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Hu Angang: Digital is Key in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) is underway. Renowned Chinese economics professor Hu Angang (胡鞍钢) talks about its main focuses, Chinese women consumers, and why digital is key for China’s future.

Manya Koetse

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China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) is underway. Renowned Chinese economics professor Hu Angang (胡鞍钢) talks about its main focuses, Chinese women consumers, and why digital is key for China’s future.

The 13th five-year plan is China’s latest policy blueprint for the 2016-2020 period. The influential state theorist and Dean of the School of Contemporary China at Tsinghua University (国情研究院) Professor Hu Angang (胡鞍钢) talks about the future plans of China as laid out in this blueprint during a special lecture in the National Library of China as part of the Visiting Programme for Young Sinologists (青年汉学家研修计划) [attended by author]. Digital innovation and developments play a major role in China’s future, according to Professor Hu. A special note: especially women play an important role in China’s (digital) growth.

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China launched its first five-year plan (中国五年计划) in the 1953-57 period, aimed at rapid industrial growth. Its current 13th five-year plan is still fixed on growth, but with different characteristics. According to Professor Hu Angang, there are five different concepts within this period’s five-year plan, on which he also expanded in his recent 2016 work China’s New Theory: 5 Great Developments (中国新理念–五大发展).

The ‘big five’ include ‘innovation’, ‘harmonization’, ‘green’, ‘openness’, and ‘sharing’, Hu says – promoting more interaction between the government and the people, and between theory and concept.

 

DIFFERENT REVOLUTIONS

“In China, 1% of the population is equivalent to a middle-sized country – not even 1% can be left behind.”

 

According to Hu, the ‘big five’ development concepts are all about innovation-driven development – focused on people. The idea that ‘people are at the heart of the 13th five-year plan’ is something Hu also emphasized in earlier lectures this year.

China’s bold promise to end the country’s poverty by 2020 is one important part of the plan’s ‘people mission’ (“by the people, for the people, of the people” – as Hu puts it). The plan might be ambitious, but Hu is positive it will succeed: “China will lift all people out of poverty by 2020; 20 years ahead of the UN schedule.”

“How can we show that people are at the heart of the five-year plan?”, Professor Hu asks: “In western countries, they often talk about the majority ‘middle class’. But in China, just 1% of the population is equivalent to a middle-sized country. So our policies should cover and include all people – not even 1% can be left behind.”

Narrowing the rural-urban gap is part of the five-year plan mission, and as poverty-stricken rural areas often suffer from poor transportation, Hu states that improving the infrastructure of China’s more remote regions is a top priority. China already has the world’s longest HSR network with over 19,000 km, but this will have grown into a 50,000 km long HSR network by 2020.

Hu also mentions that high-speed metro rail systems will start operating between megacities, like the high-speed line that was opened in Shenzhen in late 2015. More subways, small-scale airports and long-distance large-capacity trams (as built in Jerusalem) are also part of the plan: “It will be a revolution of the transport system,” Hu says.

It is not the only revolution taking place in China in the coming few years according to Hu Angang – China’s digital revolution is in full force, and will go on for the years to come. Hu emphasizes that digital innovation development will also make an important contribution to ending poverty in China.

 

SMALL INVESTMENT, HIGH RETURNS

 “In the digital age, the strongest countries are those that can master the digital space and manage digital users.”

 

Hu Angang tells that a recent visit to the mountainous southwestern province of Guizou, known for its rural villages, made him realize how tangible China’s rapid digital developments have become: “Residents used to live together with their pigs. Now they have local restaurants with fast wifi services. Those restaurant owners are very willing to provide these wifi services because it will attract more customers to come. For them, it is a small investment with a high return.”

That digital development has become increasingly important for China’s countryside is also visible through the rise of China’s so-called “Taobao villages” phenomenon – referring to rural villages that profit from local e-commerce businesses.

Because rural areas are now catching up with China’s digital developments, the ‘digital divide’ has become smaller. In 2015, China’s 688 million internet users formed the world’s largest online population. The 859 million mobile phone user group of 2010 has now increased to a staggering 1.3 billion, leading to a high digital penetration rate in the PRC.

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These numbers are highly relevant according to Hu: “In the digital age, the strongest countries are those that can master digital space and manage digital users. As the country with the world’s most mobile phone and Internet users, China is now situated at the very center of the international digital era.”

China File recently reported that the state has already introduced a number of policies that specifically favor the development of rural e-markets, that is worth 460 billion RMB (±$70 billion US$) according to analysts – who predict that the next five years will be a “golden era” for rural e-commerce (China File 2016).

 

PUSHING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

 “Innovation is the key word.”

 

In the next five years, Beijing wants to push China’s digital developments to the next level, further closing the urban-rural digital divide, boosting Chinese economy, and improving society efficiency. The promotion of China’s so-called ‘e-government’ is also part of this idea; making it possible for citizens to do much more online.

Last year, Alibaba’s Alipay and Sina Weibo launched a new ‘online city services platform’, where paying traffic fines, handling immigration issues or scheduling marriage registration no longer requires hourlong queuing at the Public Service Hall; instead, netizens can arrange it all from behind their mobile phones or computer screens: “E-government is already changing our lives,” Hu says –  and according to him, we can expect China’s ‘e-government’ system to further develop in the coming five years – also suggesting that the ties between companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, Sina Weibo, and the government will deepen.

Professor Hu stresses that ‘innovation’ is the key word of the 13th five-year plan, which means that government spending on research and development will increase (“making China the second largest spender on R&D after the US”), and that the role of technology will also be strengthened through education.

 

THE FEMALE CONSUMER & ENTERPRENEUR

“Alibaba’s active buyers are totaled at 430 million – most of them being female consumers.”

 

Education is crucial to China’s further digital developments and (digital) economy in multiple ways, Hu explains, especially stressing the importance of promoting job opportunities, education and entrepreneurship for women.

Hu ties this subject to China’s flourishing e-commerce, mentioning the success of Alibaba, where active buyers are totaled at 430 million – most of them being female consumers. And in terms of sellers, it is also the women who have a major share: “So you can see if women are well-educated and actively employed, we can see the growth of an active new economic sector,” Hu says, connecting China’s female education and entrepreneurship to its booming e-commerce economy.

Emblematic of China’s e-commerce success is so-called “Single’s Day”, November 11, that has been marketed as a shopping spree day by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Last November, Alibaba reported that its single’s day sales had skyrocketed to $14.3 billion.

Professor Hu mentions that creating more education and job opportunities for women is also relevant after they have given childbirth, stressing the importance of continuing education possibilities at different stages in life.

 

WORK IT OUT

“Each student should at least do one hour of exercise every day.”

 

The idea of investing in people at different stages throughout their life is a red line throughout Hu’s lecture, dividing it into the dimension of age and the dimension of capability: not only should people continue education at various levels throughout life, maintaining a lifestyle that contains health insurance and regular exercise is also key.

In the promotion of health-building programs, Hu refers to the focus on improving rural health proposed by Mao Zedong in the 1980s. The promotion of exercise is a low-cost measure to improve the overall health of citizens: “Just take a look at Beijing parks in the evenings and you will see that citizens are walking and exercising – this is an important idea for us. Each student should at least do one hour of exercise every day,” Hu says. China’s life expectancy currently is set at 75 years, an 1.5 year increase from previous years. In the new plan, it is expected to increase to 77.

Libraries organise special classes for senior citizens, like this example from the National Library of Beijing that teaches elderly how to work with Excel, amongst other topics.

Libraries organize special classes for senior citizens, like this example from the National Library of China (Beijing) that teaches elderly how to work with Excel, amongst other topics.

In light of people’s continued learning, Hu mentions that more Chinese universities now provide post-college education for elderly people. In the weekends, many libraries and public cultural institutions provide courses aimed at senior citizens – the idea that learning does not stop after college is valued in China’s five-year plans.

 

TOO AMBITIOUS?

“In the past China used to be the country that copied products from other countries. In the future, China will be the inventor.”

 

Overall, Hu calls the 13th five-year plan a “blueprint of modernization”. By highlighting China’s technological and digital innovations, it does not just aim to benefit China’s economy and society – it also hopes to make China a nation of original inventions. Hu is confident: “In the past China used to be the country that copied products from other countries. In the future, China will be the inventor.”

According to the SIPO, China received 928,000 invention patent applications in the year 2014, accounting for 34% of the total global applications. Increasing public awareness about Intellectual Property was a focus issue in China’s previous five-year plan, and will remain to be one in this one. Earlier in 2016, the 16th nationwide publicity campaign of a “China Intellectual Property Week” helped draw public attention to IP.

With the revolution of China’s transport system and digital environment, and an increasing focus on green development, Hu foresees a reshaping of China’s economic landscape, which will also impact that of the world: “Is it too ambitious? No, it is not,” Hu states: “In the long run, China wants to contribute to bettering the world. It may not have contributed much over the past century – but it will in the next.”

– 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.

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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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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“I Decided Not To Learn English Anymore” Video Goes Viral on Chinese Social Media

“The ‘not learning English anymore’ part actually means she is no longer pursuing the cultural identity behind the language.”

Manya Koetse

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A video in which a Chinese Harvard student shares how she wants to “stop trying to learn English” has gone viral on Chinese social media. While some blame the student for flaunting her privilege, others said the video actually inspires them to study more English.

“Today is September 1st, 2022. The 20th anniversary of me learning English. And I finally decided not to learn it anymore.” This is the beginning of a 7-minute video posted on social media by the Chinese vlogger ‘Tatala’ (@他塔拉).

The video, which Tatala says was submitted as an assignment for a Harvard course on Language & Equality, received over 122,000 likes and the hashtag “When You Decide Not to Learn English Anymore” (#当你决定以后不学英语#) garnered over 110 million views on Weibo over the past few days.

Although the 24-year-old vlogger is critical of how she is perceived as a Chinese non-native English speaker – claiming she will ‘stop trying’ to learn the language, – she is receiving a lot of backlash from netizens who say she is unaware of her own privilege.

In the video, Tatala says she has always been a good student of English, but that she has never been satisfied throughout her language-learning journey. In the video, she gives multiple examples of how her confidence was affected during the process of studying English.

 

“I have my name, in my language, that you didn’t even try to enunciate.”

 

In primary school, Tatala says, her American teacher randomly gave her the name ‘Wency’, which she found hard to pronounce due to the northern Chinese dialect she grew up speaking. She ended up pronouncing ‘Wency’ as ‘Vency’, after which her teacher corrected her again and again: “You are not Vency. You are Wency!” Tatala says: “But he never realized that I was not even Wency. I have my name, in my language, that you didn’t even try to enunciate.”

In middle school, Tatala continued to get high grades in English and she traveled to Britain where she was invited for brunch by a friend, who asked if she preferred ham or turkey. When Tatala asked her friend “what’s the difference?”, she was laughed at by her friend and their mum, who then proceeded to explain the difference between a pig saying ‘oink oink’ and a turkey saying ‘clunk clunk.’ Tatala explains: “I just didn’t know the vocabulary. It’s not that I’m too stupid to recognize animals.”

Although Tatala says her confidence in speaking English peaked during high school, it vanished once she became an international student in Australia, where she had great difficulties understanding what local people were talking about. When she struggled to comprehend English-language works by authors such as Bourdieu or Butler, she worked harder and got high grades, but she was still not satisfied and started dreading her studies.

Tatala then explains: “I realized something went wrong when I took a course called ‘Women in Chinese Literature’ where all the readings were translated from Chinese to English. I read the Chinese version – three chapters per hour – and my Australian classmates read the English version – one chapter a day. Some of them reported the course being too hard and some dropped out, because they did not understand the context behind the words. But that’s what I felt for every single class here.”

 

“Even if I am just not perfect at English, so what? This is my second language.”

 

Tatala’s ‘light bulb’ moment was when she realized that it was not necessarily her level of English that determined how difficult or easy her life was, but so many other factors relating to language: “Native speakers found their lives easier not because their English is better than mine, it is because they had the ‘good fortune’ to be raised in environments where their native language acquisition coincides with the dominant linguistic group,” Tatala says, explaining that she blamed everything on language alone while the barriers she faced also had to do with her own confidence level, communication skills, and the prejudices of others.

Tatala suggests that when someone feels attacked on how they use language, they might feel attacked as a person since their language is also a part of their identity. At the same time, people also judge others and draw conclusions about their background, personality, or intentions solely based on language knowledge, dialect, or how they use a single word.

Tatala’s conclusion is that her use of English is not a result of her not speaking “perfect English” but just a “plurality of [her] identity.” Although she mentions she got into Harvard, she says she is determined to “stop learning English” and to just use language as a “tool” instead.

She says: “Even if I am just not perfect at English, so what? This is my second language. This is the lingua franca I was pushed to learn. No matter how well or how bad I speak English, I will have my voice. Ethic minority, Chinese, Asian, I will have my serpent’s tongue, my woman’s voice, my international student’s voice, my influencer’s voice – I will overcome the tradition of silence.”

Tatala’s video triggered online discussions on Weibo on learning English, but perhaps in a different way than Tatala might have expected it to.

Since Tatala’s English level is so high, and she is an Ivy League student, many people do not relate to the struggles she encountered when speaking English at her level. On the contrary, many just hope to reach such a level of English that they would be able to face these kinds of struggles at all.

 

“Since you decided not to study English in the future, why don’t you drop out of Harvard and come back?”

 

“After watching this video, I decided I want to try my best to study English, improve my vocabulary and speaking skills, and I will try to get 8.5 in the IELTS, so that one day I can help foreigners by giving directions, eat turkey sandwiches in the UK, listen to the small talk of students in Australia, confidently do international work, and use my proficient English to reflect on culture and language hegemony. But I realize it is very unlikely for me to attain that goal in my lifetime.”

“I watched her video and gosh, what can I say, it’s like those experts suggesting it’s better to buy a house than to rent one,” another blogger says, suggesting Tatala is too privileged to see that many people do not have the luxury to stop studying English because of linguistic hegemony.

“Since you decided not to study English in the future, why don’t you drop out of Harvard and come back?” another Weibo user wrote.

There were also people defending Tatala, suggesting that her point was not to discourage others from studying English: “What she expresses in the video is to use English as ‘a tool’ and not to reject a person because you reject their language,” one commenter wrote, with one netizen adding: “The ‘not learning English anymore’ part actually means she is no longer pursuing the cultural identity behind the language.”

Another person posted: “Some of the people here either have problems understanding or they just have bad intentions. ‘Not learning English anymore’ was just an opening line, what the vlogger is conveying here is the prejudice and discrimination in linguistics, which is a common phenomenon in the context of American culture. Ofcourse, we can’t deny the ‘privilege’ of the vlogger, but this doesn’t change the fact that she has come up with though-provoking content.”

“She is saying you should have pride in your mother tongue, she is not really saying you should not learn English. She’s at Harvard – ofcourse that’s not what she’s gonna say.”

Other Weibo users said that they felt that Tatala should not have used a ‘clickbait’ title for a video that discusses cultural confidence. “It’s just awkward that this has even become a trending topic,” one person wrote.

“Not learning English or another foreign language is just unacceptable, especially for students who are still in school. But since our requirements are different, the levels we reach in speaking a foreign language will be different. Because of different cultures and upbringings, we will inescapably have communication barriers between us and native speakers. But we must try hard, because it is always good to have a greater understanding of other cultures and customs. Just don’t be too demanding.”

You can watch Tatala’s video here.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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