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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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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 Society

The Concept of ‘Involution’ (Nèijuǎn) on Chinese Social Media

Nèijuǎn (involution) has become a commonly used term on Chinese social media, but what is it?

Manya Koetse

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Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited an ongoing debate about the problem of ‘involution’ in Chinese society today.

A scene from the Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited online discussions on the concept of nèijuǎn 内卷, “involution,” which was also a top buzzword in China in 2020.

A Love for Dilemma is a 2021 TV drama directed by Zhang Xiaobo (张晓波), who also worked on other hit series including Nothing But Thirty. This season’s popular TV drama A Love for Dilemma is themed around family, parenting, and China’s competitive education system.

In the series, two stepsisters compete against each other over the school results of their children. The family’s ‘grandpa’, played by famous actor Zhang Guoli (张国立), tries to create harmony around the dinner table between his daughter and stepdaughter, but the rivalry between the two and how they raise their children intensifies nevertheless.

Scene from A Love for Dilemma.

While stepsister Tian Yulan urges her little son to work hard in school and focus on his grades so that he can go to the best high school and university, sister Nan Li places more emphasis on the general development of her children and wants them to enjoy their childhood. Both mothers, however, question their own choices when facing challenges with how their children perform at school.

The specific scene that has ignited current discussions is a dialogue between the husbands of the sisters, who sit outside to talk about the education system and how it sometimes feels like everyone is in a theatre watching a show together until one person stands up from their seat. This makes it necessary for other members of the audience to also stand up, until everybody is standing.

The dialogue continues, with the two talking about how it does not stop at the people standing up. Because then there are those who will take it a step further and will stand on their seats to rise above the others. And then there are even those who will grab a ladder to stand higher than the rest. But they are still watching the same show and their situation has actually not changed at all – except for the fact that everybody is now more uncomfortable than they were before.

Many netizens found it striking how this dialogue explains how the term ‘involution’ is used in China nowadays. After the show aired, the hashtag “How to commonly explain involution” (#如何通俗解释内卷#) became a trending topic in the week of April 19, receiving 260 million views in a few days.

 
What Is ‘Involution’?
 

As explained by Jialing Xie in this top buzzword article on What’s on Weibo, involution describes the economic situation in which as the population grows, per capita wealth decreases. Since recently, this word has come to be used to represent the competitive circumstances in academic or professional settings in China where individuals are compelled to overwork because of the standard raised by their peers who appear to be even more hardworking.

The term ‘involution’ and how it is used today comes from a work by American anthropologist Clifford Geertz titled Agricultural Involution – The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia (1963). In this work, Geertz explores the agricultural dynamics in Indonesia during the colonial period’s Cultivation System, where a radical economic dualism existed within the country: a foreign, Dutch economy and a native, Indonesian economy (p. 61-62).

Geertz describes how the Javanese faced a deepening demographic dilemma as they saw a rapidly growing population but a static economy, while the Dutch, who organized Javanese land and labor, were only growing in wealth (69-70). Agricultural involution is the “ultimately self-defeating process” that emerged in Indonesia when the ever-growing population was absorbed in high labor-intensive wet-rice cultivation without any changing patterns and without any progress (80-81).

When Geertz used the term ‘involution’ to describe the dynamics in Indonesia, he built on the work of another American anthropologist, namely Alexander Goldenweiser, who also used the term to describe “those culture patterns which, after having reached what would seem to be a definitive form, nonetheless fail either to stabilize or transform themselves into a new pattern but rather continue to develop by becoming internally more complicated” (Geertz 1963, 81).

 
The Involution Concept in the Chinese Context
 

The popular use of the Chinese translation of ‘involution’, nèijuǎn 内卷, started to receive attention in Chinese media in 2020. It is deviating from the original use of the term and is meant to explain the social dynamics of China’s growing middle class.

As suggested in the article “‘Involution’: The Anxieties of Our Time Summed Up in One Word” by Zhou Minxi (CGTN), the popularity of the term comes from “a prevalent sense of being stuck in an ever so draining rat race where everyone loses.”

China’s ever-growing middle class is now facing the question of how they and their children can remain in the middle class in a situation where everyone is continuously working harder and doing all they can to rise above the rest. Xiang Biao, a professor of social anthropology at Oxford University, is quoted by Zhou:

The lower class still hopes to change their fate, but the middle and upper classes aren’t so much looking upward, and they are marked by a deep fear of falling downward. Their greater fear is perhaps losing what they already have.”

The term ‘involution’ often comes up together with criticism on China’s ‘996’ work system (working from 9am-9pm, 6 days a week). Although Alibaba founder Jack Ma once called the 12-hour working day a “blessing,” the system is a controversial topic, with many condemning how Chinese (tech) companies are exploiting their employees, who are caught in a conundrum; they might lose their sanity working such long hours, and might lose their job and future career prospects if they refuse to do so.

But the term also comes up when discussing China’s education system, where competition starts as early as kindergarten and the pressure on children to succeed in the ‘gaokao’ college entrance exam starts many years before it takes place.

This image shows the “juan” 卷 character from ‘nei juan’ (involution) changing into a person on their bike with laptop. Image via http://www.bajieyou.com/new/431e6ef39aac4a6da232671122f66ff4

This discussion also came up with a now-famous image of a student riding his bike while also working on his laptop, using every moment to study. This was then also called “Tsinghua Inversion” (清华内卷), referring to one of China’s top universities, where competition is so vicious that students must double their efforts to catch up with others.

 
‘Involution’ Discussions on Chinese Social Media
 

By mid-2020, ‘involution’ attracted the attention on Weibo when popular academic accounts started discussing the term. Recently, ‘involution’ is used so often on Chinese social media that it has already gone beyond its original context, leading to many people discussing its meaning.

“We are forced to work overtime and are unable to resist, and yet it seems that everyone is doing it out of free will,” one Weibo user says, with another person adding: “The abnormal state of inversion has already become our normal state.”

A popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) on Weibo writes:

It is an internal bottomless vicious cycle of competition. For example, everyone used to work eight hours per day, five days per week. Then one company comes up where people work twelve hours per day, six days per week. Then this company will have major competitive strength in the market economy. But the outcome is that other companies are also compelled to do the same in order to compete. As time goes by, all companies will shift to a twelve-hour workday, six days a week, and job applicants entering the market can’t find any eight-hour workday positions for five days a week anymore. So, if another company wants to beat its competitors, it will have to introduce a seven-day workweek. And then other companies will need to follow in order to make a living. That is involution.”

By now, there are various images and memes that have come to represent the meaning of ‘involution’ in present-day China, such as one cram school sign saying: “If you come we will train your kids, if you don’t come, we will train the competitors of your kids.”

“The society’s resources are in short supply and to obtain the limited supplies, people are all madly practicing their skills to obtain them – regardless if they need them or not,” another Weibo user says.

Most comments relating to the discussion of ‘involution’ on Chinese social media express a sense of fatigue with an ongoing rat-race in the education and employment market.

On the interest-based social networking platform Douban, there are even some support groups for people who feel stuck in ‘involution’ and are looking for a way out. The “Center for Victims of Involution” (内卷受害者收容中心) group has over 3000 members, with smaller groups such as “Let’s Escape Involution Together” (我们一起逃离内卷) having a few dozen participants.

The generation that is mostly affected by this sense of socioeconomic stagnation is the post-90 generation. In 2020, a record high of 8.74 million university graduates entered the job market, but their chances of finding a job that suits their education and personal expectations are slim; many industries are recruiting fewer people than before in an employment market that was already competitive before the COVID19 pandemic. It leaves them facing a troubling Catch 22 situation: they will be stressed and pressured if they do not find that top job, but when they do, they are often also stressed and pressured.

It is a recurring topic on social media. Five years ago, a song by the Rainbow Chamber Singers (彩虹室内合唱团) titled “The Sofa Is So Far” immediately became a hit in China. Many young Chinese recognized themselves in the hardworking and tired people described in the lyrics, which started with: “My body feels empty / I am dog-tired / I don’t want work overtime.”

How to get away from the involution rat race is also a much-discussed topic on Weibo, where the hashtag page “How can young people resist involution” (#年轻人如何反内卷#) has received over 280 million views.

Some suggest the answer to ending the vicious cycle is to find a way to get rich fast, others suggest that not getting married and staying child-free is also a way to alleviate the pressure to participate in this zero-sum game.

Tech blogger Sensai (@森赛), who has over 2 million followers on Weibo, advises young people to find their true interest and to invest in it before the age of 30. Doing something that sparks joy, such as learning a new language or working on art, might start as a hobby but could turn into a valuable side business later, Sensai says.

For some, however, that goal seems unattainable. “I am already working 15 hours a day, how could I ever do that?!”

“This is just bringing us into a whole other level of involution,” others write.

In order to watch A Love for Dilemma (小舍得), the show that started so many of these discussions this month, you can go over to iQiyi or YouTube.

By Manya Koetse

References

Geertz, Clifford. 1963. Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Zhou Minxi. 2020. “‘Involution’: The anxieties of our time summed up in one word.” CGTN, Dec 4 https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-12-04/-Involution-The-anxieties-of-our-time-summed-up-in-one-word-VWNlDOVdjW/index.html [20.4.2021].

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Movie “Sister” Stirs Discussions on Traditional Family Values in China

The movie ‘Sister’ has sparked online discussions on whether or not personal values should be prioritized over traditional family values.

Manya Koetse

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Mainlaind Chinese drama My Sister (我的姐姐, also known as ‘Sister‘) was just released in theatres and is sparking online discussions on family relations and the role of women in China.

After the hit movie Hi, Mom (你好,李焕英) received praise earlier this year for focusing on the role of mothers within Chinese families, this film zooms in on the role of older sisters.

My Sister, directed by Yin Ruoxin (殷若昕), revolves around the story of An Ran, an 18-year-old daughter who is unexpectedly facing the major responsibility for her 6-year-old brother after the tragic loss of their parents. While trying to find her own path in life, she suddenly has to step into the role of caregiver for her younger sibling. But does she want to take on this role?

Actress Zhang Zifeng (张子枫) is playing the main lead in this movie, which touches upon the issue of dealing with traditional family values and personal dreams and ambitions. Sister reveals the difficulties women face within the traditional Chinese-style family structure and the sacrifices they make for their parents, their children, siblings, and their husbands; and how the roles and tasks that are expected of them also clash with their own ideas about happiness and fulfillment.

For An Ran, the relationship with her little brother is troublesome. As a young girl, she had to pretend to be disabled in order to allow her parents to have a second child, preferably a son (under the One Child Policy, families with children with disabilities were allowed to have more children). Now, as a young adult, she once again has to sacrifice her own individual freedom in order to let her brother thrive.

The renowned Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) dedicated a lengthy post to the movie on her Weibo account, where she called the film “fascinating” and “thought-provoking.”

Li suggests that multiple social issues play a role in this film. First, there is the conflict between individual-oriented values and traditional family-oriented ethics. While traditional Chinese ideas about family require An Ran to put her brother first and move personal self-fulfillment to the backseat, An Ran is a young woman who grew up in a rapidly modernizing China where women are more empowered and independent. Why should she sacrifice her personal education and career in order to devote herself to raising her brother?

Another social topic that plays a major role in this film is the deep-seated cultural preference for sons over daughters. An Ran literally had to make herself weaker in order for her brother to be brought into this world – and in doing so limiting the possibilities for her future career, – with these patriarchal practices prioritizing the thriving of sons over the happiness of daughters. An Ran’s anger and resistance show that traditional ideas about male superiority clash with modern-day Chinese society, where profound changes within gender relations are already taking place.

“Sisters do not dislike their little brothers,” one Weibo commenter wrote: “What they dislike is the hidden meaning behind their brother.”

Another female blogger responded: “Within my family, from my grandpa’s generation up to myself, it is actually the women who discriminate against women. I think these are deeply rooted ideas that can’t be changed. Look at my second elder aunt; she had seven children, all girls, and only four were left. The others were given away. However, my grandfather has always been good to me, and has never made me feel any less than the boys. Yet my grandma and my mother sometimes make me doubt about my life.”

Under the hashtag “How to Evaluate the Movie My Sister” (#如何评价电影我的姐姐#), which attracted 150 million views on Weibo, many ask the question of what they would do if they were An Ran. Would you take care of your little brother? Or would you leave his care up to other family members and choose your own path in life?

“If it were me, I’d raise my brother. Although it’s actually the parents’ problem, the little brother is innocent.”

“If it were me, I wouldn’t raise him,” another commenter writes: “Although the little brother is innocent, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice my life for him. And it might be a better choice to leave him with other family members than with me.”

These discussions also triggered the hashtag “Should Personal Values Be More Important Than Family Values?” (#个人价值必须高于家庭价值吗#). One top commenter raised the issue of ‘what if this was about a little sister instead of about a little brother,’ again provoking the idea that existing gender roles and the preference over sons play a major part in these discussions.

“These traditions no longer suit this era of a developing society. Let me ask you this question: would the little brother also take care of his sister once she grows old?”

“Personal values should always have priority. If you are not happy yourself, how could you ever take care of your family?”

“I have the perception that the family-oriented concept is deep-rooted. Although there consistently are new values and personal-oriented viewpoints, when it comes to real problems, most people will still be family-oriented.”

One commenter wrote: “What are ‘values’? What is the family in modern-day society? What does it mean to prioritize something? If we don’t first clarify this, the discussion becomes meaningless.”

Meanwhile, all the online discussions on Sister have boosted the film. By now, the movie has already become a box office hit and defeated the American Godzilla vs. Kong.

By Manya Koetse

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