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“My Friend Only Gave Me 200 Yuan [30 US$]”: Chinese Wedding Money Gift Conundrum Sparks Debate

A woman asking for advice on a local forum about a friend who gave her less money for her wedding than she gave her friend has sparked huge debate on Chinese social media. The unequal gift giving issue has struck a sensitive chord with Chinese netizens.

Manya Koetse

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A woman asking for advice on a local forum about a friend who gave her less money for her wedding than she gave her friend has sparked huge debate on Chinese social media. The unequal gift giving issue has struck a sensitive chord with Chinese netizens.

“I gave 600 yuan [±90 US$] for my friend’s wedding, but my friend only gave me 200 yuan [±30 US$] when I got married.” It is an issue that triggered thousands of comments from Weibo netizens within a few hours after it was posted.

The text was originally posted on a Chongqing local forum, where a woman nicknamed ‘yoyo4444’ told how upset she was when she gave her friend 600 yuan [±90 US$] for her marriage, but only got 200 yuan [±30 US$] from her, and how she gave her 1000 yuan [148 US$] when her baby was born, but only received a fruit basket from that same friend when she had a baby herself.

“Am I thinking about this too much?” the woman asked: “Is it everyone’s own business how much they give?”

In China, it is tradition to give a ‘red envelope’ (红包 hóngbāo), a monetary gift, during big life events such as weddings or the baby’s One Month Party.

In weddings, the money is often used by the newlyweds (or their parents) to pay for the banquet bill.

“How do you feel about your friend giving you a lesser wedding gift than what you gave them?”

The issue was re-posted by various Chinese media accounts on Sina Weibo, with some posting a poll asking netizens: “How do you feel about your friend giving you a lesser wedding gift than what you gave them?”, with the following options:

A. This friend is not kind and honest.
B. Since it is a friend, it shouldn’t matter.
C. Perhaps it can be forgiven.
D. Hard to say.

At the time of writing, a staggering 64% of over 60.000 participants chose option A: if a friend would give them less money than they gave them, they would consider them not kind and not honest.

The issue received much attention on Chinese social media, where it struck a chord with many netizens who had experienced similar issues. “I just got married,” one netizen posted: “And I went through something similar. My friend got married 3 years earlier and I gave her 500 yuan [± 75 US$]. She only gave me 300 yuan [±45 US$] for mine.”

“It has nothing to do with how much money you earn.”

The majority of netizens feel that the exchange of monetary gifts between friends should be equal, no matter their individual financial capacity. “Proper behavior is based on reciprocity,” (“礼尚往来” lǐshàngwǎnglái) is what many netizens say.

Although there are some voices saying that people are not equal in how much they earn and that you cannot expect them to give you the same amount of money they give you, most commenters seem to agree that reciprocating a monetary gift of the same value or more is the right thing to do regardless of one’s financial situation: “If somebody gives you a certain amount, you give them the same amount back. It has nothing to do with how much money you earn. The gift you give is simply what the other person originally gave you.”

“Exchanging gifts is a sensitive issue – it involves expectations.”

On October 17, a journalist from Sina media contacted the original poster of the issue, named ‘Liu Han’ (pseudonym). She told the news site that she was 29 years old and that she was quite close to the friend, with whom she had shared a dorm room during college.

She also stated that the income of her friend was relatively high, and more or less the same as her own income. “I’ve given all of my former dorm mates who I am less close to 300 yuan [±45 US$] per person for their wedding. But she gave me 200 yuan [±30 US$] while I gave her 600 yuan [±90 US$]!”

When afterward her baby gift of 1000 yuan [148 US$] to her friend was returned with a fruit basket, she felt “disillusioned”, according to Sina.

Although Liu Han was planning to distance herself from her friend, she keeps on receiving phone calls and WeChat messages. “When it is about borrowing money, I have no problem with that, but exchanging gifts is a sensitive issue – it involves expectations.”

“The amount you give shows how much you value the relationship.”

According to Chinese sociologist Tan Gangqiang (谭刚强), there is more to ‘red envelope’ giving than just etiquette: “It also is a way of showing you care and wish someone well, and the amount you give shows how you value the relation.”

However, Tan also emphasizes: “You cannot determine the gift someone gives you in return (..), and its value depends on different things, and does not necessarily relate to how someone feels about your relationship. It is not a business transaction.”

“Aha, I see,” one netizen responds to the sociologist’s remarks: “It is clear that he is the ‘I-give-you-200-yuan’ type of person.”

“It’s easy,” another Weibo user remarks: “If you’re not in the financial position to give someone money as a return gift, then just do not spend the money they give you.”

– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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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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