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Online Dating in China: Serious Business

China’s economic growth has not just changed entire villages and family constructions; it has also reshaped the landscape of dating and marriage. Millions of Chinese go online every day in hopes of finding their Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. In China, online dating is serious business for many.

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China’s economic growth has brought about drastic societal changes in the last decennia. It has not just changed entire villages and family constructions; it has also reshaped the landscape of dating and marriage. Millions of Chinese women and men go online every day in hopes of finding their Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. In China, online dating is serious business for many.

In a country of 1.3 billion, finding a suitable spouse is not always easy. With China’s flourishing Internet, the online dating market is a goldmine for many investors. In the past few years, dating websites like       Jiayuan or Baihe have acquired millions of subscribers, the first claiming to have a membership of 85 million, the latter approximately 100 million registered users. Even more successful than dating websites are China’s dating apps. With the world’s largest smartphone market, the majority of Chinese Internet users go online through their mobile phone. Iphone and Android dating apps such as Momo or Tantan (comparable to Tinder) have become increasingly popular. Amongst other functions, they allow users to explore potential love interests based on one’s location. This makes it possible for members to look for a partner who lives in the same neighbourhood, or goes to the same karaoke bar. These apps, that generate revenue through paid membership or advertising, are not only serious business for their creators. Innocent flirting aside, many users are seriously looking to get settled. Especially for women, the pressure to get married is very real.

 

“Why are you not married yet?”

 

“Why are you not married yet?” is a question many single women get to hear on a regular basis. Especially during family gatherings, such as Chinese New Year, single ladies recurringly have to listen to their parent’s plea to find a boyfriend and get married. Women who are still single at the age of 27 are often labelled as ‘leftover women’, a derogatory term for single women that has been hyped in the media for years. Their parents’ pleas are not in vain: after the Chinese New Year, there is a 40% increase in blind dates. These meetings are generally arranged by the parents themselves, who attend public matchmaking events where they search for suitable partners for their single sons or daughters. Some public parks, such as the Shanghai People’s Park, even have a ‘blind dating corner’, where parents walk around with a picture of their child and a handwritten paper with what requirements a potential partner should meet.

122316309_21nParents looking for a suitable partner for their single sons and daughter (Xinhua).

Not all daughters give in to the pressure to get married. This year, a group of young women boldly protested in Shanghai, holding signs saying: “Mum, do not force me to get married, I’m in charge of my own happiness”. Others are less confrontational: they rent a boyfriend to join them on family occasions. This way, their parents can stop worrying, and they will not have to go through the process of being asked nagging questions. These male ‘escorts’ can be arranged through Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce platform. Well-educated young men with good looks charge high fees to play the ideal boyfriend for a day.

Why is it so hard for ‘leftover women’ to find a partner? Ironically, China has more single men than women. Since the implementation of the one-child policy in 1978, China has been dealing with a disparity in girls and boys, due to traditional preferences for sons and the widespread occurrence of illegal sex-selective abortions. In 2004, 121.2 boys were born for every 100 girls. This gender ratio imbalance has drastic consequences for Chinese society. Currently, there are around 20 million more men under the age of thirty than women in the same age category, which could lead to 30-something-million eligible men not being able to find a bride in 2020. Statistically, this would suggest that women have no problem in finding a partner. But, problematically, the majority of China’s ‘leftover women’ live in urban areas and are at the ‘high end’ of the societal ladder (relatively high income and education), whereas the majority of the so-called ‘leftover men’ are based in rural areas and are at the ‘lower end’ (lower income and education). Since Chinese women traditionally prefer to marry ‘up’ in terms of age, income and education, and the men usually marry ‘down’, these men and women find themselves at the wrong ends of the ladder.

Although China has more single men, it is the “leftover” women who are stigmatized in the media, and suffer more familial and societal pressure to get married than their male counterpart. This can partly be explained by traditional ideas about women’s ideal age to get married. According to the Chinese Association of Marriages and Relationships, the best age for women to get married is 25 in a man’s perspective. A survey by dating site Zhenai revealed that 50% of men already think a woman is ‘leftover’ when she is still single at that age.

While the age factor plays an important role from a men’s perspective, Chinese single women generally attach importance to the economic situation of one’s partner. Owning a car and a house are often mentioned as requirements. Dating and marriage thus involve much more than love alone: China’s marriage market dynamics seem to based more on strategy than romance.

 

“Not all moonlight and roses”

 

China’s online dating market offers a myriad of possibilities for women to look for a partner. They can search for their Mr. Perfect based on location, age, looks, education and financial standing. Popular dating websites like Baihe meet their customer’s demand by approaching dating in a practical way. Members have to provide their real names, and are encouraged to add information about their educational background and economic situation. They even offer the option for third-party agencies to confirm their financial condition. This makes it easier for Chinese women to control their partner search according to their requirements.

Baihe recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with a mass wedding of thirty couples. Throughout the years, Baihe has brought together thousands of people. According to CEO Tian Fanjiang, the dating platform will keep on growing together with its member base, offering wedding services, marriage counseling and trainings in the future.

Unfortunately, online dating is not all moonlight and roses. Momo, one of China’s most popular dating app, has become known as a ‘one-night stand’ app, used to look for casual sex rather than long-term commitment. There are also companies taking advantage of the fact that so many single men and women are desperate to find a partner. In May 2015, China’s Internet watchdog closed 128 online dating sites for their fraudulent business and prostitution practices. Although online dating offers many possibilities, it also comes with risks, turning love-wanting netizens into easy victims.

China’s large online dating environment brings love and technology together. Although it will not solve the problems of China’s ‘leftover’ men and women, it does contribute to their romantic liberation and widens the possibilities of finding love. Best of all; their parents no longer need to frequent the ‘blind date corner’ in their local park.

This article will also appear in Frauen Solidarität.

– by Manya Koetse

Featured image: Baihe bride, by Sohu.

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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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Backgrounder

What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?

Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”

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What are Weibo’s “Super Topics” (超级话题) and what makes them different from normal hashtags?

Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.

Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.

These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:

 

#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.

Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.

A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).

On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.

A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.

 

#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content

Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.

A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.

One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.

Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.

 

#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather

Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.

Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.

The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.

Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).

What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.

 

By Manya KoetseGabi Verberg, with contributions from Boyu Xiao

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

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

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Why Trump Has Two Different Names in Chinese

Why does ‘Trump’ have multiple names in Chinese?

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First published , updated version published March 7, 2019

It is confusing even for Chinese netizens and journalists: why does Donald Trump have multiple names in Chinese? And which is the right one to use? What’s on Weibo explains.

Donald Trump has two most commonly used different names in Chinese. In Mandarin*, they are Tèlǎngpǔ (特朗普) and Chuānpǔ (川普). Both names have been used by Chinese mainstream media and netizens for years.

*(Due to the scope of this article, we’ll just use the Mandarin pinyin here.)

In the Chinese translation of Donald Trump’s autobiography The Art of the Deal (1987), the ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ transliteration is used, whereas the translation of the George Ross book Trump-Style Negotiations (2008) uses ‘Chuānpǔ’ as the Chinese name for Trump.

Considering that Trump is making headlines every day, more people are wondering why Trump has two Chinese names, and which one is the correct name to use. There are even discussions about the topic on Chinese social media.

 

Why are foreign names translated?

 

Why are non-Chinese names actually translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being such vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and script, the majority of Chinese people will find it hard to pronounce a foreign name that is written in English.

Writing foreign names or terms in Chinese script has a long history and practical reasons which won’t be further elaborated on here. At present, aside from being standardized, it does not just help Chinese speakers to pronounce these words, it also makes it easier to remember them. Most Chinese names usually consist of two or three characters; the first character is the surname, and the last character(s) is the given name.

Translating a name to better adapt to the culture in which it is used does not only happen with English names in China; you often see the same happening with Chinese names in foreign countries.

In that case, the first character (surname) is moved to the back, and the given name changed into an English one. Alibaba’s Ma Yun, for example, has become globally known as ‘Jack Ma.’ Film star Zhao Wei is called ‘Vicky Zhao’, Tencent’s Ma Huateng is known as ‘Pony Ma,’ and the popular actress Lin Yun is called ‘Jelly Lin.’

 

The right way to translate a foreign name in Chinese

 

There are multiple ways to translate a foreign name to Chinese. Most commonly, a name is translated into Chinese characters that are phonetically similar to the original name, without necessarily being very meaningful. The transliteration of ‘Hillary’ (Clinton), for example, is ‘Xīlālǐ’ (希拉里). ‘Bush’ is translated as ‘Bùshí’ (布什).

Another option is to choose a name purely based on meaning rather than phonetics. One example is Elvis Presley, who is called ‘Cat King’ (Māo Wáng 猫王) in Chinese, which stays close to his nickname “The Hillbilly Cat.”

The best option when translating a foreign name into Chinese, however, is to make sure it stays close to its original pronunciation while also using elegant characters. In other words; it is nice when a name’s translation makes sense both phonetically and semantically. Marilyn Monroe’s last name in Chinese is Mènglù (梦露), for example, which sounds like ‘Monroe’ and has the characters for ‘Dream Dew’ – a perfect transliteration for such a dreamy actress.

Even when the characters used for a foreign name in Chinese are not necessarily intended to convey a certain meaning, it is important that they do not have any negative connotations. Nobody wants a character in their name associated with divorce, disease or death – it is believed to bring bad luck.

Another thing is that it is considered helpful for foreign names in Chinese is to maintain a ‘foreign flavor’ to it, to make it clear that the name is actually a transliteration. To give an example raised in this Nikkei article: President Reagan’s name is generally translated as Lǐgēn 里根 in Chinese – the characters being somewhat uncommon for a Chinese name.

The same name could also be written with the characters 李根, very common for a Chinese name, but then it would be difficult to know whether a media report is talking about Reagan the President or just a local Chinese person by the same name. Transliterations of foreign names, therefore, are often easily recognizable as foreign names on purpose.

 

Trump, Tèlǎngpǔ, and Chuānpǔ

 

In the case of Trump, his Chinese names are mainly chosen for phonetic reasons, with different sources using different characters. Part of the challenge in deciding the right Chinese translation for his name, is the fact that Chinese does not have consonant cluster ‘tr’ as one sound.

The Chinese-language Nikkei newspaper dedicated an op-ed written by Chinese scholar Ke Long (柯隆) to the matter, who argues that although it may all seem trivial, it is actually quite confusing and unpractical for president Trump to have more than one name in Chinese.

The Chinese media in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and most overseas Chinese-language media, refer to Trump as ‘Chuānpǔ’ (川普).* According to the World Journal, the biggest Chinese-language newspaper in the US, it is the only proper way to translate this name, yet most Chinese state media and Chinese-language UK media (such as BBC) all use ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’

* (The Chinese version of The New York Times 纽约时报中文版 is an exception, as ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 is generally also used in this publication.)

Author Ke Long explains that Chinese translations of foreign names try to stay as close as possible to the pronunciation of a name in its original language. This is why the name of the city ‘Paris’ is pronounced ‘Bālí’ (巴黎) in Mandarin Chinese, staying close to the French pronunciation, and ‘Amsterdam’ being ‘Āmǔsītèdān’ (阿姆斯特丹), which follows the city’s Dutch pronunciation.

If the British would pronounce ‘Trump’ as ‘te-lan-pu,’ then it would thus perhaps be more understandable why media such as the BBC would write Tèlǎngpǔ. But they don’t pronounce it like that, Ke Long argues, saying that the use of ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ thus does not make sense, and is actually closer to the Japanese way of writing Trump’s name (‘トランプ’: to-ra-n-pu).

More so, the author writes, it does not make sense for Chinese media to take over the British transliteration of the Trump name. Considering Trump is American, Chinese media should follow the translations made by American media. He also notes that if it would be about the Prime Minister of Britain, the Chinese transliteration should follow the one used by the media in the UK.

Although the Nikkei author seems to advocate for a singular use of ‘Chuānpǔ’ by all media, no Chinese media are necessarily ‘wrong’ in their transliteration of the name Trump. The ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 translation follows the example of outlets such as the BBC, while Chuānpǔ 川普 follows that of other media.

Some Chinese bloggers argue that Chuānpǔ 川普 is the best way to write Trump’s name, because the first character, that actually means ‘river,’ is commonly used in Chinese, making the name sound more ‘natural’ and easy to pronounce than ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’ Moreover, they argue that the Mandarin ‘chuan’ sound is more appropriate to convey the pronunciation of ‘tr’ than the ‘te-lang’ way.

In the end, the reason why Trump has two names most commonly used in Chinese is just a matter of media, with various mainstream outlets adopting different names since Trump first made headlines, and without there being any clear consensus on which Chinese name to use across all these different Chinese-language media platforms around the world.

 

Chuángpù and Chuángpò?

 

On Chinese social media, President Trump even has more than two names. There are also netizens referring to him as 床鋪, 闯破 or 床破 (Chuángpù/Chuángpò); these are all transliterations that contain strange or negative characters, making the name unrefined and harsh-sounding on purpose to make the name ‘Trump’ look and sound bad.

Although there have been online discussions on the right transliteration for the name Trump, it is unlikely that there will be one official Chinese name for the US President in the near future. Xinhua News, China’s official state-run press agency, has consistently been using Tèlǎngpǔ 特朗普 for years, and will probably continue to use it.

Many netizens simply use both versions of his name in one post to avoid confusion, and some news reports have even started using both names in its headlines (image below).

Despite the somewhat confusing situation at hand, there are also those who do not seem to mind at all. “Who cares if it is Tèlǎngpǔ or Chuānpǔ anyway?” one netizen says: “In this day and age, we all know who it is we are talking about.”

– By Manya Koetse
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This article first appeared in 2017 and has been republished with various corrections:
– The first version did not properly convey the argument made by author Ke Long in his Nikkei piece, which is more clearly laid out in this version.
– This version has added some extra information coming from sources after 2017.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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