货).

“I already wondered why business was suddenly booming,” one Chongqing wedding gown seller wrote on social media, complaining how the return policy was being abused by some of Roy Wang’s fans.

Others saw the fact that they wore the wedding dress to the concert as a unique selling point, and tried to resell their gowns online for more than the original price, claiming that the dress still had “a hint of the concert’s aroma.”

Scene of the concert.

Commenters bombarded these women with negative comments, as the topic also drew wider discussions on how far some fans are willing to go to show their love for their idols.

Some social media users expressed that a wedding dress has a symbolical or even sacred function, and that tying the concept of fandom to matrimony is inappropriate. They condemned the women for showing up to the concert as brides.

Given that many of the commenters criticizing the women were male, there were also feminist voices that condemned these men for their pettiness and chauvinistic attitudes. One comment stood out: “There will always be men whose ego is bruised when women they don’t even know won’t wear a wedding dress and save their chastity for them. Thanks to Roy Wang’s concert, I once again realize the diversity of species.”

In an online poll asking people “Can women only wear a wedding dress once in their lives” (#女生一生只能穿一次婚纱吗#) the majority of people replied that they should just wear whatever they like.

“My first thought is that this is romantic,” one popular entertainment blogging account (@娱大蜀黍) wrote: “My second thought is that it’s actually quite moving. In the midst of their youth, they are writing a passionate chapter for themselves. They will treasure it as a beautiful memory later on in life. They do what they love and they’re not bothering anyone. It’s perfectly fine.”

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

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©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 Arts & Entertainment

Let’s Plant: China’s Variety Show “Become a Farmer” Is Harvesting Success Online

As iQIYI’s ‘Become a Farmer’ gains momentum, it highlights China’s growing trend of embracing rural themes in mainstream entertainment.

Wendy Huang

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With its focus on hard farm work and meeting actual targets, Become a Farmer is a fresh breeze of air for China’s variety show business, especially among young Chinese viewers who appreciate the show’s authenticity and the calmness of the rural scenes that pose a stark contrast with stressful urban life.

The Chinese variety show Become A Farmer has achieved tremendous popularity in China recently through the iQIYI platform, which is often hailed as the Chinese equivalent of Netflix. Become A Farmer recently gained over 4.6 billion (!) views on Weibo through the hashtag #种地吧# (Zhǒng dì ba), which translates to “Let’s Plant” or “Let’s Farm” in English and also happens to be the show’s name in Chinese.

Produced by iQIYI and Blue Sky Media Group (BSMG), Become A Farmer (Young Men edition) is a documentary-style interactive reality show that revolves around the theme of farming, with actual farm work as its central focus.

The show handpicked ten young men out of 300 candidates to assemble a “farming team.” With unwavering dedication, they toiled for over 190 days, diligently cultivating 142.8 mu (approximately 95,200 square meters) of land. They actively engaged in every aspect of farm work, starting from planting a single seed and guiding the audience through the complete journey of rice germination, growth, flowering, and ultimately reaping the harvest.

Chinese netizens have drawn comparisons between the show and the British television documentary series Clarkson’s Farm. Playfully, they remarked that if Clarkson’s Farm were to be introduced in the Chinese market, it could aptly be renamed “Become A Farmer (Old Men Edition).”

Become A Farmer released its first episode on February 4 of this year, initially receiving limited attention. However, as subsequent episodes were released, the show started garnering increased interest, with the audience discovering the genuine dedication of the ten young men towards their farming endeavors – and that it was not just for show.

The show’s nomination for the Shanghai TV Festival, and its current rating on Douban.

Its rating on Douban, China’s IMDB, has climbed up to 8.9 out of 10. Meanwhile, the series has been nominated for the prestigious Magnolia Award for Best Variety Program at the 28th Shanghai TV Festival.

A Fresh Take on Chinese Idol Survival Shows

Become A Farmer initially caught the attention of many Chinese netizens through the humorous jokes of veteran comedian Pang Bo during the fifth season of the stand-up comedy competition Rock & Roast.

At that time, the show had not yet been aired but its format had already been introduced during a media conference, and Pang Bo (庞博) had heard about it.

In Pang’s joke, he compared the show to a farmer version of idol survival shows, proposing that the four individuals who made the greatest contributions to the final harvest could come together as a group, forming a new generation of F4 (referring to the popular Asian boy band), playfully dubbed “Farmer 4.”

Pang Bo joking about the upcoming show.

While Chinese netizens were initially amused by this joke, little did they realize that iQIYI was actually turning it into a reality, albeit without the comedic intent.

“Food is not something we can take lightly with jokes and banter, especially considering the size of our farmland, which spans approximately 140 mu and has the potential to provide sustenance for many people. This is a matter of responsibility and morality,” stated Yang Changling (杨长岭), the show’s director.

Normally, Chinese entertainers are compensated for their involvement in reality or variety shows, as they play a crucial role in generating engaging content. Such shows often seek out celebrities with a large online fan base to ensure a favorable viewership.

But Become A Farmer is different. Among the ten young men, no one is a typical celebrity that has a huge fan base online. Moreover, they are not paid for filming the show but have to earn from the land rented from local farmers through their own hard work.

To legally sell the products grown on their farmland, the ten young men took the step of registering an official company. This registration allowed Chinese netizens to verify the company’s information on the government website, providing evidence of the project’s authenticity. As the information about the company circulated, the related hashtag (#种地吧 开公司#) gained traction on Weibo, eventually trending when the ten young men received their official company certificate.

(Snapshot from the show /The ten young men received the certificate of their company)

Become A Farmer leans more towards being a documentary rather than a traditional entertainment program. To underscore its authenticity, a novel approach has been adopted in China’s variety show landscape. It airs live for one hour every day, beginning at 9:30 am, synchronizing with the young men’s start of work. This timing allows netizens, who typically commence their own workday around that time, to actively participate as ‘online supervisors,’ overseeing the ten young men’s daily tasks while starting on their own tasks of the day.

Through livestreaming on both Weibo and Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), the show creates a natural teaser for the edited reality series while embodying its interactive nature.

As an additional element, the ten young men occasionally share vlogs on Weibo and Douyin during the filming process. This unique combination of long-form reality show footage + livestreaming + vlogs allows the audience to closely follow and stay updated on the progress of the ten young men’s work over the span of more than 190 days.

The show’s concept of gathering relatively unknown young men aspiring to make a breakthrough in the entertainment industry bears resemblance to popular shows like Youth With You, also produced by iQIYI. However, Youth With You‘s third season was suspended in 2021 for wasting large amounts of milk amid the China’s strengthened efforts in eradicating wasting food; viewers were ecouraged to buy bottled Mengniu milk and scan QR codes inside the caps to vote for their favorite trainees, which led to fans buying tons of bottles only to vote and getting rid of the milk.

Clearly, iQIYI has learned from the past and taken a different approach with Become A Farmer. In this show, there are no milk-wasting competitions or cutthroat rivalries. Instead, the ten young men are united in their goal to complete the farm work together and to run the company and get rid of its debt.

Focus on Vital China Topics: Empowering Youth, Food Security, and Rural Revitalization

Various topics that are relevant in today’s China come together in Become a Farmer. The show also explicitly addressed its objectives in producing this diverse variety show and released a pre-episode to emphasize the importance of food security and shed light on the challenges faced by Chinese youth upon entering the workforce.

In recent years, China has placed significant emphasis on food security, with leaders repeatedly stressing the need to ensure that “the Chinese rice bowl is firmly held in our own hands.”

The China Agricultural Outlook Report (2023-2032), released on April 20, outlined the ongoing consolidation of China’s food security foundation for the next decade. Notably, all 103 million hectares of permanent farmland will be transformed into high-standard farmland. The report also highlighted plans to diversify import channels for agricultural products, improve the trade structure, and reduce grain imports by 19.7 percent over the next decade.

During the pre-episode of the show, an expert who provided training courses to ten young men emphasized the need to address the aging agricultural workforce in China’s agricultural development.

Simultaneously, in 2023, China witnessed a record-breaking number of graduates, reaching 11.58 million.

Given the increasing digitalization in agriculture, encouraging young people to pursue farming careers emerges as a viable solution. By becoming New Era Farmers (新农人) and actively participating in the nine tasks outlined in China’s “No. 1 central document” for 2023, which promotes rural vitalization comprehensively, young talent can contribute to the development of rural areas instead of solely pursuing white-collar jobs in urban areas.

A Rural Trend in Chinese Entertainment

The increasing appeal of rural life among young people in China is reflected in a survey conducted by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily (中国青年报社社会调查中心) in September 2022. The survey revealed that 70.9% of the respondents believed that the countryside has become more attractive to young individuals. Factors such as a slower pace of life, lower pressure, and reduced costs were cited as the main reasons why young people find rural areas appealing.

As transportation and internet connectivity have gradually improved, rural life in China is no longer seen as isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. This transformation has sparked a growing interest in living in the countryside, particularly among young people. The countryside’s allure lies in its simplicity, natural beauty, and the chance to escape the fast-paced and hectic city life.

This growing interest in rural life may explain the popularity of shows like Become a Farmer. The commitment demonstrated by the ten young men to their farm work has garnered applause from Chinese netizens. Overcoming challenges such as working in adverse weather conditions, assisting with difficult births for animals, and engaging in physically demanding tasks have showcased their dedication and hard work. These aspects have resonated with the audience and contributed to the show’s success.

(The ten young men are diligently digging drainage ditches in the farmland during chilly weather, working hard to ensure they meet the planting season deadline.)

Snapshot from the show: Jiang Dunhao, the oldest among the ten young men and chairman of the company, joins forces with He Haonan to support in the challenging task of aiding the delivery of difficult births for ewes. Together, they strive to save the life of a premature lamb, seeking guidance from a professional veterinarian through online assistance.

Originally planned to conclude after 39 episodes, the show’s production team has decided to extend it to 50 episodes due to the abundance of material gathered from over 190 days of farm work and the increasing interest and positive feedback from viewers. This extended episode count goes beyond the typical duration for a variety show, highlighting its exceptional popularity.

It is evident that iQIYI, the broadcasting platform behind the show, is keen on fulfilling its alleged social responsibility to promote the importance of food security and sustainable food production, farming, and showing that young individuals that they can thrive in rural areas.

Capitalizing on the success of the reality show, iQIYI has also released a teaser for an upcoming drama called Romance on the Farm (田耕纪), which also revolves around farming. This drama portrays a contemporary woman unexpectedly finding herself in the countryside during the Song Dynasty and embarking on a journey of farming, prosperity, and love alongside the enigmatic Shen Nuo.

In the last couple of years, there were several countryside-themed dramas that showcased China’s rural revitalization efforts and highlighted the involvement of younger generations in supporting their rural hometowns, such as On The Way to Hope (在希望的田野上) or The Story of Xing Fu (幸福到万家) which starred the renowned Chinese actress Zhao Liying.

The success of Become a Farmer, the upcoming Romance on the Farm, and the overwhelming enthusiasm among Chinese viewers for these shows suggest that farming has become the latest ‘hip’ trend in China’s entertainment industry. It seems that plowing fields and tending to crops have now found their place in the limelight. With the growing interest and excitement surrounding these shows, it’s safe to say that we can expect a blooming harvest of more Chinese productions focused on farm work and rural life in the near future.

Watch “Become a Farmer” on Youtube here (including English subtitles).

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

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

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