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Keeping Peace, Building Power: China & International Peacekeeping (Liveblog)

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. Today’s seminar focuses on the China’s role within the international peacekeeping community.

Manya Koetse

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Seminar: China’s Role in International Peacekeeping

Date & Place: Nov. 25, 2014, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Organized by: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Blogged by: Manya Koetse 

 

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. In early 2014, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) send a motorized infantry brigade to Mali. In September this year, a 700-strong infantry troop was send to South-Sudan as part of a UN peacekeeping mission – the first Chinese battalion to participate in such a peacekeeping operation (GT 2014; ECNS 2014). The recent behavior of Chinese leaders in issues of international conflict contrasts with Chinese participation in peacekeeping operations in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s seminar focuses on China’s role within the international peacekeeping society.

 

Introduction (14:00 GMT+1)

Peter Potman, Director Asian and Pacific Affairs Department (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is the first speaker on today’s seminar.

China as an actor in the international political arena is gradually gaining significance, Potman says, as its role in global politics is transforming: China is becoming more assertive. China’s position within international conflict situations is profoundly changing. Its role used to be one of non-interference, but is now changing as the political leadership is getting more involved in issues playing in Sudan or Syria.

Today’s seminar has two keynote speakers: Frans-Paul van der Putten from the Clingendael Institute and Dr. Jing Gu from the Institute of Development Studies. But first Christina Jansen shortly addresses the role of China today in international peacekeeping. Jansen recalls how she first arrived in China in 1978, and remembers how she would involuntarily cause a traffic jam because so many people would stare at this foreigner standing next to the road. “How China has changed!” Jansen says. The central question of today is: does the quick transformation of China as a nation also have implications for the international order in security issues, and if, how?

 

China and International Security (14:20 GMT+1)

Balance is crucial for China as an actor within international security issues, Van der Putten says. He states that China has to find its balance in different areas. First, it has to deal with the growing number of Chinese people and companies outside of China, and has to think about how to protect them without becoming over-involved and making the same ‘mistakes’ as western nations have made in the past. Secondly, it has to find its role in the international system where the national identity of China has to be communicated on an international level in such a way that it preserves the Chinese identity. Lastly, China also has to balance between its role as being one of the global powers and being one of the leaders within the developing world.

How does this translate to security issues? China already is a permanent member of the Security Council but is still looking for ways to strengthen its position. China finding its balance is noticeable in how it acts, Van der Putten states, not only as a member of the International Security Council but also as a leader in regional security organizations, where China increasingly is taking in an assertive position as a regional power.

 

“There’s a big difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality.” 

 

China and International Security (14:40 GMT+1)

China’s role within international peacekeeping cannot be compared to that of other nations, according to Jing Gu. China’s international peacekeeping framework should be seen within China’s development at large. What one can now discern, says Gu, is the difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality. According to principles, the Chinese government strictly respects the sovereignty of other countries and has a non-intervention principle. But in reality, their principles turn out to be much more flexible than they are on paper.

Dr. Gu is convinced that one can never leave out the economic perspective when talking about China’s engagement in peacekeeping operations. Business plays a big role in China’s international development cooperation; the business sector is increasingly important for China in, for example, Africa. Western nations have to take this perspective in account when cooperating with China in international security matters.

 

“For China, ‘peacekeeping’ truly is about peace keeping, not about peace building.”

 

There are differences in what Western nations and China consider ‘international peacekeeping’. From the Chinese perspective, it is very much about actual ‘peace keeping’ and not ‘peace building’, Gu says: a major difference with what most western powers consider to be ‘peacekeeping’. Using force is not something Chinese leaders want to do, as non-interference is a high principle for the government. But, Gu stresses again, “principles are just principles; in reality these principles are very flexible, as we’ve seen in Africa.”

What can be done on the long term to involve China in international security collaborations? “It has to be taken case by case,” Gu says. It is not the right time for general talks about future collaborations and shared frameworks- step by step and case by case, China will become more involved in international peacekeeping, Gu predicts, as is happening in Sudan right now.

 

Discussion (15:20 GMT+1)

“Over the past 500 years there have been many power shifts that have not led to war,” panelist Tim Sweijs of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies says. However, every transformation in global power systems do have major consequences. States in the international system start harboring different expectations as power relations shift. This is what is also happening as China starts behaving differently within the international arena and takes on a different role in security issues. Different political actors seem worried that China is concerned about protecting its own national interests. These “worries” are “suspicious,” Sweijs says, because: “are western powers not concerned about own national interests?”

In the conclusion of the seminar, Peter Potman stresses that nations in peace operations need to be fully aware of their differences before they can work on collaboration. There are often mutual and shared benefits to participate in a peacekeeping mission. While those shared interests are often clear, it is crucial to also elucidate the different interests in these operations. Who is participating for what reasons? Understanding these underlying motives helps in unraveling the web of international cooperation in global security issues – finally building on peacekeeping missions where all participating nations, including China, are looking in the same direction.

 

(This liveblog is now closed.)

 

References

 

ECNS. 2014. “Peacekeeping forum opens in Beijing.” ECNS, 15 Oct.  http://www.ecns.cn/2014/10-15/138449.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Global Times (GT). 2014. “Peacekeeping can help China stand tall.” Global Times, 19 Nov. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/892646.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Images

http://www.uscnpm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/un.jpeg

Liu Rui/Global Times

 

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 Arts & Entertainment

China’s New Hit Drama ‘Nothing But Thirty’ Thrives in the “She Era”

Chinese latest hit drama ‘Nothing but Thirty’ has 20 billion views on its Weibo hashtag page.

Yin Lin Tan

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China’s latest TV drama hit Nothing But Thirty is flooding Weibo discussions. With over 20 billion views on its hashtag page, the show is one of the most popular shows of the season and demonstrates that China’s ‘she era’ (ta shidai 她时代) dramas are all the rage. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin Tan explains.

“Have you heard of ‘independent at the age of thirty’ (sān shí ér lì 三十而立)?” Wang Manni asks, her hair pulled back neatly and white shirt cleanly pressed. “I hope that, before I’m thirty, I’ll be promoted to supervisor.”

Riding on the wave of female protagonist (‘heroine’ 大女主) shows that have been taking over China’s entertainment scene, Nothing But Thirty (三十而已) is a 43-episode drama by Dragon Television that follows the challenges of three different women who have reached the ever-important age of thirty.

In a society where women are often expected to be married by their late twenties, a show like this, which tackles women’s present-day struggles, both in their personal and professional lives, has resonated with many.

In fact, the show is so popular that at the time of writing, the show’s hashtag (“Nothing But Thirty”, #三十而已#) has over 20 billion (!) views on Weibo.

 

Depicting the struggles of China’s thirty-something women

 

Nothing But Thirty revolves around the lives of three female leads from different walks of life. Gu Jia (Tong Yao) is a capable businesswoman turned full-time housewife; Wang Manni (Jiang Shuying) is an independent, career-oriented sales assistant; and Zhong Xiaoqin (Mao Xiaotong) is your run-of-the-mill office lady.

For Gu Jia, the birth of her son was what truly transformed her into a full-fledged housewife. In many ways, she seems like a perfect wife and mother: well-educated, capable, and thoughtful. But, eventually, she too has to face life’s challenges.

Driven and hardworking, Wang Manni is confident in both her looks and abilities. Her immediate goal, at least at the start of the show, is to achieve professional success. Throughout the show, her resilience is put to the test, personally and professionally.

Zhong Xiaoqin is described by many netizens as the most “average” or “normal” character. She is kind-hearted -sometimes to the point of being a pushover -, and has spent years at the same company without rising the ranks. Though her story might seem mundane at first, this peace is disrupted when her marriage takes a turn for the worse.

 

A story that resonates with the masses

 

“The show attracted wide attention, and it strongly resonated with female audiences. Many thirty-something working women saw their own lives reflected in the show,” Xinhua recently wrote about the show.

Nothing but Thirty currently carries a 7.6 out of 10 rating on Douban, an online reviewing platform.

Though some reviewers criticized how the later episodes of the show were unnecessarily draggy, most praised it for its portrayal of strong female characters, good acting, and largely realistic depiction of women above the age of thirty.

“I saw myself, and also saw the friends beside me,” a reviewer notes.

In China, women are, more often than not, burdened with expectations of getting married and settling down by the time they are in their late twenties. If you’re single and thirty, that’s made even worse.

Those who fall into this category carry the derogatory label of “leftover women” (剩女), a term that reflects how single women above the age of thirty are seen as consolation prizes or even unwanted goods.

Thirty is thus an incredibly important number, especially for women — something that’s clearly reflected in the show’s concept trailer.

Aside from societal expectations of starting a family, some women now also take it upon themselves to build their careers. In fact, you can chase after professional success without burdening yourself with the idea that you must be married – a notion exemplified by the character of Wang Manni.

Nothing But Thirty also showcases the sheer diversity of experiences for women above thirty: you don’t have to be married, you don’t have to be super capable, and you don’t have to be thinking about having children. Each woman goes through her own unique struggles and isn’t necessarily endowed with the so-called “protagonist’s halo.”

Ultimately, the popularity of the show is driven by the three female leads and the actresses who bring these strong characters to life.

By telling a story that is relatable and touches on relevant social issues, namely on expectations of women in society, Nothing But Thirty was able to achieve widespread popularity and is adding another notch on the trend of China’s ta shidai (她时代) dramas. 

 

The rise of ta shidai shows

 

Ta shidai literally translates to “her era” or “the ‘she’ era.”

Ta shidai shows explore what it’s like to be a woman in China today. The female characters are diverse when it comes to both their backgrounds and character arcs; they might have different jobs, different levels of education, or different personalities. These shows mostly center around a strong female lead and/or a main cast that is primarily female.

More importantly, they often feature capable women and how these women overcame the odds to achieve success.

Recent shows like The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊) and Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风破浪的姐姐) also fall under this category, as do somewhat older hit shows such as Ode to Joy (欢乐颂) and Women in Beijing (北京女子图鉴).

The Romance of Tiger and Rose is set in a society in which women are in charge and men are subordinate, in a daring reversal of gender roles. Though the show has been criticized for using social issues to attract attention, it gained a decent following for tackling topics like gender inequality and women’s rights.

The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊)

A reality TV competition that swept the Chinese entertainment scene, Sisters Who Make Waves attempted to rebuke stereotypes of women over 30 as “leftover women.”

The show brought together female celebrities above the age of 30 (the oldest competitor was 52), and had them go through a series of challenges, culminating in a girl group formed by the final competitors.

Nothing But Thirty is just another example of a show that’s attempted to depict the realistic struggles of women in modern-day China.

More Chinese dramas that feature women — specifically, their struggles and the expectations that society places on them — are slated to be released in 2020.

Over the past few years, more attention has been focused on women’s rights in China. As feminism becomes an increasingly important topic of discussion in China, strongly facilitated by social media and not without controversy, companies are likely to hop on the bandwagon and continue producing shows that fall squarely in the ta shidai category, given the genre’s rising popularity.

Though we can’t expect every single show to perfectly, accurately, and realistically portray women’s struggles, the fact that more stories like these are being produced already helps bring such conversations into the mainstream. 

Hopefully, the trend of ta shidai shows is a sign that these issues won’t just be tackled on camera, but in real life as well. 

 
Read more about Chinese TV dramas here.
 

By Yin Lin Tan

 Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Trump’s TikTok Ban Goes Trending on Weibo (and on TikTok)

“Did Trump buy up the trending lists?”, some Chinese web users wonder.

Manya Koetse

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First published

Just days after TikTok released a statement saying it would open its algorithms, President Trump announced that the app would be “banned from the United States.”

Trump reportedly said he would take action as soon as Saturday, August 1st, using emergency economic power or an executive order. The move comes at a time of China-US escalating tensions.

TikTok has recently fallen under scrutiny in the U.S. over security and data concerns, but also raised concerns in Australia, India, Japan, and Europe.

TikTok is the international version of Douyin (抖音), a short video media app owned by China’s young tech giant Bytedance (字节跳动). The app allows users to create, edit, and share short videos as well as live streams, often featuring music in the background.

Earlier this week, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayers released a statement addressing recent security concerns regarding the popular short video app due to its Chinese origins.

“We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda – our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy,” Mayers wrote.

In the statement, titled “Fair competition and transparency benefits us all,” Mayers announced the launch of a Transparency and Accountability Center for TikTok’s moderation and data practices where, as he wrote, “experts can observe our moderation policies in real-time, as well as examine the actual code that drives our algorithms.”

Since its launch in 2016, Douyin has grown to be one of China’s most popular apps. In early 2020, the Chinese version of the app had amassed some 400 million daily active users.

The app also became an international success shortly after launching its overseas version, and especially after it acquired popular video app Musical.ly, merging the app with its own platform in 2018 under the TikTok brand name. In the first quarter of this year, Tik Tok became the most-downloaded app worldwide. In the US, the app has some 80 million users.

Various media previously reported that Microsoft was exploring to purchase the video-sharing app from its parent company.

Both news items, the alleged selling of TikTok and the newly announced ban, entered Weibo’s top trending list on Saturday afternoon, Chinese local time, under the hashtags “Trump Will Order ByteDance to Sell TikTok’s U.S. Business” (#特朗普将命令字节跳动出售TikTok美国业务#) and “Trump Will Ban TikTok’ from Operating in America” (#特朗普将禁止TikTok在美国运营#).

The American ban on TikTok also went trending on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, where state media accounts such as China Daily posted a video of Trump talking about the possible Tik Tok ban accompanied by ominous music.

“Did Trump buy up the trending lists?”, one commenter wondered.

“Perhaps he doesn’t know he became trending on China’s TikTok himself now,” one TikTok user wrote.

On Weibo, responses to the American TikTok news developments are mixed, but a majority of web users express amazement that a possible ban on the Chinese app could occur in the world’s premier free-market economy.

“Haha, a free market economy?!”, many Weibo users wrote: “It’s time to revise Western economic textbooks.”

“Political interference in markets, it’s what Trump does best,” others wrote.

Many web users comment that by banning TikTok, Trump would do what China did years ago. American social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in China since 2009.

Some users suggest that it would be better for TikTok to be banned in the U.S. than being sold (“If it’s banned, the ban could always be lifted again”), while others think selling is the better option (“Bytedance could at least still earn money by selling”).

Weibo blogger Lin Huijie (蔺会杰) – founder of the Aigupiao app – also posted about the recent developments, writing:

Today, Trump has officially launched an attack on TikTok, which will either be banned or be forced to sell to Microsoft. We can’t actually say anything about this; after all, we already blocked several American software a decade ago. But as part of their “contain China” strategy, America banning Tik Tok is similar to how it encircles and suppresses Huawei. As a 5G leader, Huawei has broken through the U.S.-controlled technological highlands, while Tik-Tok has broken through the American monopoly on global social networks.”

Lin further writes that in the mobile internet era, social media platforms are powerful tools to shape public opinion and are a way for the US to “rule the world.” With China gaining more influence in the English-language social media world, American soft power would be reduced. Lin suggests that the banning of TikTok is merely a strategic move to limit China’s power.

Some commenters compare the banning of TikTok to what recently happened to the closure of the Chinese consulate in America and the American consulate in China; if the American Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, then the Chinese TikTok gets blocked in the US.

“[But] it’s not that China doesn’t allow these platforms to be used,” one person responds: “It’s that they require these services to be based in China and to accept government supervision.”

Despite the major interest in the recent developments concerning TikTok in America on Weibo, there are also those who hope for less eventful days: “Would it be possible for Trump to not go trending every single day?”


This story is still developing.

Read more about articles about Sino-US relations here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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