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Following the Elections in the West – Chinese Reactions on Wilders and “The Rise of the Right”

Weibo users are closely following the new political trends in the West, with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Manya Koetse

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With Trump as the new US president, and popularity of right-wing politicians rising in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, Weibo users are now following the new political trends in the West with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders. While Chinese state media write about the dangers of the “rise of the right,” many Chinese netizens express their appreciation of Wilders.

On Weibo, the topic ‘following the elections in the West’ has recently become increasingly popular. “The American elections have ended, and Trump is now running the country via Twitter. The French and German elections are coming up next,” – an account named “Following The Elections in the West” (hashtag: #关注西方大选#) says.

Besides the elections in Germany and France, the Dutch elections are also a topic of discussion. Dutch politician Wilders, called Wéi’ěrdésī (维尔德斯 or 威尔德斯) in Chinese, has become a recurring subject in the Chinese media, that represent the results of the Dutch elections as the precursor for the other elections of Continental Europe.

Geert Wilders is the leader of the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), which is expected to win many votes in the upcoming elections in the Netherlands. With his plans to “de-Islamize” the Netherlands and his anti-EU and anti-establishment stance, Wilders is winning over voters who feel alienated from the ruling political class.

 

ALL EYES ON EUROPE

“This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe.”

 

“Why do we need to closely follow the Dutch elections?”, one Shanghai media source recently wrote on Weibo: “Because after the shock of the 2016 Trump election and Brexit, all eyes are now on Europe. And on the one hand we have Le Pen (勒庞), the leader of the right-wing National Front (FN), and on the other hand, we are now approaching the Dutch elections where we have the Dutch right-wing party of Wilders, who just might become the next prime minister.”

The heightened media attention for European politics with a current focus on the Netherlands and Wilders is noticeable in Chinese state media, with official media such as Global Times and Xinhua writing about it.

In late February, Chinese state tabloid Global Times featured a column about Wilders, which was also shared on Chinese social media platforms Weibo, Baidu forum, and on WeChat. It is titled: “This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe” (这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了).

“These days, the whole western world is focused on the Netherlands like never before,” the article starts: “Because within a month the big elections will take place and the potential big winner is an unusual political party that opposes practically everything that mainstream European thinking stands for.”

Photo (size adjusted) by David Sedlecký.

The article quotes Wilders in saying: “The Islam is not a religion – it is an ideology that has sprung from a backward culture. And this ideology might be scarier than Nazism, as the Koran is even more violent and more anti-semitic than Mein Kampf , and it needs to be shut out.”

 

STRONG ANTI-ISLAM STANCE

“If Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

 

The Global Times article argues that if Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections, “it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

One of the reasons mentioned why it would be “nightmarish” for Wilders to win, is because of the Freedom Party’s strong anti-Islam stance and its proposals to shut down mosques and stop serving halal food in the canteens of Dutch schools.

The Global Times explains this by writing: “They think that Islam is the greatest threat to Western civilization. [They think that] If you let Islam take root in Western countries, then Europe will be Islamized decades later, and Western civilization will be completely destroyed.”

The article continues: “Of course, their stance has greatly angered followers of Islam all across Europe, but when these religious people fight back, they actually precisely do what the Freedom Party expects. Like in 2009, when Geert Wilders came to England for an interview and over 40 Islamic people went to the streets carrying banners that said that ‘Islam will dominate the world.'”

Tweet above: the image as used in the Global Times when mentioning the protest by Muslims outside Geert Wilders press conference in central London in October 2009.[/caption]

The article argues that Wilders “represents himself” as a “victim of Islamic violence” – as he cannot leave his house without bodyguards by his side – but that his provocative way of speaking has also led to him facing legal actions within the Netherlands. He was found guilty of inciting discrimination when he asked a roomful of Freedom Party supporters if they wanted to have “more or fewer Moroccans” in the country.

 

RISE OF THE RIGHT

“The Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe: this is their year of patriotism.”

 

Besides his strong anti-Islam stance, another reason why the article says a win by Wilders would be disastrous to Europe, is because of his anti-EU position. This stance comes from the belief that the corrupt nature of the EU organizational structure and the incompetence of the ruling authorities in Brussels have led to the immigration crisis and the financial crisis in Europe.

The column points out that the Freedom Party has greatly gained in popularity in the Netherlands since its establishment in 2006. The Greek debt crisis, the refugee crisis, as well as last year’s Brexit and the election of Trump, have all contributed to its popularity.

The Global Times finally argues that the Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe, such as the National Front in France. “This is their year of patriotism,” they write.

Embedded tweet: Geert Wilders, left, Frauke Petry, Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini at a meeting in 2017.

“The current mainstream media are worried and anxious about the rise of the right-wing forces, but they can only pray that the Europeans won’t be as stupid as the Americans,” the column concludes, also adding: “We the Chinese people just want to say that whatever American, UK, or even French, German, Dutch, or Russian drama, etc., there is, let’s not make this a drama that includes China.”

 

THE WILDERS EFFECT

“It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends.”

 

Besides Global Times, Chinese media outlets Xinhua News and Sina recently also wrote about Wilders. China’s Sina News published an article on March 1st titled “Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?” (荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺), and Xinhua‘s article is titled “The Dutch elections are nearing, will populism win?” (荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗).

Sina News (March 1st): “Will Holland be the first domino stone falling on the European continent?”

Both articles suggest that parties such as the Freedom Party win support because of their anti-immigration and anti-EU tendencies, but that voters of Wilders do not necessarily want him to actually lead the country: “People may vote for Wilders as a protest vote,” they write.

They emphasize the role of the Netherlands on the European continent: “It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends,” Sina News says, looking back at political trends in the 1960s and 1990s.

Xinhua also brings up the so-called ‘Wilders Effect’ (威尔德斯效应). The ‘Wilders Effect’, also mentioned by Tom-Jan Meeus on Politico.eu, implies that the harsher Wilders is criticized (e.g. by the mainstream media or ruling politicians), the better his chances of winning are.

Even if Wilders comes out as the big winner in the upcoming elections, the chances of him forming a governing coalition are slim as few other parties are willing to govern alongside Wilders after the elections. However, it is precisely the rejection of Wilders that testifies to his accusations that “the political elites disregard the will of the people.”

Although Chinese state media emphasize the dangers of Wilders’ popularity and “the rise of the right,” Chinese responses on Weibo and other social media platforms reveal that many netizens seemingly support the far-right Dutch politician.

 

CHINESE NETIZENS RESPOND

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people.”

 

On Weibo, one Chinese blogger recently wrote about Wilders: “The populist Geert Wilders promises (..) to make the Netherlands ‘great again.’ His ‘Freedom Party’ (自由党) might win more seats than ever before. He is often called the “Dutch Trump”, as he is just as opposed to muslim immigration as the new American president. He also has no trust in the media and loves to send out tweets.”

The post continues: “This ‘Dutch Trump’ wants no more acceptance of immigrants or refugees from muslim countries, as Holland is becoming ‘Islamized’, [he wants to] prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public places (..), to let the Koran classify as a banned book, a closure of mosques and Islamic schools, the Netherlands should get out of the EU, criminals with a dual citizenship have to be deported, income taxes have to be reduced, people should receive pension at 65 (..).”

In response to this post and the state media articles, many netizens write that they agree with Wilders’ ideas about Islam and that it can be viewed as an ideology, saying: “Isn’t he right about this?”

One Weibo user (@乡梦天地) writes: “Is Islam still a ‘religion’? Perhaps it has deteriorated and has become an ideology that serves a religion. In a normal country, religion is often used as a way to serve the ruling class. But now, it seems that the ruling class is serving religion instead.”

Other Chinese commenters say that “the religion of Islam is an obstruction to the development of society.”

“I have been to Holland and the streets are very ‘green'”, one person says (‘green’ being slang to refer to ‘islam’). “Europe has reached a crucial moment of life or death, turning right is a final opportunity to save themselves,” one commenter (@传捷天下) writes.

Embedded: Wilders cartoon (same image republished in Global Times).

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people,” another person responds.

Several netizens say: “There is nothing wrong (没毛病) with what [Wilders] says, it is the truth.”

One person even says: “It would be a blessing for the Netherlands if he were to be elected.”

People responding to the post on Weibo say they look forward to him winning the elections: “I support Wilders becoming the prime minister of Holland!”, one Guangdong-based English tutor writes.

 

WHAT’S THE FUSS?

“Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

 

But there are also netizens who worry about the rise in popularity of politicians such as Wilders: “Hasn’t the rise of populism already entered a point of no return?”

Like the Global Times column, they also see the rise of right-wing parties as a global trend rather than a European one (“全球右转是个趋势”). Some of them write that “the rise of the right” is a “dangerous trend.”

One France-based Weibo user (@欧洲行-私人订制) writes: “Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

But precisely this anti-EU stance is what many other netizens also appreciate in Wilders. When Wilders announced that a Dutch ‘Nexit’ referendum would follow after the Brexit, some Weibo commenters said: “Getting out of the EU might be the only way to save yourself,” although others said that organizing a referendum over such a crucial issue is “much too risky.”

There are also many commenters who do not understand what the fuss is all about: “Holland is such a small country,” a Baidu user writes. One Weibo commenter (@TOAac) also says: “So what, Holland? What will happen in Germany and France is what really matters.”

According to the latest polls, Geert Wilders has now fallen behind the conservative VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the first time since November 2016. But until the results come out of the Dutch elections of March 15, nothing is sure.

“In the end, this all is a choice that has to be made by the Dutch voters,” one Baidu netizen concludes.

– By Manya Koetse


Chinese (state) media about Wilders:

Global Times (环球时报). 2017. “这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了 [This Dutch Man Crazier Than Trump Wants To Change Europe]” (In Chinese). Global Times, February 21 http://global.sina.cn/szzx/article/20170221/00bf33efd2851000.html [2.3.17].

Sina News (新浪). 2017. “荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺 [Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?]” (In Chinese). Sina News, March 1 http://finance.sina.com.cn/stock/usstock/c/2017-03-01/doc-ifyavwcv9263847.shtml [2.3.17].

Xinhua (新华). 2017. “荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗? [The Dutch Elections Are Nearing, Will Populism Win Power?]” (In Chinese). Xinhuanet.com, February 16 http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2017-02/16/c_129481542.htm [2.3.17].

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


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©2017 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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    cool

    March 2, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    no wonder many people Chinese came to support Wilders due to his anti-Islam stance because religion as whole is often taught hindrance to development in the Chinese state media and educational institutes. One most striking observance I noticed that no one among them thought about western role in middle east which brought extremist threats worldwide.

    • Avatar

      Joey

      March 5, 2017 at 8:42 am

      It’s more about Chinese netizens believing that a unicultural (or even uniracial) society as a prosperous one. They see multiculturalism as a sickness that has overtaken the West, and a component of its decline.

  2. Avatar

    Speakthetruth

    March 6, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Geert Wilders MUST win the election if Europe wishes to regain her sanity and her sovereignty she had lost from decades of neglect from past leaderships.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Looking Back on the 2024 CMG Spring Festival Gala: Highs, Lows, and Noteworthy Moments

Reflecting on the highs and lows of this year’s China Media Group Spring Festival Gala, the world’s most-watched television program.

Manya Koetse

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PREMIUM CONTENT

The biggest media spectacle of the Chinese New Year is the annual CMG Spring Festival Gala. The entire week, this four-hour extravaganza featuring forty-six performances has dominated social media conversations.

The 42nd edition of The CMG Spring Festival Gala was broadcasted on February 9th, celebrating the start of the Dragon Year. This year, the show reportedly attracted 679 million viewers.

The annual Spring Festival Gala by the state-run China Media Group (CMG) has become an integral part of the Lunar New Year celebrations for Chinese people since its debut in 1983. As the world’s most-watched live-broadcasted entertainment program, the Gala is now aired across dozens of channels, both in China and abroad, both on television and online.

China’s Spring Festival Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会) is commonly abbreviated to Chūnwǎn (春晚) in Chinese. Over the past week, the Chūnwǎn became a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media and dominated all trending lists during the Chinese New Year’s Eve.

The Gala, which lasts a total of four hours, shows the very best of China’s mainstream entertainment and Party propaganda and is a mix of culture, commerce, and politics. Through music, dance, art, and comedy, the event serves as a significant platform for the Party to disseminate official ideology. It is also a chance to present the nation’s top performers while showcasing digital innovations.

 

A “No-Covid”, Traditional Gala


 

The phrase “There will never be a worse, just worse than last year [中央春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂]” has become a well-known saying among viewers about the Chūnwǎn, as complaining about the show is very much part of the tradition. However, was this year really worse than last year? Not at all.

This 2024 edition was directed by Yu Lei (于蕾), who also directed the 2023 Gala. The 45-year-old female director previously also served as the general scriptwriter and overall designer for the Gala.

Not only was the director the same as last year, but the five main hosts were also exactly the same. They include Ren Luyu (任鲁豫, 1978), the TV host from Henan who has now become one of the most familiar faces on the show; Sa Beining, also known as Benny Sa (撒贝宁, 1976), who is famous for his CCTV work and for hosting the Gala regularly over the past twelve years; Nëghmet Raxman (尼格买提, 1983), a Chinese television host of Uyghur heritage who has hosted the Gala seven times since 2015; Long Yang (龙洋, 1989), a CCTV host from Hunan who presented the Gala for the third time this year; and Ma Fanshu 马凡舒 (1993), who was the youngest and newest host during the 2022 Gala and has been presenting it since.

The choice of director and presenters suggests that continuity and consistency were important for this year’s Chūnwǎn. Although the Gala’s format is always more or less the same, including songs, dances, cross-talk, sketches, traditional opera, martial arts, magic, etc., this year’s Gala stood out for sticking to tradition.

Over the past few years during the pandemic, several elements of the show were altered to adapt to the new situation. From 2021 to 2023, the show was only broadcast from the Beijing Studio and focused less on big spectacular scenes. Since 2020, the battle against Covid has also been a theme in the show. In 2020, the Gala included a segment that was broadcast live from a Wuhan hospital to show how medical staff were spending their Lunar New Year taking care of Covid patients. That was the first time since 1983 for the Gala to include a segment that was not meticulously rehearsed.

From 2021 to 2023, the nation’s battle against Covid was also a theme in songs and other segments, reflecting on the daily lives of ordinary people. In 2021, for example, Jackie Chan sang “Tomorrow Will Be Better” (明天会更好), which addressed the epidemic situation and honored all who joined in the fight against the virus.

However, the theme of Covid played no role at all anymore in this year’s Chūnwǎn, which focused entirely on celebrating the Year of the Dragon, the home, and the nation (龙行龘龘,欣欣家国). Similar to the pre-2020 Gala, this 42nd edition was broadcast not only from the Beijing venue but also included performances in four other locations: Shenyang, Changsha, Xi’an, and Kashgar. Continuity was also seen in the 46 acts of the night, as many familiar faces, such as Sun Nan (孙楠) and Han Hong (韩红), performed during the night.

 

Highlights of the 2024 Gala


 

The xiangsheng (相声) act “Director’s Worries” (“导演的心事”) was the most-watched act of the entire show according to the viewership ratings – this also relates to the time of the broadcasting. Xiangsheng is a traditional Chinese comedic performance that involves a dialogue between two performers, using rich language and many puns. This act was performed by comedians Jin Fei (金霏) and Chen Xi (陈曦). They were also joined by others, turning it into a “group xiangsheng” (群口相声) that humorously portrayed the mental strains faced by Chinese young people and served as a source for parodies and memes on social media.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The Song “Dragon” (龙), performed by famous pop singers Zhang Jie aka Jason Zhang (张杰) and Sun Nan (孙楠) was particularly popular this Gala. The song encompassed the main theme of the Dragon Year, as they sang about how a dragon lies in every Chinese person, representing the spirit and strength of the Chinese nation over the past five thousand years. This song integrated popular entertainment with the essence of the Chinese New Year, cultural heritage, and national pride, making it the perfect anthem for the Spring Festival Gala. One Weibo post by Zhang Jie about his performance received nearly 167,000 comments and over 176,000 shares.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The performance of “Koi Carp” (锦鲤) featuring lead dancer Hua Xiaoyi (华宵一) and the Beijing Dance Academy (北京舞蹈学院) was another standout moment of the Gala. The ‘painting’ dance “Only This Green” (只此青绿) stole the spotlight in 2022, while the ’embroidery’ dance “Splendid” (锦绣) was one of the highlights of the show in 2023. Continuing the tradition of presenting top-notch, artistic dance that merges tradition with technology, the Koi Carp dance had a similar charm, with dancers suspended on spring ropes performing an exquisite aerial dance that made them look like graceful fish underwater.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The creative act “Start Something New” (别开生面) directed by the renowned filmmaker Zhang Yimou (张艺谋) was a highlight in the show for its originality. The act, which combined cooking, dancing, and singing, presented various Lunar New Year customs and food cultures from different regions in China. Besides directing films, Zhang Yimou also has a lot of experience as a creative director of major shows, including the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, and the outdoor night show Impression Sanjie Liu.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The Xi’an special segment “Poem for the Landscape of Chang’an” (山河诗长安) performed by Zhang Ruoyun (张若昀), Tang Shiyi (唐诗逸), Zhu Tiexiong (朱铁雄) PACT (派克特), Yang Li (杨力) and conductor Sun Yifan (孙一凡), was among the most spectacular ones of the night. This was an ode to Xi’an and Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai. Filled with lion and dragon performances, opera, rap, dance, and specially arranged music by the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra, the segment included a virtual version of Li Bai joining the spectacle. On social media, netizens praised the performance and posted many gifs of the Chinese actor Zhang Ruoyun together with the virtual version of the classical poet Li Bai.

Watch on Youtube here

 

The ‘Lows’ of the 2024 Gala


 

The various xiaopin (小品, skits) were not very well-received. Over the past few years, the Gala’s dance and song performances have actually become among the most beloved acts – far more popular than the xiaopin, which did not get much positive feedback this year at all. Some people said they just “didn’t get” the humor or that the sketches were just not entertaining enough.

 
The song “Unforgettable Night” (难忘今宵) was the least viewed part of the show according to viewership ratings, and it marked a departure from tradition in a significant way. Since the 1980s, the final song of the Spring Festival Gala has always been “Unforgettable Night,” sung by Li Guyi (李谷一). Li Guyi rose to fame with the song “Homeland Love” (乡恋) during China’s Reform and Opening Up era, and her songs evoke nostalgia for many viewers. She made her first appearance at the Gala in 1983 and became the most frequent performer at the event. Due to her recovery from Covid in the hospital, she was unable to perform at last year’s Chūnwǎn, and her absence from this year’s show was not only a significant disappointment for many but was also seen as the end of an era. Additionally, many people commented that they did not appreciate the new interpretation of the traditional song.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The PLA song “Decisive Victory” (决胜) drew attention from Taiwanese media outlets, highlighting it as a controversial moment of the Gala. The performance of this military song, delivered by artists from the PLA Cultural and Artistic Center, featured soldiers clad in combat gear marching and dancing on stage, while the backdrop displayed images of rockets, tanks, and other war-like scenes. Taiwanese media framed the song within the context of mainland China’s military threats against Taiwan. Some Weibo commentators also interpreted the performance in this light, particularly noting the sequence where singers from Taiwan and mainland China first sang the song “Etiquette” (礼序) together just before the People’s Liberation Army performed the military song. This was seen as a statement of “diplomacy comes before violence” (“先礼后兵”).

Watch on Youtube here

 

The Noteworthy


 

The magic show “Guarding the New Year Together” (守岁共此时) performed by Liu Qian (刘谦) created quite a buzz. During a card trick involving the audience and Gala host Nëghmet Raxman, it seemed like Raxman’s cards didn’t match as intended. Although everyone was supposed to have matching cards, Raxman’s expression revealed that his two cards did not match. This led to much banter online, and Nëghmet Raxman – and his nervous expression – became a trending topic.

Watch on Youtube here

 
The song “Climbing Spring Mountain” (上春山) performed by Wei Chen (魏晨), Wei Daxun (魏大勋), and Bai Jingting (白敬亭) became one of the most discussed acts in the week following the Gala after a rehearsal video was posted online and netizens noticed inconsistencies in the singers’ attire and positions on stage. It was rumored that Bai Jingting may have intentionally vied for a more prominent position to attract more attention on stage, resulting in choreographic asymmetry and some apparent confusion during the song. One important reason why the main rehearsal video triggered controversy is because a tape of the official rehearsal always runs concurrently with the live broadcast, allowing producers to seamlessly switch to the taped version in the event of a problem or disruption without TV audiences noticing. But because Bai changed his outfit, wearing black while the others wore white, and because he did not give up his main spot during the performance, it might have been impossible for producers to switch to a rehearsed version of the song (even though the lip-syncing during the performance was completely out of sync).

Watch on Youtube here

 
● The song “A Friend Like You” (像你这样的朋友) attracted a lot of attention on Weibo and beyond this week as it was performed by the so-called “0713 Super Boys,” including Wang Zhengliang (王铮亮), Chen Chusheng (陈楚生), Allen Su (苏醒), Zhang Yuan (张远), Lu Hu (陆虎), and Wang Yuexin (王栎鑫). In 2022, these once nearly ‘forgotten’ singers made a remarkable comeback through the reality TV hits Welcome to the Mushroom House (欢迎来到蘑菇屋) and Go for Happiness (快乐再出发). They initially gained fame in 2007 after participating in the singing contest Super Boy but gradually faded into obscurity in the years following their initial success. Their gala performance marks their ultimate comeback.

Watch on Youtube here

 
“Belle” (美人) from the French musical Notre Dame de Paris was performed at the Gala in French by various French and Chinese performers, including Angelo Del Vecchio and Liao Changyong. “Who would have ever expected for Notre Dame de Paris to be performed at the Chūnwǎn in French?” one commenter wrote. The Gala provided some subtitles during the song to convey the general idea of the song. Although the Gala usually incorporates an international element, this was the first time for a song to be fully sung in French. The song was presented in the context of China and France celebrating their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

Watch on Youtube here

 
● Dilraba Dilmurat (丽热巴) in “Dances of Xinjiang” (舞乐新疆) was praised by commenters as the most beautiful performer of the night. The Chinese actress of Uyghur ethnicity showcased her dancing skills during the Kashgar segment of the evening. Not only was her performance notable for its beauty and grace, but it also garnered attention online due to a video recorded by an audience member showing Dilmurat slipping and falling on her bum during the show, after which she promptly got up and continued. After all, the show must go on!

Watch the full performance on Youtube here

Want to know more about the previous editions of the Spring Festival Gala? Also check out our articles below:

– 2023: Behind the Short Feature Film of the Spring Festival Gala
– 2023: Top 5: The Highlights of China’s 2023 CGM Spring Festival Gala
– 2023: Watching ‘Chunwan’: Liveblog CMG Spring Festival Gala
– 2022: Chunwan 2022: The CMG Spring Festival Gala Liveblog by What’s on Weibo
– 2021: Spring Festival Gala Draws Criticism for Gendered Jokes
– 2021: The Chunwan Liveblog: Watching the 2021 CMG Spring Festival Gala
– 2020: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020
– 2019: The CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2019 Live Blog
– 2018: About the CCTV Spring Festival Gala’s ‘Racist’ Africa Comedy Sketch
– 2018: CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 (Live Blog)
– 2017: The Best and the Worst of CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017
– 2017: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017 Live Blog
– 2016: CCTV’s New Year’s Gala 2016 Liveblog

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China History

A Chinese Christmas Message: It’s Not Santa Bringing Peace, but the People’s Liberation Army

On social media, Chinese official channels are not celebrating a Merry Christmas but instead focus on a Military Christmas.

Manya Koetse

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It is not Santa bringing you peace and joy, it is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese state media and other influential social media accounts have been pushing an alternative Christmas narrative this year, which makes it very clear that this ‘Merry Christmas’ is brought by China’s military forces, not by a Western legendary figure.

On December 24, Party newspaper People’s Daily published a video on Weibo featuring various young PLA soldiers, writing:

Thank you for your hard work! Thanks to their protection, we have a peaceful Christmas Eve. They come from all over the country, steadfastly guarding the front lines day and night. “With our youth, we defend our prosperous China!” Thank you, and salute!

People’s Daily post on Weibo, December 24 2023.

The main argument that is propagated, is that this time in China should not be about Christmas and Santa Claus, but about remembering the end of the Korean War and paying tribute to China’s soldiers.

This narrative is not just promoted on social media by Chinese official media channels, it is also propagated in various other ways.

One Weibo user shared a photo of a mall in Binzhou where big banners were hanging reminding people of the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War: “December 24 is not about Christmas Eve, but about the victory at Chosin Reservoir.”

Mall banners reminding Chinese that December 24 is about commemorating the end of the Second Phase Offensive (photo taken at 滨州吾悦广场/posted by 武汉潘唯杰).

Another blogger posted a video showing LED signs on taxis, allegedly in the Hinggan League in Inner Mongolia, with the words: “December 24 is NOT Christmas Eve, it is the military victory of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir” (“12.24不是平安夜,是长津湖战役胜利日”).

One social media video showed a teacher at a middle school in Chongqing also emphasizing to her students that “it’s not Father Christmas who brings us a happy and peaceful life, but our young soldiers!”

In the context of the Korean War (1950-1953), December 24 marks the conclusion of the Second Phase Offensive (1950), which was launched by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the United Nations Command forces–primarily U.S. and South Korean troops.

The Chinese divisions’ surprise attack countered the ‘Home-by-Christmas’ campaign. This name stemmed from the UN forces’ belief that they would soon prevail, end the conflict, and be home well in time to celebrate Christmas. Instead, they were forced into retreat and the Chinese reclaimed most of North Korea by December 24, 1950.

The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, also known as the the Battle at Lake Changjin, is part of this history. The battle began on November 27 of 1950, five months after the start of the Korean War. The 2021 movie Changjin Lake (长津湖/The Battle at Lake Changjin) provides a Chinese perspective on the lead-up and unfolding of this massive ground attack of the Chinese 9th Army Group, in which thousands of soldiers died.

Especially in recent years and in light of the launch of the blockbuster movie, there is an increased focus on the Chinese attack at Chosin as a glorious victory and strategic success for turning around the war situation in Korea and defending its own borders, underscoring the military strength of the People’s Republic of China as a new force to be reckoned with (read more here).

This Chinese Christmas narrative of honoring the PLA coincides with a series of popular social media posts from bloggers facing criticism for celebrating Christmas in China.

One of them is Liu Xiaoguang (刘晓光 @_恶魔奶爸_, 1.7 million followers), who wrote on December 25:

Some people are criticizing me for celebrating Christmas Eve, because, by celebrating a foreign festival, I would be unpatriotic and forgetful of our martyrs. What can I say, in our family Christmas must be a big deal, even if I don’t come home it must be celebrated, because my mom is a Christian, and she’s very devout (..) So you see, on one hand I should promote traditional Chinese virtues, and show filial piety, on the other hand I should be patriotic and not celebrate foreign festivals.”

Meanwhile, other popular bloggers stress the importance of remembering China’s military heroes during this time. Influential media blogger Zhang Xiaolei (@晓磊) posted: “It’s not Santa Claus who gives you peace, it’s the Chinese soldiers! #ChristmasEve” (“给你平安的不是圣诞老人,而是中国军人!🙏#平安夜#”). With his post, he added various pictures showing Chinese soldiers frozen in the snow as also depicted in the Battle at Lake Changjin movie.

Throughout the years, Christmas has become more popular in China, but as a predominantly atheist country with a small proportion of Christians, the festival is more about the commercial side of the holiday season including shopping and promotions, decorations, entertainment, etc.

Nevertheless, Christmas in China is generally perceived as “a foreign” or “Western” festival, and there have been consistent concerns that the festivities associated with Christmas clash with traditional Chinese culture.

In the past, these concerns have led to actual bans on Christmas celebrations. For instance, in 2017, officials in Hengyang were instructed not to partake in Christmas festivities and several universities throughout China have previously cautioned students against engaging in Christmas-related activities.

Chinese political and social commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) also weighed in on the issue. In his December 24 social media column, the former Global Times editor-in-chief wrote that there is no problem with Christmas Eve and the Second Phase Offensive victory day both receiving attention on the same day. Even if the younger generations in China view Christmas more as a commercial event rather than a religious one, it’s understandable for businesses to capitalize on this period for additional revenue. He wrote:

In this era of globalization, holiday cultures inevitably influence each other. The Chinese government does not actively promote the rise of “Western holidays” for its own reasons, but they also have no intention to “suppress foreign holidays.” Some Chinese celebrate “Western holidays” and it is their right to do, they should not face criticism for it.”

Although many Chinese netizens post different viewpoints on this year’s Christmas debate, there are some who just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. “December 24 can be both Christmas Eve, and it can be Victory Day. It’s not like we need to pick one over the other. We are free to choose whatever.”

By Manya Koetse

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