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Look Who’s Talking: China’s CCTV Consumer Day Show Accused of Misinformation

Is the pot calling the kettle black?

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The 27th edition of China’s consumer day show ‘CCTV 315 Night’ (315晚会) caused controversy on Chinese social media when it exposed the malpractices in various companies, from Muji stores to Nike shoes. Now that it appears the show itself is negligent with its facts and sources, it is again the talk of the day on Chinese social media. Is the pot calling the kettle black?

World Consumer Rights Day took place earlier this week, and became a trending topic on Sina Weibo (#微博315#) with the release of an annual consumer rights report and a special CCTV program dedicated to protecting consumer rights and uncovering malpractices by companies, called ‘3.15 Night’ (#315晚会#).

The CCTV ‘315 Night’ or ‘consumer day show’ is an annual TV show aired on March 15, focused on naming and shaming various brands and companies.

This year marked the show’s 27th anniversary. As the show featured somewhat more controversial items than it did in previous years, it became the most-discussed topic on Chinese social media on Wednesday and Thursday.

The program revealed several product-related issues that had China’s netizens both worried and skeptical, triggering thousands of shares and reactions across Weibo.

Products from the area of Japan’s Fukushima disaster

One of the program’s items focused on products from those regions in Japan affected by the nuclear crisis of 2011. After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Chinese government introduced various laws to ensure consumer safety and prohibited the import of Japanese products from those areas in Japan affected by nuclear pollution.

But the Chinese TV show now revealed how, six years after the crisis, Japanese food products from the banned areas are allegedly sold in China by several large e-commerce platforms and stores, including Japanese chain store Muji.

According to the show, retailers hid the origin of the product by using different or vague new labels stating “made in Japan” rather than the specific area from which China has banned the imports of food.

New labels on top of the original ones to hide specific areas of production? Scene from the CCTV 315 Show.

The products included snacks, baby formula, rice, health food, and others, by brands such as Calbee.

News about the imported products led to much anger and commotion on Chinese social media. “Chinese people deceiving Chinese people! The Japanese people won’t eat it so you import it, you do anything for money!”, some angry commenters said.

China’s ‘Wiki’: Selling lies for money

Another scandal revealed by the 315 show concerns Hudong.com (互动百科), China’s homegrown wiki encyclopedia. The platform was accused of false advertising; the mere payment of 4800 RMB (±700$) allows the verification of any product on the site without any other requirements.

The show reported how a patient with liver cancer found a “magic” medicine on Hudong.com as a “verified product”, allegedly able to cure cancer within seven days. Through this kind of false advertising, especially vulnerable people are susceptible to getting fooled into purchasing fake medicine.

Afterward, Chinese media called Hudong “a trash website with the most misleading advertisement” (“互动百科成最大虚假广告垃圾站”).

The negative effects for companies after being featured on the annual consumer rights show cannot be underestimated; in 2015, Forbes called the show a “public relations nightmares for its victims.”

Air Cushion Nikes without the air cushion

The consumer day show also criticized the brand Nike, alleging that the U.S. company’s shoes advertisements are misleading consumers.

The Nike Hyperdunk shoes were promoted to contain the patented zoom air cushions, but were found to actually contain no ‘air cushion’ at all – despite their high price of 1499 RMB (US$220) per pair.

According to Shanghai Daily, over 60 disappointed buyers complained to Nike. The company has since offered them a full refund.

Pot calling kettle black?

The CCTV show’s Nike item again became a point of discussion on Chinese social media today when sport news platform Fastpass (快传体育) complained that the information and images used by CCTV were completely taken from their website, violating their copyright.

In a new article on the Fastpass website, the author says: “CCTV cited its main evidence from our report of November 26 2016 on inspecting the Hyperdunk 08. Not only did CCTV not mention Fastpass as the source, they even used our images without our authorization and took out our watermark.”

Many netizens were confused that the 315 show itself apparently had some malpractices, while its main purpose is to expose the malpractices of others.

 

“The show is not about ‘protecting consumer rights’ at all it is about knocking out companies in one punch.”

 

The copyright infringement was not the only point of critique on the show on Chinese social media. Various Chinese media also reported today that the show’s accusations on imported products from Japan’s “banned areas” were ungrounded, as the product package address highlighted during the show is only the place where companies are registered – not where their products are produced.

Furthermore, some netizens wondered why certain controversial products were left out this year: “The Samsung phones have batteries exploding one after the other, why did they not focus on that? Where is their integrity and credibility?”, one commenter wrote.

The fact that ‘Chinese wiki site’ hudong.com was harshly criticized by CCTV while Baidu Baike, its biggest competitor, was not, also annoyed netizens. In 2016, Baidu caused huge controversy for offering advertisement space to fraudulent doctors. These practices came to light when the 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi paid 200,000 RMB (31,000US$) for a treatment promoted through Baidu, which later turned out to be ineffective and highly contested. He died shortly after and received much attention on social media, yet the controversy was not named by the CCTV consumer day show.

One Chinese journalist addressed the TV show on Weibo, writing:

“Some people have asked me what’s up with that 315 Muji report. I did not see the show last night as I was on the train. But even if I had seen it, I would have nothing positive to say about the show. Being a journalist for so many years, I can’t stand this show. It is not about ‘protecting consumer rights’ at all. It is about knocking out companies in one punch. Don’t ask me how I know this.”

 

“Perhaps it is not a smart move to throw stones while living in a glass house.”

 

Other commenters also said the show was “fishy”, with many wondering about the selection of the companies it targets, while others are left out. “If they already knew this,” one person said about the alleged imported goods from radiation-polluted areas, “then why would they wait until the night of the show to tell us about it?”

“The show always targets foreign goods, preferably from USA, Japan, and Korea – it not about the product, it is about ideology,” another person (@上善若水之山高) said.

It is not the first time the show has been critized, particularly for bashing foreign brands and products. In 2015, the South China Morning Post also wrote about 315: “(..) the show also had its own “quality problem” – former CCTV financial news channel director Guo Zhenxi, who oversaw 315 Gala, was detained (..) for allegedly taking bribes.”

Overall, many people on Chinese social media simply do not take the show seriously anymore. “Haha, I’ve been hearing all these reports about CCTV 315 on Japanese products these days,” one Weibo user wrote: “You can bash Japanese products all you want, the only thing is that Japanese products undergo very strict supervision and that it’s virtually impossible to bash them!”

It seems that the CCTV show, after running for 27 years, has lost its credibility among the people. Perhaps it is not a smart move to throw stones while living in a glass house; the more critical netizens of today’s online environment can see right through it.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Fashion & Beauty

NIKE vs ERKE: Two Sportswear Brands Trending on Weibo for Totally Different Reasons

While domestic brand Erke is all the hype, Nike is growing increasingly unpopular.

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Domestic sportswear company Erke has recently become a top-selling brand in China. The American sports brand Nike, on the other hand, has seemingly lost its reputation in the Chinese market. This week’s trending Weibo topics relating to the companies are telling of the ongoing battle between domestic and international sportswear brands in China.

 
By Wendy Huang & Manya Koetse
 

American sportswear brand Nike and Chinese domestic sportswear brand Erke (鸿星尔克) both popped up in the Weibo trending lists this week, but for two totally different reasons.

While Nike got caught up in controversy, Erke was praised. The stark contrast between how the two brands are represented on social media today is telling of their recent position in the Chinese market.

 
Nike Store Employee vs Chinese Migrant Worker
 

The trending incident involving Nike this week was about a bad shopping experience at the Nike store in Kunming, Yunnan province. On August 13, the 44-year old migrant worker Mao Zhigao (毛治高) took his three kids out shopping in the Nike store to reward them for their good school results.

What was supposed to be a fun family occasion turned into an awful afternoon when a female employee at the store reportedly snatched Nike clothes out of the hands of the youngest son and put them back on the hangers again.

When the boy tearfully told his parents about what happened, the incident soon escalated. The boy’s father, Mr. Mao, believed that the Nike employees were treating the family badly based on their appearance. As a migrant worker working on a construction site, Mao had just returned from work and was in his work clothes.

When the young boy’s mother confronted the employee about what had happened, the altercation apparently turned physical when the Nike employee started scratching and hair-pulling. Local police officers eventually stepped in to mediate.

Although the Mao family demanded an apology from the Nike staff and also filed a complaint to Nike, they did not receive any reply. After six days, local media got involved and the story went trending.

Nike then responded to the issue with an apology and statement that the female employee was dismissed.

By Monday, August 23rd, some hashtags related to the incident received millions of views on Weibo:

On social media, the Nike incident was mostly viewed through the angle of unfair treatment and the international brand discriminating against a Chinese migrant worker.

 
Erke as ‘Patriotic Brand’
 

While Nike is being criticized, Erke, the Chinese sportswear brand by Hongxing Erke Group (鸿星尔克), is praised because it announced to donate one million yuan ($153,800) to Henan Museum to support the museum’s rebuilding project after the devastating flood.

A picture posted by Henan Museum on its Weibo account (@河南博物院)  shows that Erke put the donation in the name of “national netizens.”

The picture soon went viral on Weibo, with the hashtag “ERKE Donates One Million Yuan to Henan Museum” (#鸿星尔克向河南博物院捐赠一百万元#) receiving 450 million views, and “ERKE Together With National Netizens” (#鸿星尔克 携全国网友#) receiving 140 million views.

This is the second time that Erke made a donation to help Henan in light of the floods. Its first donation in late July of this year is actually what helped the brand back into the limelight.

The domestic sportswear brand then donated 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) to the Henan flood. This attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media since Erke was known as a relatively low-profile brand that seemingly has not been doing too well over the past years.

After people found out that the company donated such a high amount of money to help the people in Henan despite its own losses, its online sales went through the roof – everyone wanted to support this generous ‘patriotic brand.’ While netizens rushed to the online shops selling Erke, the brand’s physical shops also ran out of products with so many people coming to buy their sportswear. One female sales assistant was moved to tears when the store suddenly filled up with so many customers.

Image via Ellemen.

Lei Jun, the founder of the electronics company Xiaomi, also joined the Erke hype. He published a picture of him wearing Erke shoes on Weibo, the hashtag dedicated to this topic then received about 200 million views (#雷军晒鸿星尔克鞋#).

 
Consumer Nationalism and Sportswear Brands
 

It is not just Nike that has seemingly become less popular in China. Earlier this month, one hashtag about another global sports brand, Adidas, also went viral on Weibo. The trending hashtag was about the brand’s revenue growth of Q2 in China dropping by 16% (#阿迪达斯在华收入下跌16%#), receiving more than 110 million views.

During its Q2 2021 conference call, in response to a question about the current consumer demands regarding global brands vs domestic brands in China, CEO of Adidas Group Kasper Rorsted said: “We continue to see a strong demand for products in China, [but] we believe right now that demand has been scooted towards Chinese local brands more than global brands.”

On August 24, news about the online sales of the Chinese Anta Sportswear brand topping those of Nike and Adidas received over 200 million views on Weibo alone (#安踏线上首超耐克阿迪#).

It seems that international sports brands have to look for new ways of winning over consumers in the Chinese market. This shift partly relates to two issues.

The first major issue that has impacted the popularity of brands such as Nike and Adidas has to do with the fact that they are members of the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), which came under fire in China earlier this year after it had announced it would cease all field-level activities in the Xinjiang region with immediate effect due to concerns over the alleged use of forced labor.

The BCI ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’ led to an online ‘Xinjiang Cotton Support’ campaign in China. The BCI member brands boycotting Xinjiang cotton were soon labeled as being ‘anti-China.’ Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded during live streams, and photos of people burning their Nike shoes soon started circulating on social media.

Another trend that has impacted the influence of foreign sportswear brands in China relates to the rise in popularity of local, Chinese sportswear brands. Domestic brands such as Anta Sports and Lining have been active in Chinese since the 1990s and are now profiting from changing consumer sentiments in a new era that is all about “proudly made in China.”

Besides incorporating more Chinese elements into their product design, Chinese celebrities also play a crucial role in the marketing of these domestic brands. Chinese actor and singer Xiao Zhan (肖战) was praised on social media for becoming the new brand ambassador of the Chinese sportswear brand Lining. When celebrity Wang Yibo became the spokesperson for the domestic brand Anta Sports, one Weibo hashtag page on the topic received over one billion views (#王一博代言安踏#) in late April of 2021. The promotional poster featuring Wang Yibo shows him wearing a t-shirt with “China” on it, including the national flag – profiling Anta as a ‘nation-loving brand.

On social media, it already became clear earlier this year that a distinction was being made between foreign, ‘anti-Chinese’ brands, and domestic, ‘patriotic’ brands (read more here).

Erke indirectly profited from these existing consumer sentiments when, as a relatively smaller domestic brand, it was hyped as the no 1 patriotic sportswear brand for donating so much money to help out during the Henan floods.

Although Nike and Adidas each also contributed 20 million yuan ($3 million) toward Henan floods relief efforts, their donations barely received online attention. In fact, Nike was even condemned online for donating “zero yuan” at a time when it had already announced donating 20 million (more about that here).

The Erke hype even went so far that Chinese livestream sellers of Nike and Adidas notified their viewers that they actually supported the domestic Erke brand.

Adidas livestream sellers supporting Erke.

These nationalistic consumer sentiments also surfaced during the Olympics, when Chinese sport shooter Yang Qian was criticized for her collection of Nike shoes. One Beijing Television journalist wrote on social media: “Chinese athletes, why would you want to collect Nike shoes, shouldn’t you take the lead in boycotting Nike? Aren’t our domestic brands such as Erke, Li Ning, and Anta good enough [for you]?”

During the Tokyo Olympics, Team China’s podium uniform was designed by Chinese sportswear brand Anta, which will also be the Official Sportswear Uniform Supplier for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Anta x Olympics.

In light of everything that happened during the past few months, it is likely that for the time to come, domestic brands such as Erke will continue to flourish while foreign brands might see their China sales slump.

Meanwhile, on social media, netizens continue to express their support for domestic brands while denouncing Nike.

Multiple commenters wrote: “Erke is like ‘I’ve gotten wet, so I want to give others an umbrella too.’ Nike is like ‘Put down those clothes, your dad looks dirty, how you can afford to buy?'”

“I’ll support domestically produced products,” many others write: “Brands that are not patriotic should get out of the country.”

 

By Wendy Huang & Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Celebs

Female Comedian Yang Li and the Intel Controversy

A decision that backfired: Intel’s act of supposed ‘inclusion’ caused the exclusion of female comedian Yang Li.

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“How to look at the boycott of Yang Li?” (#如何看待抵制杨笠#) became a top trending topic on social media site Weibo on Monday after female comedian Yang Li was dismissed as the spokesperson for American tech company Intel over a controversial ad campaign.

On March 18, Intel released an ad on its Weibo account in which Yang says “Intel has a taste [for laptops] that is higher than my taste for men” (“英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高.”)

The ad drew complaints for allegedly insulting men, with some social media users vowing to boycott the tech brand. On Sunday, Intel deleted the ad in question from its social media page and reportedly also removed Yang from her position as their brand ambassador.

The commotion over the ad had more to do with Chinese comedian Yang Li (杨笠) than with the specific lines that were featured in it.

Yang Li is controversial for her jokes mocking men (“men are adorable, but mysterious. After all, they can look so average and yet be so full of confidence“), with some blaming her for being “sexist” and “promoting hatred against all men.”

Since she appeared on the stand-up comedy TV competition Rock and Roast (脱口秀大会) last year, she was nicknamed the the “punchline queen” and became one of the more influential comedians in present-day China. Yang now has nearly 1,5 million fans on Weibo (@-杨笠-).

Yang Li’s bold jokes and sharp way of talking about gender roles and differences between men and women in Chinese society is one of the main reasons she became so famous. Intel surely knew this when asking Yang to be their brand ambassador.

In light of the controversy, the fact that Intel was so quick to remove Yang also triggered criticism. Some (male) netizens felt that Intel, a company that sells laptops, could not be represented by a woman who makes fun of men, while these men are a supposed target audience for Intel products.

But after Yang was removed, many (female) netizens also felt offended, suggesting that in the 21st century, Intel couldn’t possibly believe that their products were mainly intended for men (“以男性用户为主”)? Wasn’t their female customer base just as important?

According to online reports, Intel responded by saying: “We noted that the content [we] spread relating to Yang Li caused controversy, and this is not what we had anticipated. We place great importance on diversity and inclusion. We fully recognize and value the diverse world we live in, and are committed to working with partners from all walks of life to create an inclusive workplace and social environment.”

However, Intel’s decision backfired, as many wondered why having Yang as their brand ambassador would not go hand in hand with ‘promoting an inclusive social environment.’

“Who are you being ‘inclusive’ too? Common ‘confident’ men?”, one person wrote, with others saying: “Why can so many beauty and cosmetic brands be represented by male idols and celebrities? I loathe these double standards.”

“As a Chinese guy, I really think Yang Li is funny. I didn’t realize Chinese men had such a lack of humor!” another Weibo user writes.

There are also people raising the issue of Yang’s position and how people are confusing her performative work with her actual character. One popular law blogger wrote: “Really, boycotting Yang Li is meaningless. Stand-up comedy is a performance, just as the roles people play in a TV drama.”

Just a month ago, another Chinese comedian also came under fire for his work as a brand ambassador for female underwear brand Ubras.

It is extremely common in China for celebrities to be brand ambassadors; virtually every big celebrity is tied to one or more brands. Signing male celebrities to promote female-targeted products is also a popular trend (Li 2020). Apparently, there is still a long way to go when the tables are turned – especially when it is about female celebrities with a sharp tongue.

By Manya Koetse

Li, Xiaomeng. 2020. “How powerful is the female gaze? The implication of using male celebrities for promoting female cosmetics in China.” Global Media and China, Vol.5 (1), p.55-68.

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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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