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Jia Zhangke Responds To Criticism From Global Times Editor Hu Xijin (Full Translation)

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Jia Zhangke (l) versus Hu Xijin

When the editor-in-chief of state tabloid Global Times gave Jia Zhangke’s latest film a bad review on Weibo, the renowned director responded with a bad review of the bad review.

This week, an online quarrel between Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡锡进) and Chinese director Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯) drew much attention on Chinese social media.

The issue started when Hu Xijin criticized Jia Zhangke’s latest film Ash Is Purest White (江湖儿女) on Weibo on September 24, calling the film “depressing” and “full of negative energy,” and suggesting the film Dying to Survive is much better.

At SupChina, Jiayun Feng translated Hu’s comments. Besides condemning the film for its negativity, Hu also wrote:

Please don’t place stinky tofu under our noses and force us to get used to that particular smell. I am aware that some people love to watch horror movies and negative energy can also attract audiences in a way like how opium gets people hooked. But I still hope filmmakers in China can study movies created by Hollywood and Bollywood and produce some movies with normal views about what’s good and what’s evil.”

Adding:

I know I can’t blame others because I bought the [movie] ticket and no one forced me to watch it. But what I’m doing here is to caution my fans no to be deceived by the movie’s title. It uses a gloomy style of filming to tell a banal story of how nice people don’t get properly rewarded for good deeds. It’s neither pleasant nor sad enough to bring you to tears. It only makes you frustrated and upset.”

Hu’s criticism was soon after deleted, but the screenshots already circulated online.

Ash Is Purest White, that was released in mainland China on September 21st, is a big box-office success and is Jia Zhangke’s highest-grossing film yet. The film revolves around the tumultuous love story between gangster Bin (Fan Liao) and dancer Qiao (Tao Zhao).

Jia’s responded to the harsh criticism in a lengthy Weibo post, that has since been shared more than 68,000 times, receiving over 128,000 likes and 30,500 comments.

Here is a full translation of Jia’s Weibo post in response to Hu:

Editor Hu Xijin:

I’m glad you went to watch ‘Ash is Purest White’. And I’m sorry it made you feel “depressed” (堵心) during the Mid-autumn Festival. First, I wish you nothing but happiness. Regarding your opinions, I’ll respond to them one by one below, comments/suggestions are of course welcome.

1. I also was moved by the movie ‘Dying to Survive’ (我不是药神). But, as Lu Xun (鲁迅) [famous Chinese writer] once said: “People’s joy and sorrows are not connected” (人类的悲欢并不相通). I’m not sure you and I are similar in what makes us happy or sad. That also goes for our feelings on ‘Ash is Purest White’ – I’m quite confused about how we could be so far apart.

2. About the “negative energy” – I believe energy is built on the basis of telling the truth as much as possible. The truth is the most powerful form of positive energy. Not tolerating truth or facts will bring about negative energy. Seeing or hearing it all the time, but pretending you have not, gains no truth or facts. In the end, it’ll lead to even greater negative energy. You should always be seeking truth from facts, don’t you agree?

3. Speaking of horror films and their audiences; I’ve never directed any horror films myself, hence my experience in this area is limited. However, all audiences are equal, regardless of taste. As an atheist, you shouldn’t really have any opinion regarding ghosts anyway, as you don’t believe in them.

4. With regards to Hollywood and Bollywood; you’re a ‘complex China’ (复杂的中国) reporter, but it would be better for you to further investigate ‘complex foreign movies’! Your job is to report ‘complex China’, and I am interested in making films about ‘complex characters.’ You can’t really be picky about your definition of “complex”, now can you?

5. Regarding “normal views about what’s good and what’s evil” – what I don’t really understand is: who should be the judge of what is normal and what is not?

6. About “stinky tofu” – you can certainly use ‘fragrant’ or ‘stinky’ as metaphors to comment on a movie. However, I disagree with your slandering of “stinky tofu.” For many families in poverty, it is all they eat! I’ve had a lot myself, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

7. Regarding the fact that you “bought the ticket yourself,” great! I’m a big supporter of the 8 provisions [rules stipulated by Chinese government on frugality within Party/government]. We don’t give free tickets to chief editors of government media!

8. About “letting your fans know” – I think it’s great of you to always have your fans in mind. But your fans might not be exactly the same as you in thinking that a movie is good or bad, in considering stinky tofu edible or not. There are many different colors in this world, if something is not black doesn’t mean it’s white.

9. About the movie using a “gloomy style” – were your eyes built in Meituxiuxiu? [美图秀秀: Chinese photoshop app]. Things are beautiful because they are real. Accept diversity and this world will be more beautiful.

10. About “nice people not getting properly rewarded for their good deeds” – I also wish good things come to good people, but this world is full of strange circumstances, and no one can have full control over it. Things we can’t control are also normal, we should accept that. I didn’t know you believed in karma yourself.

11. About it being “a banal story”: I’ve always been curious about strange stories, but would always do my best to understand the lives of ordinary people and this both inspires me and moves me.

12. With regards to you feeling “depressed” (堵得慌) – my apologies for not making you feel all warm and fuzzy during the Mid-autumn festival. I couldn’t make you tear up, your feelings didn’t get an outlet, instead, you felt “blocked and trapped.” But ‘feeling trapped’ is actually a complicated sensation, a big emotional wave if you will. You’ve been numb for too long, ‘feeling trapped’ shows that you still have some emotions. Congratulations! The fact that you ‘feel trapped’ has raised my hopes for the complexities of China.

Happy Mid-autumn Festival! I wish you all the best.

Many netizens applauded Jia’s reaction to the Global Times editor. One of the most popular comments was a wordplay on the two men’s names, saying: “Director Jia is not fake [‘jia’ in Chinese] while Editor Hu is full of nonsense [‘hu’ in Chinese]. (“贾导不假,胡编真胡 Jiǎ dǎo bù jiǎ, hú biān zhēn hú“)

“Perhaps Hu can tell me all the movies he dislikes,” another commenter said: “Because I’d sure love to watch them.”

At time of writing, the hashtag “Jia Zhangke sents response to Hu Xijin” (#贾樟柯发长文回应胡锡进#) received over 12,5 million views.

Hu dedicated another post to the issue on his Weibo account on Wednesday, saying he had written the bad review in the heat of the moment after watching the film, and that he had deleted it after calming down, never expecting it already went viral.

The editor wrote that he “fully accepted” everything Jia had written, and that he had learned his lesson and will be “more careful” in the future in posting his criticisms on Weibo.

“You have your right to criticize, and Jia has the right to refute it,” a popular comment said.

Although many people support Jia’s response to Hu, there are also those who are critical of it: “He’s just creating a hype to sell more tickets at the box office.”

Ash Is Purest White (Director’s cut) will also be featured at the upcoming Busan Film Festival.

By Miranda Barnes and Manya Koetse

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and part-time translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she used to work and live in Beijing and is now based in London. On www.abearandapig.com she shares news of her travels around Europe and Asia with her husband.

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Chinese TV Dramas

No ‘Novoland’: This Really Is a Tough Year for Chinese Costume Dramas

After the sudden cancellation of the much-anticipated ‘Novoland’ premiere, Chinese fantasy costume dramas are facing grim prospects.

Manya Koetse

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With 1,4 billion views on its Weibo page, the Chinese fantasy drama Novoland: Eagle Flag was one of the most-anticipated series of the year. This week, the show was suddenly canceled twenty minutes ahead of its premiere. The incident is indicative of recent tensions within China’s TV drama industry, where some costume dramas have apparently failed to win the support of official regulators.

Just a week ago, What’s on Weibo reported about the Chinese fantasy drama Novoland: Eagle Flag (九州缥缈录, Jiǔzhōu piāomiǎo lù) being one of the most anticipated TV dramas in China this summer. On June 3rd at 21:40 CST, however, just twenty minutes before the drama’s much-awaited premiere on Tencent, Youku, and Zhejiang TV, the show was suddenly canceled.

Novoland: Eagle Flag, which has been called China’s answer to Game of Thrones, is a costume drama that tells a story of war, conspiracy, love, and corruption in a fantasy universe called Novoland. It is based on a popular web fantasy novel series by Jiang Nan (江南), and produced by Linmon Pictures. Production costs reportedly were as high as RMB 500 million ($72 million).

Why was the show’s premiere suddenly canceled? The only reason given for it on June 3rd was that there was a ‘medium problem’ (“介质原因”).

China’s English-language state tabloid Global Times reported on June 4th that their official sources also did not know the reason for the withdrawal, although they did admit to having received an order from “higher level,” which would come from China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA,国家广播电视总局).

In March of 2018, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT), the former top regulatory body overseeing television productions, was officially abolished and replaced by three different state administrations in the ideological sector.

The NRTA is responsible for media control on radio and TV, and falls directly under the State Council. It is led by Nie Chenxi (聂辰席), who is also the deputy director of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China. This appears indicative that the Party now has more direct influence over this industry, as also recently suggested by Global Policy Watch, SupChina, and Variety. Under the NRTA, the regulation and censorship of Chinese TV dramas are as strict, and arguably stricter, than under the SAPPRFT.

 

Costume dramas: not enough “spiritual guidance”?

 

The strict control of the NRTA over China’s TV industry is especially visible this year. As reported by CCTV News, China’s regulatory body started to severely crack down on the rising popularity of Chinese costume dramas (古装剧) in March of 2019.

Regulatory rules were supposedly issued for costume dramas with ‘themes’ (题材) such as martial arts, fantasy, history, mythology, or palace, stating that they should not air or were to be taken down from online video homepages. The strictest crackdown would allegedly last until July.

From early on in 2019, it was already rumored that Chinese costume dramas would face a tough year.

On January 28 of 2019, Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, published a critical post on its social media account listing negative influences of court-themed TV dramas (宫廷剧).

The critique included arguments such as that the imperial lifestyle was being hyped in these dramas, that the social situation of the dynastic era was being negatively dramatized, and that these productions are just aimed at commercial interests while weakening China’s “positive spiritual guidance.”

In February of this year, two weeks after the Beijing News post, Eduardo Baptista at CNN.com reported on the abrupt cancelation of the planned rebroadcasting of two costume dramas that were also targeted by Beijing News, namely the super TV drama hit Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略) and period drama Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace (如懿传).

Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace

Other costume dramas such as iQiyi’s The Legend of White Snake (新白娘子传奇) or The Longest Day in Chang’an (长安十二时辰) were also withdrawn (or postponed) in March. Investiture of the Gods (封神) was replaced by another drama on Hunan TV this month.

“Historical dramas in many cases twisted the narrative of the country’s past and the image of historical figures,” TV critic Shi Wenxue was quoted by Global Times recently: “[they are] having an adverse effect on teenagers who may regard such fictional stories as real history.”

 

A state and marketplace collusion

 

With China being the world’s largest consumer of TV dramas in the world, the drama industry is a powerful channel for spreading Party ideology.

The political and cultural agenda is especially apparent in those TV dramas that are official propaganda productions. But since the TV drama industry has become increasingly commercialized and TV dramas became more market-oriented in the 1990s, their programming is no longer a mirror reflection of ‘Party narratives.’

The number of profit-driven productions has grown over the past 25 years and has skyrocketed with the arrival of video streaming sites such as iQiyi or Tencent Video.

Although non-official productions are ultimately still regulated and overseen by the relevant state departments, they also have to compete for viewer ratings in a highly competitive (online) media environment.

There are many visible trends in China’s TV drama industry. There have been peaks of popularity in those TV dramas depicting rural struggles or urban family life, for example, but historical costume dramas (especially dynasty dramas) have consistently been popular and rising since the mid-90s.

One reason for the growing popularity of these historical or fantasy costume dramas is that official censors initially had different standards for them than for more contemporary storylines, resulting in more creative freedom for scriptwriters (see Zhu et al 2008, 7).

Yongzheng’s Dynasty (1999)

There also have been many popular Chinese dynasty dramas that were commercial successes while also serving as propaganda tools.

As pointed out by Shenshen Cai in her work Television Drama in Contemporary China (2017), for example, TV drama serials such as Yongzheng Dynasty (雍正王朝) or The Great Han Emperor Wu (汉武大帝) promoted the ideal of strong central government, harmonious relations between the fatherly ruler and his devoted people, or the exemplary ruler cracking down on corruption – these narratives contributed to the leadership agenda in “stabilizing and re-energizing the dominant moral order” (Cai 3-4; also see Schneider 2012).

But more recent historical dramas have taken a fantasy route that, apparently, resonates with viewers but does not successfully appropriate the official propaganda apparatus.

The sudden withdrawal of new costume dramas is actually not about costume dramas at all. It just shows that although China’s TV drama industry is no longer the propaganda machine it once used to be, it still needs to adhere to those narratives that are in line with Party ideology.

‘Novoland: Eagle Flag’ (2019)

Even if their scripts and productions were apparently given the green light in earlier stages, the official supervision bodies still have the power to intervene until the last moment before airing – even if that, apparently, means that moment is twenty minutes ahead of the grand premiere.

 

“Things don’t look too optimistic”

 

For Chinese drama fans, the recent cancellations have been a real slap in the face. The Novoland: Eagle Flag TV serial was super popular before it even aired: its hashtag page has a staggering 1.4 billion views on Weibo.

“I cried,” one ‘Novoland’ fan comments: “Why such a sudden and abrupt withdrawal?”

“When can we finally see this show?” others wonder.

For now, the show’s premiere has officially been “postponed” and is “waiting for specific broadcasting time.” Whether or not the 55-episode series will be allowed to broadcast after June is still to be seen.

On Twitter, the fan account of Liu Haoran (刘昊然), one of the show’s main stars, writes: “You’re going to see rumors of tentative dates flying around this week, but note that it’s more of a deadline to get things sorted, not an air date. As of right now, things don’t look too optimistic. We’ll just have to be patient!

More: For an overview of all of our articles on Chinese TV Dramas, please check this list.

By Manya Koetse

References

Cai, Shenshen. 2017. Television Drama in Contemporary China: Political, social and cultural phenomena. London and New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Schneider, Florian. 2012. Visual Political Communication in Popular Chinese Television Series. Leiden and Boston: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Zhu, Ying, Michael Keane, Ruoyun Bai (eds). 2008. TV Drama in China. Hong Kong University Press.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Shoppers Are Going Absolutely Crazy over UNIQLO x KAWS Collection

Everybody wants KAWS – Chinese shoppers were even spotted fighting in front of a UNIQLO store today.

Manya Koetse

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The Chinese sales of the UNIQLO KAWS collection are so crazy that the craze itself has become an online hit. “I don’t even like UNIQLO, I just like to compete,” some shoppers say.

Chinese shoppers are going completely crazy over the latest collection sold by Japanese fashion company UNIQLO (优衣库) today. The summer collection is a cooperation between UNIQLO and the renowned American artist and designer KAWS (Brian Donnelly).

It is not the first time for the American street artist to partner with the Japanese chain: they previously also collaborated on a Sesame Street-themed collection.

The current collection first started selling in mainland China stores in the early morning of Monday, June 3, and soon became a top trending topic on social media.

The online sales reportedly were sold out in seconds.

Photos and videos circulating on Weibo show people fighting to get into UNIQLO stores, pulling clothes off the shop mannequins, and buying piles of clothes from the stores (see embedded tweet below):

The hashtag “Everybody KAWS” (#全员kaws#) had received 140 million views on Weibo by Monday evening, China time.

Many netizens on Weibo are confused about the big hype surrounding the latest UNIQLO selection, with some wondering who KAWS is, and why people are so eager to wear his design.

Some commenters joke that it actually is not really about the KAWS collection at all, but more about the competition between shoppers on who can score the most clothes from the special product line.

The topic has set off various memes and online jokes, with some people saying: “I don’t think there is any need to learn self-defense skills. I only need to wear UNIQLO KAWS clothes, and no one will dare to touch me. They will all know that I can not only fight very well but also run very fast!”

Some memes suggest that KAWS sales have been so successful that everybody on the street or at work will walk around in the same t-shirts this week.

A meme that’s going viral saying: “Entering the office on Monday and seeing my colleagues…”

“I finally understand now,” one Weibo user writes: “What I love is not UNIQLO, nor KAWS – what I love is to rush and clash with all these people!”

The online sales of the UNIQLO x KAWS collection will start on June 6 in Europe. Its American sales started on Monday 10 AM ET.

Meanwhile, in China, the T-shirts that were bought for RMB 99 ($14) today are being resold online for four-five times their original price.

This is not the first time the Japanese UNIQLO brand becomes a viral hit on Chinese social media, albeit for different reasons. In 2015, the brand became the talk of the week when a naked girl and a man recorded an adult video in the fitting room of their Beijing flag store.

Also read:
* Chinese Kid Destroys Lego Sculpture Within Hour After It Is Displayed
* Kidnappers? Crazy Fans? No, It’s Chinese Parents on Their Kids’ First Day at School

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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