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Follow-Up to China’s Ugly Math Textbook Controversy: 27 People Punished

No ugly illustration goes unpunished. Research results are in after the “tragically ugly” schoolbook gate sparked an official investigation.

Manya Koetse

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China’s Ministry of Education has wrapped up a 3-month long investigation into the textbook illustration controversy that dominated Chinese social media in May of this year. One of their conclusions? The illustrations are ugly. There are serious consequences for those responsible.

The ugly illustrations in a children’s math textbook were among the biggest topics on Chinese social media earlier this year.

Although the elementary math schoolbooks were published nearly a decade ago, the schoolbook series (covering grade 1-6) went trending after some parents complained about the illustrations on social media. People mainly took issue with the teaching material because they thought the illustrations were ugly, unrefined, and overall weird (read our previous article here).

Illustration from the controversial math textbook.

Besides the quality of the design, many people also found that some illustrations were inappropriate. There was a girl sticking out her tongue; recurring depictions of the American flag colors; an incorrect depiction of the Chinese flag; a bulge showing in the pants of the depicted boys; a girl in a bunny outfit, a child with something that appeared to be a tattoo, and more.

Now, three months later, China’s Ministry of Education has wrapped up its investigation into the matter and published its final findings. According to the Ministry’s research team, the textbook illustrations are found to be problematic for the following three reasons.

First, they’re ugly. They do not exactly match the aesthetic taste of the general public and do not represent the positive image that is appropriate for China’s youth.

Second, they’re not right. Some of the illustrations contain errors and are just not up to standard.

Third, they’re ambiguous. Because the illustrations were not meticulously done and some poor choices were made, some elements of the illustrations are easy to misinterpret.

The math textbook series was approved in 2012 and published in 2013 by the renowned People’s Education Press (PEP) and designed by Beijing Wu Yong Design Studio. Designer Wu Yong (吴勇) allegedly graduated from the prestigious Academy of Arts of Tsinghua University and he also came under fire on social media earlier this year.

According to the Ministry’s research, it was found that the PEP failed to thoroughly understand, implement, deploy and review textbook standards set by the central government. They also did not timely rectify the existing problems nor paid enough attention to readers’ opinions. The Teaching Material Bureau under the Ministry of Education also was found to have provided “insufficient guidance and supervision.”

In accordance with regulations, the relevant units and 27 members of staff were held accountable for their poor performance. Among them were the Party Committee Secretary of the PEP, President Huang Qiang (黄强), who received a “serious warning” from within the Party. The Chief Editor Guo Ge (郭戈) was removed from office, along with some others, including the person in charge of the editorial office for elementary school mathematics textbooks.

Illustrator Wu Yong, along with two others designers, will also need to find another job as they will never be allowed to work on national school textbooks or other related projects again.

A hashtag about the research’s findings went trending on Weibo on Monday (#教育部通报教材插图问题调查结果#) and received over 280 million clicks. A hashtag about Wu Yong no longer being employed by the PEP (#不再聘请吴勇从事教材设计工作#) more than 350 million views.

Although many people are glad to read a follow-up to this story, there is also some criticism. Some people mention how the investigation is basically a departmental self-investigation since the People’s Education Press (PEP) is a publishing house under the direct leadership of the Ministry of Education. They say that some of the punishments are too light because people are just being disciplined through departmental guidelines and regulations.

Along with the conclusion of the investigation into ugly schoolbooks gate, the new schoolbook illustrations were also published on Monday.

Although most social media users said the new drawing were “much better,” there were still some complaints. “They’re basic, but at least they’re normal,” some commenters wrote.

“They changed it, and it’s good enough,” some Weibo users wrote: “At least these illustrations don’t make me uncomfortable.”

By Manya Koetse

 

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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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Terminator

    August 23, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    Nice article. Most other publications are just too transparent – politically. Good to know that real journalism still exists in PRC.

  2. Avatar

    Sm

    August 24, 2022 at 8:45 am

    Great work China, and now back to the important work of making sure to protect your people from seeing any films with ghosts in them.

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China Brands & Marketing

Chinese Actor and State Security Ambassador Li Yifeng Detained for Soliciting Prostitutes

Li Yifeng is not exactly living up to his role as spokesperson for the Ministry of State Security.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese actor and singer Li Yifeng (李易峰) went top trending on Chinese social media today. The actor, who previously starred as brand ambassador for the Ministry of State Security and played Mao Zedong in The Pioneer, has been detained for visiting prostitutes.

On January 10 of 2021, China celebrated its very first National Police Day to give full recognition to the police and national security staff for their efforts. For this special day, the Ministry of State Security launched a promo video starring Chinese actor Li Yifeng as the National Police Ambassador (#李易峰国安形象传片#). But today, it turned out that Li might not have been the best man for the job.

Chinese official media reported on September 11 that the 35-year-old actor has been detained for soliciting prostitutes. The hashtag “Li Yifeng Detained for Visiting Prostitutes” (#李易峰多次嫖娼被行政拘留#) received nearly two billion views on Weibo on Sunday; the hashtag “Beijing Police Informs that Li Yifeng Solicited Prostitutes” (#北京警方通报李易峰多次嫖娼#) received a staggering three billion views.

Shortly after the news was announced, various brands for which Li served as a brand ambassador announced that they were no longer working with the actor. Lukfook Jewellery, Mengniu Dairy, Honma Golf, Panerai, Prada, Sensodyne, King To Nin Jiom, and other brands declared that they had terminated their contract with Li (#多个品牌终止与李易峰合作#).

Li rose to fame in 2007 when he participated in the Chinese My Hero talent show. He later debuted as a singer and became a successful actor, starring in various Chinese TV dramas and films. Li became especially popular after starring in Swords of Legends and won an award for his role in the 2015 Chinese crime film Mr. Six (老炮儿). He would go on to win many more awards. One of his biggest roles was starring as Mao Zedong in the 2021 blockbuster The Pioneer (革命者).

According to Global Times, Li was previously announced as one of the celebrities attending the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on CCTV on Saturday night, but his name was later deleted from the program.

“I had never expected my idol to collapse like this,” some disappointed fans wrote on Weibo.

In a ‘super topic’ community dedicated to the star, some fans would not give up on their idol yet: “Where is the proof? Besides the Beijing police statement, where is the actual proof?”

On Li Yifeng’s Weibo page, where the actor has over 60 million fans, nothing has been posted since September 5.

The Huading Awards, a famous entertainment award in China, announced that they cancelled Li Yifeng’s title of “Best Actor in China” (#华鼎奖取消李易峰中国最佳男主角等称号#).

“He lost all he had overnight,” some commenters wrote. “Celebrities generally get cancelled for two things: one is evading taxes, the other is sleeping around,” one popular comment said: “So in a nutshell, pay your taxes and don’t sleep around.*”

“Why do you even need to see a prostitute when you’re so good-looking?” others wondered.

One Weibo user (@大漠叔叔) wrote: “Have a good head on your shoulders and just remember one thing. It does not matter how good your reputation is, or how many titles you have, how much the audience loves you, how much the fans embrace you, how many awards you get, it won’t protect you. Stay clear-headed, merit does not outweigh faults! You can’t cross the moral bottomline nor cross the boundaries of the law. You can be canceled just like that.”

By Manya Koetse 

* This comment is loosely translated here, but the Chinese is quite funny because the words ‘taxes’ and ‘sleeping’ sound similar. “明星塌房的两个主要原因:一个睡,一个税。 简而言之:该税的税,不该睡的别睡.”

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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