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Fan Bing Bing is Back! The ‘Missing’ Actress is Ordered to Pay $130 Million & Apologizes on Weibo (Full Translation)

After months of silence, there is finally clarity about the situation of Fan Bing Bing: she is ordered to pay millions, and she is sorry.

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Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing, who has been “missing” for months since she was at the center of a tax evasion scandal, is back in the public eye. Hours after authorities issued the news that the actress has to pay millions in tax penalties, she returned to Weibo with an apology.

Fan Bing Bing (范冰冰), one of China’s most renowned actresses whose disappearance from the public eye has been at the center of a social media storm since July of this year, is back.

Earlier today, on October 3rd, news came out on Chinese state media that the tax investigations by authorities had been completed, with Xinhua News stating that the actress “has been ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion.”

Other sources said the actress had to pay 883 million yuan in tax fines; approximately 128,5 million US dollars. According to CGNT, the 37-year-old actress will not be held criminally liable if she pays the penalty in time.

 

The Tax Evasion Scandal

What followed after the scandal was months of silence and rumors.”

 

Earlier this year, the news that Fan Bing Bing allegedly received a total payment of 60 million yuan ($9.3 million) for just four days work on the film Cell Phone 2, of which she would have only declared 10 million ($1.56 million) to authorities, became a huge trending topic on Chinese social media.

The tax scandal first came to light when Chinese TV host Cui Yongyuan (崔永元) leaked two different contracts on social media; the one that allegedly showed that the actress was paid a total of 10 million RMB for her work, with another showing a payment of 50 million RMB for the exact same work. These types of contracts are called yin-yang contracts (阴阳合同), an illegal practice to avoid paying taxes.

What followed after the scandal was months of silence and rumors. The actress was last seen in public on July 1st, and social media rumors alleged the actress might have left the country or that she was banned from acting.

Last month, one particularly strong rumor surfaced, saying that Fan had been arrested in Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, where Fan’s studio is based.

Hours after today’s news on her penalty came out, Fan issued an apology letter on Chinese social media site Weibo, in which she expressed shame about her actions. Fan has 62,6 million fans on her Weibo, and the apology letter is the first time she has posted on social media since June 2nd.

 

The Apology Letter

Without the good policies of the Party and the state, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bing Bing.”

 

Full letter translation here in English (by What’s on Weibo):


Apology Letter

Over the past period, I have gone through unprecedented pain and suffering, and have done in-depth self-reflection and soul-searching. I feel deeply ashamed and guilty of everything I have done. Here, I want to express my sincere apologies to you.

For a long time, because of the fact that I did not correctly lay out the relations between the interests of the state, society, and myself, I used “split contracts” (拆分合同) for the film “Unbreakable Spirit” (大轰炸) and others, to evade the tax problem, and I am ashamed of that. These days, during the tax authorities’ tax inspections of me and my company, I have been deeply questioning myself the whole time: as public figures, we should abide by the law, and be a role model within the industry and society at large. We should not lose ourselves by putting economic interests first and loosening the supervision, which leads to breaking the law. Here, I sincerely apologize to society, to my cherished friends, to the public, and to the tax authorities.

After completing their investigation, the tax servation services have issued a series of penalties. I fully accept them and will try my best to overcome all difficulties and raise the funds and pay the taxes and fines in accordance with the tax authorities’ finalized penalty order.

I’ve loved arts since I was young, and because I was right on time for the booming developments within the film and TV industry, and thanks to the guidance of my seniors and loving support from the audience, along with my own continuous efforts, I have been able to acquire some achievements within the performing arts. As an actress, I am always proud of being able to showcase my culture in the international limelight, and I’ll do what I can to fight for that goal.

You could say that my every achievement is owed to my country and the support of its people. Without the good policies of the Party and the state, without the love and protection of the people, there would be no Fan Bing Bing.

Today, I feel very disquieted about my mistakes. I let down the country that educated me, the society that trusted me, and the fans who loved me. Here, again, I offer my sincerest apologies to everyone. Please forgive me!

I believe that, after going through this rectification, I emphasize rules, order, and responsibility. While offering everyone good work, I will also supervise the management of my company, engage in law-abiding business, keep my promises, and strive to have a company full of meaningful cultural content so I can bring out positive energy to the whole society!

Once again, to the society, to the fans who have always supported me, to the friends and family who care for me, I sincerely say sorry!

Fan Bingbing

October 3, 2018


On Weibo, Fan’s letter was soon shared more than 135,000 times (and ongoing), receiving ten thousands of likes.

 

The Criticism and Online Control

Especially when looking at my own small salary, I have mixed feelings about all of this.”

 

The comments underneath the letter, however, were severely restricted – by Sina Weibo or by Fan herself-, and only displayed the six reactions of five different people who showed their support and sent their love to the actress.

Elsewhere on Weibo, however, there are more critical responses to the apology letter, with people wondering why the actress did not get any criminal charges for tax evasion, and also questioning the decision to let this story come out during the national holidays.

“From now on, all actors can do tax evasion, and just fix it once it’s discovered,” some netizens respond, writing: “Especially when looking at my own small salary, I have mixed feelings about all of this.”

Others are not too confident that there is still a brilliant future ahead for the actress, although one commenter writes: “It’s ok, if she’s no longer able to perform, she could still be an internet celebrity and do some commercials.”

The more supportive reactions include those saying: “She knows her mistakes and she will correct them, I believe she will only do better in the future.”

The strict control of information flows surrounding Fan’s apology is also attracting attention on social media, with some wondering why the topic is not showing up on the ‘hot search’ or ‘trending’ lists, although it obviously is a big trending topic. “May I ask why such a topic that is all over CCTV is not on Weibo’s trending lists,” one Weibo user asked: “Has Weibo been bribed or something?”

 

The State Media

Those film and television companies and related employees who investigate themselves and correct any [open] tax payments before December 31st, can avoid any potential administrative penalties and fines..”

 

Xinhua News Agency issued an article on Weibo following today’s news, saying that “the case of Fan Bing Bing is a lesson for those in the film and tv industry to obey the law” (范冰冰案教育警示文艺影视从业者遵纪守法).

The article, by authors Bai Ying (白瀛) and Luo Sha (罗沙), was soon read more than 400,000 times.

It called Fan’s case the “biggest yet” when it comes to personal tax evasion in China, and also stated it played a strong role in being an “educational warning” for similar tax violating behavior of others.

Xinhua states that according to Chinese law, people who make false tax returns or evade tax payments for an amount that is more than 10% of the payable tax, can be sentenced to up to three years in prison, along with receiving payable penalties. If that amount is more than 30% of the payable tax, they can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years (and a minimum of three years) in prison.

But the law also states that people can prevent going to prison (or being “held criminally liable”), if they pay their tax payments and the full penalties tax payment within a proposed time frame. They can still be sentenced if they get another administrative penalty.

The state media article, noteworthy enough, further reveals that the State Administration of Taxation (国家税务总局) will carry out “special actions to regulate the tax orders within the film and television industry”: those film and television companies and related employees who investigate themselves and correct any [open] tax payments before December 31 of this year, can avoid any potential administrative penalties and fines (see screenshot of segment below).

Noteworthy segment in Xinhua article.

In other words; this might suggest that there are many other (albeit much smaller) Fan Bing Bing cases out there, and that those involved are now getting the chance to correct themselves in the coming three months to avoid the fines and penalties that Fan does need to pay; meaning that the renowned actress and her tax scandal is used a ‘killing the chicken to scare the monkeys’ (杀鸡吓猴) case, as the Chinese saying goes: punishing an individual to set an example to others.

On Weibo, a typical comment says that the way in which this entertainment industry case was handled “is not really fair to ordinary people,” with many saying: “If you do not have the money or the fame [like Fan Bing Bing], you would be treated as a criminal for much smaller issues.”

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Full letter here in Chinese

致歉信

最近一段时间,我经历了从未有过的痛苦、煎熬,进行了深刻的反思、反省,我对自己的所作所为深感羞愧、内疚,在这里我向大家诚恳道歉!

长期以来,由于自己没有摆正国家利益、社会利益和个人利益的关系,在影片《大轰炸》和其他一些合同中出现利用“拆分合同”等逃税问题,我深感羞愧。这些天在配合税务机关对我及我公司的税务检查中,我一直深刻反省:作为一个公众人物,应该遵纪守法,起到社会和行业的模范带头作用,不应在经济利益面前,丧失自我约束,放松管理,以致违法失守。在此,我诚恳地向社会、向爱护关心我的朋友,以及大众,向国家税务机关道歉。

对税务机关调查后,依法作出的一系列处罚决定,我完全接受,我将按照税务部门的最终处罚决定,尽全力克服一切困难,筹措资金、补缴税款、缴纳罚款。

我从小喜欢艺术,又赶上了影视业蓬勃发展的好时机,在诸多前辈的提携和观众朋友的爱护下,加之自己的不断努力,这才在演艺方面取得了一点成绩。作为一个演员,我常为自己能在世界舞台上展示我国文化而自豪,并不遗余力为此冲锋。可以说,我每一点成绩的取得,都离不开国家和人民群众的支持。没有党和国家的好政策,没有人民群众的爱护,就没有范冰冰。

今天,我对自己的过错深感惶恐不安!我辜负了国家对我的培养,辜负了社会对我的信任,也辜负了影迷对我的喜爱!在此,我再次向大家诚恳道歉!请大家原谅!

我相信,经过这次整顿,我会讲规矩、遵秩序、重责任,在把好的作品献给大家的同时,也要监督公司管理,守法经营,诚实守信,争做富有文化内涵的好公司,为全社会传播正能量!

再次向社会,向一直支持我的影迷,向关爱我的朋友家人,真诚的说一句,对不起!

范冰冰

2018年10月3日

 

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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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  1. Avatar

    awrrw

    October 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    That`s how China does business, corruption to the max

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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 10 of Popular Chinese Podcasts of 2019 (by What’s on Weibo)

What are Chinese podcast app users listening to? An overview.

Jialing Xie

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As the podcasting industry only seems to become more thriving around the world, What’s on Weibo tunes into China’s podcast market and selects ten of the most popular Chinese podcasts for you.

Ever since it first made its entrance into the entertainment industry, the podcast – a term coined in 2004 – has kept growing in listenership in most Western countries.

The same holds true for China, where podcasts are mainly concentrated on a couple of bigger online audio streaming platforms.

What are the most ear-catching podcast streaming services in China now? While various podcast apps have been competing with each other to attract users with their trending content, Ximalaya is one of the most popular ones as it offers the widest range of content of all major podcast apps in China. The app was first launched in 2013, and has been a top-scoring app ever since.

In terms of popularity, Ximalaya (喜马拉雅) is closely followed by DragonflyFM (蜻蜓FM), LycheeFM(荔枝FM), and a series of other podcast platforms with each implementing different business models.

How do we know what’s trending on these podcast apps? Based on user clicks and other metrics, Ximalaya has its own ranking lists of popular podcasts for five major categories: classics, audiobooks,crosstalk & storytelling, news, music, and entertainment.

DragonflyFM (蜻蜓FM) and other podcast apps also have their own rankings for even more narrowly defined categories, although these rankings often feature the same ‘most popular’ podcasts as Ximalaya and other apps.

To give you an impression and an overview of the kind of podcasts that are currently most popular in China, we have made a selection of trending podcasts across various audio apps, with some notes that might be useful for those tuning into these podcasts as learners of Mandarin (all of these popular podcasts use Mandarin).

Please note that this is not an ‘official’ top 10 list, but one that is compiled by What’s on Weibo based on various popular ranking lists in different categories. Guo Degang’s crosstalk and storytelling podcast, for instance, is ranked as a number one popular podcast on both Ximalaya and Dragonfly FM, which is why it comes in highest in our list, too.

What’s on Weibo is independent and is not affiliated with any of these audio platforms or podcasts.

 

#1 Guo Degang: Crosstalk Collection of 21 Years (郭德纲21年相声精选)

Link to podcast

Category: Crosstalk & Storytelling

Duration: 20-90 min/episode

About:

Guo Degang (郭德纲, Guō Dégāng) is one of the most successful crosstalk comedians in China. In 1995, he founded his own crosstalk society, Deyun Society (德云社, Dé Yún Shè), which aims to “bring crosstalk back to traditional theaters.” Guo Degang has succeeded in making the general public pay more attention to crosstalk (相声, xiàngsheng), a traditional Chinese art performance that started in the Qing Dynasty. Like many other traditional Chinese arts, crosstalk performers are expected to have had a solid foundation that is often referred to as “kung fu” (功夫, Gōngfū) before they can perform onstage. Among the many collections attempted to gather Guo Degang’s crosstalk and storytelling performance, this podcast is probably the most comprehensive attempt thus far to gather Guo’s crosstalk and storytelling – it lists Guo’s best performances throughout his nearly three-decade career.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

This podcast contains a lot of word jokes, special idioms, and cultural and historical context, making it more suitable for advanced Mandarin learners. But beginners, don’t be discouraged! Get your feet wet with Guo’s sense of humor if you like a challenge. Accent Alert: you will hear the Tianjin accent in Guo’s performance, which is also encouraged by the crosstalk & storytelling art genre.

 

#2 King Fafa (发发大王)

Link to podcast

Category: Talkshow & Entertainment

Duration: 1 – 2 hr/episode

About:

This podcast provides a glimpse into Chinese society through the lens of ordinary people and their own stories. These stories range from a Chinese mother going through struggles to give birth to her child in the UK as an immigrant, to the love-and-hate relationship between Chinese youngsters and marriage brokers. Or how about Huawei employees’ personal anecdotes, or a self-made millionaire’s confession on his sudden realization of the true meaning of life? Looking beneath the surface of people’s lives with a compassionate and sometimes somewhat cynical attitude, the talk show podcast Fafa King has won over Chinese podcast listeners.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Enrich your vocabulary and phrases bank with this daily-conversation based podcast. Suitable for medium-level Mandarin learners.
Accent Alert: you will hear mostly Beijinger accents from the two hosts.

 

#3 Chasing Tech, Teasing Arts (追科技撩艺术)

Link to podcast

Category: Technology & Art / Business podcas

Duration: 30 min -1 hr/episode

About:

This Doko.com podcast allows listeners to get new perspectives on technology, art, environmental protection, and business through the voice of aspiring Chinese youths from within China and abroad. Doko.com used to be a digital marketing agency but now describes itself as a “group of people passionate about the internet, a diverse, interesting and exciting place.”

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Doko’s podcast features interviews between the host and guests on topics mainly relating to art and technology in a semi-formal setting. Listen to learn how to discuss these topics in Mandarin. Accent Alert: you will hear the host speaking Mandarin with a slight accent and guest speakers with various accents of their origin.

 

#4 Let Jenny Tell You (潘吉Jenny告诉你)

Full title: Let Jenny Tell You – Learn English and Talk about America (潘吉Jenny告诉你-学英语聊美国), Link to podcast

Category: Education

Duration: 10 – 20 min/episode

About:

Let Jenny Tell You is one of the most popular podcasts around for Chinese listeners to learn English. Hosted by Jenny and Adam, the podcast offers quite rich and unique content, discussing various topics often relating to Chinese culture and news, and of course, diving deeper into the English language.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

As a language learning podcast, this podcast is actually perfect for intermediate learners of Chinese; it works both ways for Chinese-English learners as well as for English speakers who are interested in learning Mandarin. Because Adam speaks English, you always know what the podcast is about. Accent Alert: Jenny (the host) speaks fairly standard Mandarin with minor accents.

 

#5 Stories Across the Globe (环球故事会)

Link to podcast

Category: Society & Culture

Duration: 20 min/episode (length differs on Podcasts App Store)

About:

A skillful narrator digs into stories behind the news, examining various topics involving cultures, history, politics, international relations. This podcast, by China’s state-owned international radio broadcaster, often comes up as a suggestion on various platforms, and also seems to be really popular because of its news-related stories.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Well-paced speech with an intimate tone, this podcast is a good source for learning new vocabulary and improving your pronunciation if you are already an advanced learner of Mandarin. Accent Alert: the host speaks fairly standard Mandarin with a Beijing accent.

 

#6 Watching Dreams Station (看理想电台)

Link to podcast

Category: Interviews & Culture

Duration: 20 – 40 min/episode

About:

A fun and informative podcast with varied content coverage, this podcast has a refreshing tone and smooth transitions between narratives and (expert) interview footage. A great source to learn more about what Chinese ‘hipsters,’ often referred to as literary and arty youth (文青, wén qīng) care about with regular mentions of social media stories.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

This podcast has relatively slow-paced speech covering various topics, which helps to make you more familiar with new vocabulary and practice how to explain things in Mandarin. Accent Alert: you will hear hosts speak fairly standard Mandarin with minor accents.

 

#7 Black Water Park (黑水公园)

Link to podcast

Category: TV & Movies, Talkshow

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hr/episode

About:

Learn what’s commonly discussed among Chinese young adults about movies and TV shows through these entertaining conversations between the two good friends Ài Wén and Jīn Huā-er.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Suitable for medium-to-advanced-level Mandarin learners; highly engaging conversations involving lots of slang and colloquial expressions.
Accent Alert: the hosts speak with recognizable Beijinger accents, so be prepared.

 

#8 The Sketch is Here (段子来了)

Link to podcast

Category: Comedy

Duration: 45 min/episode

About:

With 5.426 billion user clicks on Ximalaya, this podcast featuring funny sketches is super popular and has become a household name in China’s podcast market. It offers a taste of humor appreciated by many Chinese, which is very different from what you’d get from a podcast in the West within the same category.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

Great source to learn colloquial Mandarin and funny ice-breakers, but challenging as humor is intrinsically linked with inside jokes and word play. Accent Alert: the host has what’s considered a soothing voice and speaks fairly standard Mandarin.

 

#9 Ruixi’s Radio (蕊希电台)

Link to podcast

Category: Lifestyle & Bedtime

Duration: 10 min/episode

About:

One way to examine culture is to look at what people generally worry about the most. This podcast, that always starts with the soft voice of Ruixi (the host) asking listeners “Hey, are you ok today?”, focuses on a darker side of society and addresses the social and mental struggles that adults in China are facing. Ruixi’s Radio is one of those podcasts that enjoy equivalent popularity across several podcast platforms, which indicates strong branding. For many people, it’s a soothing podcast to listen just before bedtime.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

The slow-paced monologue using language easy to understand makes a great learning material for beginning learners. Accent Alert: Ruixi (the host) speaks fairly standard Mandarin with insignificant accents.

 

#10 Stories FM (故事FM)

Link to podcast

Category: Stories & Bedtime

Duration: 20 – 30 min/episode

About:

Described by the New York Times as a “rarity in a media landscape full of state propaganda and escapist entertainment,” Gushi FM was launched with the idea “Your story, your voice.” As one of China’s popular audio programs, Gushi FM features stories told by ordinary Chinese of various backgrounds.

Tips if you are a Mandarin learner:

As a collection of monologues that detail stories, describe emotions, and argue ideas, this podcast suits advanced level learners. Accent Alert: in every episode, guests with speaking and telling stories in their own local dialects.

Want to understand more about podcasts in China? We’d recommend this insightful article on the Niemanlab website.

Because there are many more popular Chinese podcasts we would like to share with you, this probably will not be our only list. A follow-up list will also contain other favorites such as Two IT Uncles (两个IT大叔), BBPark (日坛公园), and One Day World ( 一天世界).

Want to recommend another Chinese podcast? Please leave a comment below this article or tweet us at @whatsonweibo, leave a message on Instagram or reach out via Facebook.

By Jialing Xie, with contributions by Manya Koetse

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.

©2019 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

‘American Factory’ Sparks Debate on Weibo: Pro-China Views and Critical Perspectives

‘American Factory’ stirs online discussions in China.

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Award-winning documentary American Factory is not just sparking conversations in the English-language social media sphere. The film is also igniting discussions in the PRC, where pro-China views are trumpeted, while some critical perspectives are being censored.

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Even as China posts its lowest industrial output growth since 2002, Weibo’s ongoing reaction to Netflix documentary American Factory is rife with declarations of the Chinese manufacturing sector’s impending victory over its US rival. This, however, is not the full story.

The first documentary distributed by Higher Ground Productions, owned by former US President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, American Factory painted a damning picture of Trump’s protectionist policies.

US manufacturing cannot keep up with the brute efficiency of its Chinese competitors. The story of a shuttering American factory revived by Chinese investment and an influx of Chinese workers, opening up a Pandora’s Box of cultural clashes, paints a telling, but pessimistic, picture of the current strategic conflict between the two superpowers, from the ground-up.

Image via Netflix.

Despite the Great Firewall, Chinese netizens found ways to watch the documentary, that was made by Ohio filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Temporary links to streaming and subtitle services litter the Chinese Internet, making any accurate count of total mainland viewership nigh-impossible. However, one indication of the film’s popularity among mainlanders was the 259,000 views for a trailer posted on Bilibili.

One likely reason for netizens’ interest is that it neatly plays into Chinese state media rhetoric on the US-China trade war.

The inevitability of China’s rise up the global supply chain (and a corresponding decline on the US side) is a recurring theme in opinion pieces penned by the likes of Xinhua and Global Times, but also an increasingly louder cacophony of bloggers.

 

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing.”

 

One Chinese company (Wind资讯) posted on Weibo that “what Obama means in this film, in a very oblique way, is that anti-globalization will produce a lose-lose scenario.”

The official Weibo account of Zhisland, a Chinese networking platform for entrepreneurs around the world (@正和岛标准) posted a review of the Netflix film titled: “Behind the Popularity of American Factory: Time Might Not Be on America’s Side” (“《美国工厂》走红背后:时间,或许真的不在美国那边了“).

It warns the audience right off the bat to “not assume that this film will promote cooperation between China and the United States. In contrast, it will surely stir up mixed feelings among both audiences.”

American Factory shows that the US will probably lose out to China in manufacturing,” Zhisland writes. The article argues that China will win out due to its lower labor costs, lack of trade unions, and more disciplined managerial styles. “It’s an uneven playing field,” the author continues: “Time may not be on America’s side.”

Toward the end, the author claims: “We are about to enter a new era in which China will gradually become the most dominant player in the global marketplace.”

The fact that many on Weibo shared these kinds of pieces as a reaction to the documentary suggests there is confirmation bias at work here. As is common on Weibo and other social media, comments on the pieces like the above simply rattle unsubstantiated claims, frequently descending into ad hominems.

Another Weibo user (@用户Mr.立早) adds comments when sharing the above article: “The American workers repeat Trump’s mantra, but won’t act on it. They’ve been idling for almost a century. They’re hopeless.”

 

“American Factory tells you: separate the US economy from China, and the US will go bankrupt.”

 

Chinese state media also chimed in on how American Factory proved their most important talking points on the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Xinmin Evening News, an official newspaper run by the Communist Party’s Shanghai Committee, published an article by Wu Jian called “American Factory Tells You: Separate the US Economy from China, and the US Will Go Bankrupt” (“《美国工厂》告诉你:将美国经济从中国分离,美国会破产“).

In this piece, Jian claims that “in the age of globalization, ties between China and the US cannot be cut. Using high tariffs to force U. S. manufacturing return to the States… is simply not realistic. Separate the US economy from China, and the U.S. will go bankrupt.”

The article was also shared widely on Weibo. Thepaper.cn, an online news site affiliated with Shanghai United Media Group, published a review titled “American Factory: The Things that Are Spelled Out and the Things that are Implied” (“《美国工厂》:那些说出来的,和没有说的“).

The author, Xu Le, writes: “What struck me most about the film was the look on the faces of the American workers. All of them … had the same burnt-out expression… Their faces reminded me of photos of people in the late Qing Dynasty. That dull expression reflects a civilization in decline.”

“We’re a family at Fuyao” American workers listen to a rosy speech from their new bosses.

In the film, When American foremen visit a factory run by glass manufacturer Fuyao in China, they are alarmed to see Chinese workers picking up glass shards without safety glasses or cut-resistant gloves.

A Chinese worker picks up glass shards with minimal safety equipment, shocking his American co-workers.

Xu comments: “Why is it that Chinese workers are able to put up with even more drudgery while being paid far less than their American counterparts? This is something we Chinese are very familiar with.”

 

“Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

 

Qin Hui, professor of history at Tsinghua University, once argued that China’s economic growth isn’t because of economic liberalism or government oversight, but because of China’s refusal to guarantee certain basic human rights.

In Maoist China, the state stripped the underprivileged of all political power in the name of the greater good dictated by socialist dogma. Post-Mao China continues to exploit the underprivileged, but now for monetary gain. He called it China’s “advantage” of “low human rights.”

Despite the nationalism sentiment fanned by American Factory, it has also provoked reflection on China’s advantage of low human rights summarized by Qin Hui.

Weibo user ‘Zhi21’ (@ZHI2i), a recent college graduate, writes on Weibo: “I just finished an internship at a factory. I worked 12 hours a day. More than 11 hours of every shift was spent on my feet without stopping, just to keep up with the assembly line. It didn’t make sense to me. After watching American Factory, I feel like American workers are lucky to only work 8 hours a day. That’s why the production costs are higher in the States. They pay too much attention to whether or not workers are comfortable.”

Another Weibo blogger (@GhostSaDNesS) notes that “in American Factory, Fuyao employees believe that to work is to live. They defend the interests of capitalists while they are actively exploited. Unions in the West chose human rights, Chinese capitalists chose profit, and Chinese workers have no choice at all.”

Some of these posts were apparently censored; threads that displayed as having over 200 comments only showed 12, and users complained that their posts were being deleted or made invisible to other users by Weibo censors. “They didn’t give any explanation,” one blogger wrote: ” I only expressed that I felt sorry for the people at the bottom. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t ask to change society.”

Views like that of @Crimmy_Excelsior (“I was confused. Which country is the capitalist one and which country is the socialist one?“) are apparently sensitive enough to be taken offline – they touch upon the tension between the CCP’s espousal of Marxist-Leninism and the plight faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese that have their working conditions driven down by capitalist markets.

Many users don’t buy into nationalist interpretations of the film, and argue that economic gain achieved at the expense of human rights is shameful. @陈生大王 raises a poignant question: “This is a glorious time for China, but I hope this film inspires you to think about who you really are as an individual. Are you the glory, or are you the cost of the glory?”

“The cost of the glory” is derived from a quip popular on China’s internet. The Chinese government often urges its citizens to rally together, using the rhetoric, “We must win this trade war at all cost.” Some netizens then twisted the phrase, saying, “We must win this trade war at all cost, and we later find out that we are the cost.”

 

“China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.”

 

Even among those in favor of China’s controversial work ethics, there have been concerns over the status quo. Earlier this year, engineers in the tech industry publicly aired their grievances about their “996” lifestyle. The term refers to a high-pressure work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This is the kind of life workers in Fuyao are living, with no hope of improvement – they are that the company would find a replacement in no time, making any form of complaining moot.

Recent events in mainland China only increase the credibility of this representation. Factory workers at Jasic, a maker of welding machinery in Shenzhen, attempted to start a union last year. All those involved were fired. A number of college students and activists who actively supported the workers were detained and persecuted.

According to the “China Labor Movement Report (2015-2017)” by China Labor Bulletin (a NGO based in Hong Kong that promotes and defends workers’ rights in the People’s Republic of China) “intensification of social conflicts, including labor-capital conflicts, has crossed a tipping point, and directly threatens the legitimacy of the regime.”

More conspicuously, there are netizens that don’t buy the narrative that Chinese workers are innately “tougher” than their American counterparts. As user @胡尕峰 observes: “(In the film), a new Chinese CEO explains to his fellow Chinese that Americans have been encouraged too much growing up, and can’t take criticism. Chinese born after 2000 have been raised the same way! In my circle of friends, some mothers nearly faint when their babies are finally able to poop. Is China going to end up the same as America?”

American Factory’s objective portrayal of cultural shocks between American and Chinese workforces clearly generated thoughtful reflections and incisive criticism from a sizeable number of netizens, while also being another reason for Chinese state media to highlight the rise of China in the global market.

The chairman of Fuyao Group, Cao Dewang, made headlines this week with the quote: “China’s prosperity did not just happen overnight – Chinese people worked hard to make it happen.” “We indeed worked hard for it,” some commenters agreed: “That’s definitely true.”

By Anna Wang and Eduardo Baptista

Edited by Eduardo Baptista

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