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‘Preferential Treatment’ of Foreign Students in China: Top 3 Controversies This Week

A wave of sentiment against foreign students is taking over Chinese social media this week.

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The treatment of foreign students in China is a major topic of discussion this week, as various stories involving apparent favoritism of exchange students are making their rounds on Chinese social media. This is a top 3 of trending issues.

Recently, there have been many discussions on Chinese social media on the alleged preferential treatment of foreign (exchange) students in China.

Various topics popping up over the past week have triggered anger among netizens about foreign students being allowed to come and study China under favorable conditions.

Some netizens think foreign students make use of the situation and refer to these students as ‘foreign trash’ (洋垃圾).

Although there are many different stories making their rounds, these are the three main news topics of the moment relating to ‘favoritism’ of foreign students compared to Chinese students.

 

1. Arranging ‘Girlfriends’: Shandong’s Study Buddy System Sparks Outrage Online

The first story relating to foreign students that has been making news recently is that of preferential treatment of foreigners at Shandong University.

It is this story that later led to more stories coming out about supposed unequal standards for overseas students in China.

The outrage started after a registration form from Shandong University for students to apply as a “buddy” to exchange students made its rounds on Chinese social media.

The form clearly states “making a foreign friend of the opposite sex” as one of its options.

As explained by SupChina, the study buddy program (学伴制度) was established in 2016 to promote cooperation between foreign and Chinese students.

This year’s application forms show that multiple Chinese volunteers are now grouped and assigned to one foreign student to assist them with school assignments or to keep them company during other (social) activities.

One extreme case in which 25 Chinese students attended to the needs of one single exchange student stirred discussions online. The graduate student from Zimbabwe, who did not speak Chinese, was admitted to the hospital for 25 days for a broken leg and the university had arranged one volunteering student to come to the hospital every day.

The form also showed a specific focus on gender, requiring students to choose options for becoming a study buddy, including that of “making foreign friends of the opposite sex” (“结交外国异性友人”) and allowing them to indicate their preference for their matched buddy’s personality.

A notice circulating on Weibo from the university showed that 47 foreigners taking part in the program were each matched with three Chinese students, most of them female.

This led to people wondering if Shandong University was acting as an educational institute or a matchmaking company, and accused the university of arranging girlfriends for male foreign students.

Shandong University has since apologized and said it would conduct a “thorough research” of its Buddy Programme.

Not all people, however, understand what all the fuss is about. As one popular Weibo blogger noted: “Shandong University’s Buddy System is voluntary, and it is optional to choose the preferred gender of the exchange student, there is no need to fill this out.”

 

2. Lenient Laws? Foreign Student Traffic Police Incident

Another incident sparking controversy occurred on July 9 in the city of Fuzhou, where an international student from the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University was caught breaking traffic rules on his electric scooter – he was carrying another individual.

When the traffic police stopped the man, he resisted with violence and tried to push the officer out of his way.

Yet, despite his apparent aggressive behavior, the man reportedly was only penalized for his traffic offense and did not face any other legal punishments.

The man has been identified as an Egyptian student by the name of Younes.

One Weibo thread reporting on the incident received approximately 37,000 comments and neared half a million likes.

Although Chinese social media users were angered that the man was let go so easily, the Epoch Times, a news outlet highly critical of China, stated that laws in China about carrying passengers on mopeds are loosely and often arbitrarily enforced.

Instead of reporting favoritism, the Epoch Times article suggests that the incident actually signals towards a bias against foreigners, which is allegedly part of a Chinese media campaign that “portrays Westerners inside China in an increasingly negative light.”

A bystander video of the incident shows the foreign man shouting at the traffic police and even chasing him.

“Why was he not punished for attacking the policeman?” many on Weibo wonder: “He should be expelled from school and sent back home!”

The hashtag “Foreign Student Violates Law, Then Jostles with Traffic Police” (#外籍学生违反交规推搡交警), hosted by CCTV, received 110 million views on Weibo.

On July 15, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to these online discussions, saying that China welcomes foreign students to study in China to promote mutual understanding and friendships between China and other countries. They also stressed that foreign students should always abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

 

3. Unequal Standards: Dorm Disparity

Dorm disparity between Chinese and foreign students has been a topic of discussion for some time.

In 2018, a short movie went viral on Chinese social media exposing the big differences between the dorm conditions of Chinese students and of foreigners studying in China, causing controversy online.

Amidst all recent discussions on foreign students in China, the dorm discussion has also flared up again.

On July 19, one Chinese netizen noted that the Shandong Agriculture University was refurbishing its guesthouse facilities, where the foreign students live, while photos showed that the Chinese dorms are in abominable conditions.

“Why can’t they live together with Chinese students?” many commenters wonder: “Are Chinese students of a lower rank?”

On July 12, the Shandong Finance & Economics University dorms also became a topic of discussion on Weibo after management required Chinese students to move to another dorm twenty minutes further away so that they could let foreign students live in their dorms instead.

Following online protests, the management decided to halt the dorm move.

Another story getting big this week involves the different electricity quota for foreign students at a Shandong University dorm, where ‘exchange students’ as a separate category are allowed to freely use 30 kWh per month, more than double of what (Chinese) graduate students are allowed to use.

“This is a disgrace to our country,” some commenters said.

Depending on the university, Chinese students often do not have the option to live in foreign dorms, while foreigners often also do not have the option to live in Chinese dorms. In some universities, however, students live together.

At present, just as in the discussions in 2018, there are also commenters noting that foreign students often pay much more for their dorms; exchange students often pay daily fees whereas Chinese students pay per semester. Price differences can be as much as 8 to 10 times more for foreign students’ dormitories.

University Swimming Pool ‘Only for Foreigners’

While more and more people are now calling for more equal standards between Chinese and foreign dormitories, “Capital Normal University discriminates against Chinese” is the statement that is now making its rounds on Chinese social media – further heightening discussions on unequal dorm situations.

On July 17, one netizen posted photos of the regulations at the swimming pool of the Capital Normal University in Beijing.

According to the sign, teachers and staff are allowed to enter the swimming pool for 60 yuan ($8,7), exchange students can enter for 30 yuan ($4,3),  and Chinese students cannot enter at all.

Many people on social media responded to the issue with anger, saying that Chinese students were being “treated like dogs.”

The university issued a response to the controversy on July 18, stating that the swimming pool in question is located in the university’s Grand Building and is part of its facilities.

Because the pool is small (25 x 12.5 meters), it is only meant to be used by those teachers, staff, and students, who are living or working within the Grand Building, with staff paying full price and students paying half.

The statement says that the sign as posted on social media contained “an error” which was already adjusted in January of 2019.

The hashtag “Normal University Responds to Swimming Pool Issue” (#首师大回应游泳馆问题#) received 160 million views at the time of writing. Many people among the thousands who reacted still think the sign is unforgivable.

 

Although all these controversies led to some people negatively expressing themselves about foreign students, there are also many who note that it is not about foreign students per se, but about their selective treatment by universities and/or authorities.

In response to these controversies, state media outlet Global Times published an ‘opinion piece’ on July 17 which stated that offering foreigners certain special treatment has been the norm in China for a long time, as only a small number of foreigners would come to China, and Chinese were eager to show courtesy to every guest.

But, “times have changed,” the author argues: “With more expats [sic] living in China, some people’s obsequiousness for foreigners might lead to resentment and social unease.”

The author notes that some foreigners receive preferential treatment in China while being outlawed in their own countries.

“We should be neither xenophobic nor xenocentric,” the conclusion says: “As a rising power that is looking at opening up wider, fair and equal treatment of foreigners is a lesson we ought to learn.”

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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China Arts & Entertainment

The Chunwan Liveblog: Watching the 2021 CMG Spring Festival Gala

We’re here to keep you updated about the CMG Spring Festival Gala, China’s biggest New Year’s TV event.

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Happy Niu Year! The Lunar New Year is here, and that means millions of Chinese families are watching the annual 4-hour-long live Spring Festival Gala as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Watch the event together with What’s on Weibo, as we will liveblog throughout the show. (This event had ended, liveblog is now closed!)

In these turbulent times when everything is changing, there is one thing to count on, and that is the airing of China’s Spring Festival Gala. Despite the pandemic, the 39th edition of the festival will go ahead.

A live-streaming of the Gala will be live on Thursday, February 11, 20.00 pm China Standard Time. Check out this YouTube link, live stream from Weibo, or watch straight from CCTV. We will be live-blogging on this page here.

 

What Exactly is the ‘Chunwan’ Gala?

 

China’s CCTV Spring Festival Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会), commonly abbreviated to chūnwǎn (春晚), is an annual TV gala to celebrate the start of the new year and it is the most-watched show in the world. Although it is known as the CCTV Gala, it is now officially presented as being hosted by “China Media Group” (CMG), the predominant state media company founded in 2018 that holds China Central Television, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

Since its very first airing in 1983, the Spring Festival Gala has captured an audience of millions. In 2010, the live Gala had a viewership of 730 million; in 2014, it had reached a viewership of 900 million, and in 2019, over a billion people watched the Gala on TV and online, making the show much bigger in terms of viewership than, for example, the Super Bowl.

The show lasts a total of four hours and usually has around 30 to 40 different acts, from dance to singing and acrobatics. The acts that are both most-loved and most-dreaded are the comic sketches (小品) and crosstalk (相声); they are usually the funniest, but also convey the most political messages.

As viewer ratings of the CCTV Gala in the 21st century have skyrocketed, so has the critique on the show – which seems to be growing year-on-year. According to many viewers, the spectacle generally is often “way too political” with its display of communist nostalgia, including the performance of different revolutionary songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There is No New China” (没有共产党就没有新中国).

For this same reason, the sentence “There’ll never be a worst, just worse than last year” (“央视春晚,没有最烂,只有更烂”) has become a well-known idiom connected to the Gala.

If you want to know more about the previous editions, we also live-blogged
– 2020: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2020
– 2019: The CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2019 Live Blog
– 2018: CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 (Live Blog)
– 2017: CCTV New Year’s Gala 2017 Live Blog
– 2016: CCTV’s New Year’s Gala 2016 Liveblog

 

Liveblog CCTV Gala 2021

 
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The original liveblog was done via a third-party app. The original texts and images are copied below for reference. The timestamp refers to the last moment that post was updated.
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What can we expect?

Feb 11 17:07

The show is starting a couple of hours from now, what can we expect?

The Spring Festival Gala usually always focuses on the themes that matter to Chinese authorities, as the event is an important moment to communicate official ideology. The themes and topic that will matter this year are the following:

– China’s battle against COVID19
– the Chinese Communist Party marks its 100th anniversary
– China’s eradication of poverty
– The upcoming Winter Olympics

These themes are likely to come up in various acts, or in the public service announcement or special moments throughout the show. Tonight, there will be a total of 36 acts including songs, dance acts, skits, acrobatics, martial arts, and some magic.

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What Is Weibo Anticipating Most Tonight?

Feb 11 19:15

Just an hour to go before the Gala will start! On Weibo, there are various hashtags related to the Gala, including “Chunwan Year of the Ox” (#牛年春晚#), which is already up to 270 million views at this point.

People look most forward to seeing the super popular Wang Yibo on stage, which will be in the early parts of the Gala. People also look forward to seeing Chinese top actress Yang Mi, she will be performing together with Chinese actor Liu Ye in one the show’s final acts. Then there’s the appearance of former ‘Supergirl’ star Li Yuchun, who will appear in a fashion show act that many look forward to.

We also look forward to seeing a skit that is titled “Pressured into Marriage Every Year.” Then of course, there will be the inevitable performance by Jackie Chan that always leads to some online discussions. We’re also curious to see that fashion show that highlights Chinese fashion using hologram technology.

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Starting in 5 Minutes!

Feb 11 19:59

Are you ready? Make sure you watch the live stream here or on YouTube here. Turn on the sound – you’ll hear pings coming up when we add an update to comment on the show throughout the night.

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Opening Dance

Feb 11 20:03

And…it’s begun! This first act of the night is a singing and dancing act titles “Best Wishes” (“万事如意” wàn shì rú yì – a Chinese idiom that means ‘may all your hopes be fulfilled.’)

This acts opens with some famous names (although there will be famous names throughout the show). The very pretty Tong Liya 佟丽娅 is an actress and dancer who was born in Xinjiang, she is of the Xibo ethnicity. William Chan Wai-ting is famous a Hong Kong singer, dancer and actor. We also see the actress Jiang Shuying on stage, also known as Maggie Jiang.

Performed by: Tong Liya 佟丽娅, Chen Weiting 陈伟霆 (Hong Kong), Jiang Shuying 江疏影, Du Jiang 杜江, Ouyang Nana 欧阳娜娜 (Taiwan), Long Zilan 龙紫岚 (Macau).

Updated with video link:

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Hosts of Chunwan 2021

Feb 11 20:06

Tonight’s hosts are Ren Luyu (任鲁豫), Li Sisi (李思思), Nëghmet Raxman (尼格买提), Long Yang (龙洋), and Zhang Tao (张韬).

Ren Luyu (1978) is a Chinese television host from Henan, and he has presented the Gala many times before (2010, 2016, 2018, 2019) so he is a very familiar face to the show.

Nëghmet Raxman (1983) is a Chinese television host of Uyghur heritage who also is not a newcomer; he hosted the Gala since 2015.

Li Sisi (1986) is a Chinese television host and media personality most known for her role as host of the Gala since 2012.

Then there are also two ‘newcomers.’ Long Yang (1989) is the youngest presenter tonight. Born in Hunan’s Chenzhou, she’s been working in Chinese state media for years. As a host, she’s done various big events before, but 2021 is the first time for her to host the CMG Spring Festival Gala.

Also for Zhang Tao (1988?) it is going to be the first time to present the show. Zhang currently hosts the CCTV4 China News and previously worked at Chongqing TV.

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Song and Dance “Holiday”

Feb 11 20:12

This act is called Holiday (节日), and includes African, Egyptian, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese influences.

There are some famous people involved in this act, such as the 70-year-old singer Zhu Mingying (朱明瑛) and the Chinese actor Zhang Han (张翰).

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance.

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Tech Innovation at the Gala

Feb 11 20:16

The Gala is always a time to showcase China’s innovative digitalization. This year, the Gala is also called a “tech innovation event,” which, for the first time, will use 8K ultra high-tech definition video and AI+VR studio technologies.

The event also features the innovative use of super high definition cloud communication technology to coordinate performances on stage.

As reported by CCTV, some actors who are not in the Chinese mainland and aren’t able to perform live due to the COVID-19 pandemic will still be “on stage”; the cloud technology allows actors who can’t be physically present during the live performances to participate via prerecorded videos while also remotely interacting with the audience.

Chinese state media have been announcing the tech integrated in the show, calling it “a breakthrough in new media communication.” It’s all about 4K, 5G, AR, AI, 3D, and 8K!

This year, the Gala is cooperating with the Douyin app for its ‘hongbao’ (red envelope) activities.

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Yue Yunpeng & Sun Yue Crosstalk

Feb 11 20:26

This is the first xiangsheng of the night. Xiangsheng (相声), or ‘crosstalk,’ is a dialogue between actors with rich puns and word jokes, that usually sees two actors with one playing the “joker” and the other playing the “teaser. ”

On stage, we see Chinese actor Yue Yunpeng (1985), who is particularly known for his xiangsheng performances, together with well-known Beijing-born comedian Sun Yue (1979). This is a famous duo, they’ve previously also performed together at the Gala.

The two are looking back at the songs that have appeared at the festival throughout the years – all songs that the audience can sing together with them.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance.

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Chinese New Year Face Masks

Feb 11 20:22

Today’s event is taking place with an audience attending, as every year. This is also possible due to China’s super strict COVID19 measures and requirements.

What is noteworthy is the masks worn by every audience member – they are special Year of the Ox Spring Festival face masks made by the China Media Group for this occasion. How very 2021.

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Traditional Jokes

Feb 11 20:29

Some jokes just never get old.. like this one, that also surfaced on Chinese social media last year.

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Andy Lau, Wang Yibo, Guan Xiaotong “Niu Qilai”

Feb 11 21:59

OMG! Robot ox, virtual ox, 3D ox – Year of the Ox in China’s digital era!

Here comes Andy Lau, one of Hong Kong’s most famous actors. But it’s probably not Andy that most people are excited about now – it’s Wang Yibo, one of Weibo’s most influential celebrities of the moment.

Talking about the most-anticipated act of this night, it’s actually Wang Yibo according to social media users – there was an online poll on who they want to see most tonight.

Wang Yibo (1997) is a Chinese actor, singer, dancer, and rapper who debuted as a member of the South Korean-Chinese boyband UNIQ in 2014 and starred in the 2019 Chinese TV series The Untamed (陈情令). On Sina Weibo, the celebrity was the champion of Weibo’s ‘Most Influential Celebrity’ charts recently – he really has a huge online fanbase.

Also performing here is Beijing actress Guan Xiaotong (1997), who is also known as the ‘national daughter’ for always playing the daughter roles in tv-series and movies. Remember that time when Weibo servers were down due to a celebrity relationship announcement? That was about Guan and her relationship with Chinese singer and actor Lu Han.

Updated with video link:

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Martial Arts Meet High Tech

Feb 11 20:47

This act is titled “Heroes of Heaven and Earth” (天地英雄) and uses AR technology to integrate nature landscapes into martial arts scenes.

And then there’s this performer who is hanging by her hair that is causing some discussion online:

em>Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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“How come Andy Lau never gets old?!”

Feb 11 20:43

Meanwhile, on Chinese social media, netizens are discussing why it seems that everyone is getting older except for actor Andy Lau, who performed in the act before this. Andy Lau was born in the Year of the Ox and he’s 60 years old!

Fun fact: all of the performers in that act, namely Andy Lau, Guan Xiaotong, and Wang Yibo were all born in the Year of the Ox.

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The 2021 Theme and Director

Feb 11 20:50

While we are into the sixth act of the night, let’s look at the theme and director of this show for a second.

After themes such as “New China”, “Chinese Dream”, “National Unity”, “Family Affinity”, and “Chinese values, Chinese power,” this year’s theme is focused on reflecting the daily lives of ordinary people.

Due to COVID19, this is also a special edition of the festival. Usually, it takes place from various locations with different hosts across China. This year, that is not the case.

This year’s chief director is Chen Linchun (陈临春). After the Guangdong director Yang Dongsheng (杨东升) directed the CCTV Gala in 2017, 2018, and 2020, it’s a different chief director for a change, but Chen is definitely no stranger to the Gala. He previously directed the event in 2008 and 2011 and was also closely involved in the production before.

The Gala is always completely rehearsed multiple times before the live show. The fifth rehearsal of the Gala took place on Tuesday.

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New Social Media Traditions are Born

Feb 11 22:00

Another “new tradition” is online shopping while watching the festival.

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“Running Youth”

Feb 11 21:03

This song is called “Running Youth” (奔跑的青春), performed by many well-known faces.

One of them is the popular Dilraba Dilmurat 迪丽热巴, a young Chinese actress of Uyghur ethnicity.

em>Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Special Program: “Report to the Motherland”

Feb 11 21:10

This special part of the show invites Chinese space experts to tell the story of spaceflight, and there will be representatives of the “2020 Poverty Alleviation Award” to shortly address China’s anti-poverty efforts.

em>Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Andy Lau became a meme already

Feb 11 21:08

Meanwhile.. on Weibo, the actor Andy Lau who performed earlier tonight seems to have become a meme, with people sharing this segment of the song that wishes everyone a prosperous New Year. Gōng xǐ fā cái!

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“The Road of Pursuing Dreams,” Performed by Han Hong

Feb 11 21:14

This song titled “The Road of Pursuing Dreams” (追梦之路) performed by Han Hong (韩红), a famous singer and songwriter of mixed Han and Tibetan ethnicity. She became a topic of banter on social media for earlier performances during the Chunwan that were a bit awkward.

em>Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Beautiful Jasmine Dance

Feb 11 21:19

This dance is called “Jasmine” (茉莉) with the lead dancer Meng Qingyang and performance by the China Oriental Performing Arts Group.

Updated with video link:

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(Act 10) Skit: “Balcony”

Feb 11 21:38

This skit was among one of the more anticipated performances tonight. It is focused on the early days of the epidemic in China and how to overcome hardships.

The skit is about people during the lockdown who are worried about family members working on the frontlines. Neighbors use drones to pass on food.

The end of the lockdown is then lifted (looking back on April 2020), which is celebrated. The Gala switches to scenes of Wuhan and real frontline workers.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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“Tomorrow Will Be Better”

Feb 11 21:46

This song, titled “Tomorrow Will Be Better” (明天会更好) is a clear reference to the pandemic and it is sung by, among others, Jackie Chan! It continues on the same stage and in the same setting as the skit before this.

Jackie Chan (成龙) has become an annually returning performer at the CCTV Gala. Although his performances are always much-anticipated, they’ve also been pretty cringe-worthy. In 2017, the song performed by Jackie that was simply titled “Nation” was met with criticism for being overly political. In 2018, the Hong Kong martial artist sung a song that was called “China” and in 2019 he performed ‘My Struggle, My Happiness.’

We also see Zhu Yilong on stage, a Chinese actor born in 1988. He was voted as one of the actors that Chinese social media users were looking forward to see most at tonight’s Gala.

(Picture above shows performer with “thank you” on this shirt). Many netizens say they are moved to tears by this song and the memory of everything that happened last year during the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.

Updated with video link:

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The “Tomorrow Will Be Better Song” Moved Many to Tears

Feb 11 21:48

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“China in the Lights”

Feb 11 21:51

The Gala is moving fast! “China in the Lights” (灯火里的中国) preceded the skit that is now on stage, and it was sung by Chinese singers Zhang Ye (张也) and Zhou Shen (周深, also known as Charlie Zhou), accompanied by performers from the Evergrande Folk Song and Dance Troupe and others.

em>Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Spring Cleaning (大扫除)

Feb 11 21:57

This performance is called ‘Spring Cleaning’ (大扫除), referring to the custom of cleaning the house before the Chinese New Year – a way of driving away the bad luck of the previous year to allow for a new start.

Performing here are Sun Tao (孙涛), Wang Xun (王迅), Qin Hailu (秦海璐), Huang Zitao (黄子韬). The skit makes fun of Chinese bureaucracy.

This skit is especially noteworthy because Chinese singer-songwriter, rapper, actor, and model Huang Zitao is in it. He became super popular as a former member of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo and its Chinese sub-unit, Exo-M.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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FASHION SHOW

Feb 11 22:20

This fashion show (山水霓裳) takes place around Li Yuchun’s solo performance, and it highlights the beauty of Chinese costumes in a new way. As state media previously reported, the fashion show uses split-screen shooting and hologram technology to show the beauty of Chinese costumes to “demonstrate cultural confidence.”

Around 2013, Li Yuchun was one of the most discussed female artists on the Chinese Internet. She was the winner of China’s ‘Supergirl’ TV show and became a national idol and a cultural phenomenon. Due to her androgynous look, Li Yuchun’s stardom led to online discussions on the tomboy trend and sexuality, as she challenged the conventional Chinese criteria for feminine aesthetics and traditional gender norms. It is the third time for Li to participate in the Gala.

Updated with video link:

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如此家长

Feb 11 22:21

Here is another xiangsheng act now with performers Jin Fei (金霏) and Chen Xi (陈曦). The act is about being parents and children’s education.

Some people on Weibo are joking that it’s good that the audience is wearing face masks so nobody has to pretend to laugh when they think the jokes aren’t funny.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Relatives – Weibo blowing up!

Feb 11 22:28

This song is super popular, social media is exploding, because superstars Zhang Jie and Yi Yang Qianxi (Jackson Yee) are on stage. Jackson Yee became the youngest member of the Chinese boy band TFBoys in 2013 and is also a solo artist and singer, he has an enormous fanbase on social media.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Chinese Opera (盛世百花园)

Feb 11 22:38

In comparison to other acts, there are few Chinese Opera acts in the Spring Festival Gala nowadays, but this is an elaborate act that includes many famous names.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Lay Zhang Is Here

Feb 11 22:45

This act was among the acts that was discussed the most on social media before the Spring Festival Gala began, because it is Lay Zhang (张艺兴) singing “Picture Scroll” (画卷). Zhang is a Chinese singer-songwriter, music producer, dancer, and actor. He debuted as a member of the South Korean-Chinese boy group Exo.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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On the Train to Spring

Feb 11 23:07

This performance is called “Towards the Happiness of Spring Days” (开往春天的幸福) and takes place on the high-speed train. The skit has a focus on hard work, duty, and also touches upon China’s rapid developments (the gaotie train, 5G, etc).

One of the performers in this skit is Chinese actress Ni Ni, who is praised on social media for her slim and pretty body figure.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Shepherds of Keketuohai

Feb 11 23:07

This song is called “Shepherds of Keketuohai (可可托海的牧羊人) performed by artist Wang Qi (王琪) and actress Luo Wenbo (骆文博). This song was released earlier in 2020.

Keketuohai is a national park / scenic area in Xinjiang that has many geological wonders.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Pressured to Marry

Feb 11 23:21

“Pressured to Marry Every Holiday” (每逢佳节被催婚) is a skit that focuses on the social pressure many Chinese young people feel, especially during Chinese New Year, when parents and relatives will ask them why they still are not married?! This had led to the phenomenon of people ‘renting’ fake boyfriends or girlfriends to avoid nagging questions, something that is also mentioned in this performance.

Some people on social media actually dread this skit because they are single and pressured, and this doesn’t help!



Performed by: Kaili Zhang 张凯丽, Zhang Guoqiang 张国强, Wan Xi 万茜, Ren Jialun 任嘉伦, Wu Hailong 吴海龙, Zhang Weiwei 张维威

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

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Children’s Song and Dance

Feb 11 23:32

“Listen to me” is the 22nd act of tonight (we’re not there yet.. still 14 more to go OMG!). This dance is performed by the Air Force Blue Sky Children’s Art Troupe.

Also on stage are ‘Sister Moon’ and Wang Yuan (Roy Wang), who is known as one of China’s most influential teens, although he is now 20 years old.

Luo Tianyi was also in this performance, a Chinese Vocaloid released by Shanghai Henian Information Technology Co. in 2012. She is the first Vocaloid Chinese singer.

Updated with video link:

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Crested Ibis

Feb 11 23:36

Zhu Jiejing (朱洁静) is here with the dance performance Zhuhuan (朱鹮), referring to the Crested ibis (a type of bird).

Zhu (1985) is a top dancer in China. She was recruited by Shanghai Dance School at the age of 9 and went on to have a flourishing career.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

National treasures returning home

Feb 11 23:41

Chinese actor Zhang Guoli is presenting this segment, which is a special part of the program about cultural relics that “return home”, meaning they returned to the mainland from overseas.

The Buddha head that is introduced here was returned from Japan.

The idea behind this “returning to the motherland” segment is of course also symbolical – stressing the importance of the Chinese nation as the (cultural) home.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

“I love you China”

Feb 11 23:47

An ode to China in this piece titled “I love China’ (我爱你中国), with on piano Li Yundi, the famous concert pianist, and dance by Tan Yuanyuan (Chinese American) and Zhang Aoyue.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Meanwhile on Taobao…

Feb 11 23:49

Meanwhile, the Chunyun is flourishing on e-commerce platform Taobao as well. Some Taobao sellers have managed to collect entire wardrobes of performers worn on stage just now.

——–

“Be Rest Assured, China”

Feb 11 23:55

China’s military power is the focus in this scene, where Lei Jia sings “Don’t Worry, Homeland” with images of the military in the background.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

100 Years Communist Party

Feb 11 23:58

This song (唱支山歌给党听) is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

HAPPY NIU YEAR!

Feb 11 23:59

While people on social media are complaining their parents are falling asleep, it’s 0:00 in Mainland China. The New Year is here!

——–

The Big Reunion

Feb 12 00:12

An inescapable part of Chunwan is the moment where everyone gets together and all ethnic groups and age groups and types of performances are thrown out on the stage together. That moment is now. This song is called “All People are One” (万众一心).

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Silly jokes keep coming

Feb 12 00:12

As we’re entering some of the final acts, some Chinese social media users have found a striking similarity between popstar Huang Zitao and the Buddha head that was just proudly presented on the #SpringFestivalGala as a national treasure returned to the motherland.

——–

Catching up…

Feb 12 00:18

The final acts of the night are always seemingly going much faster than the first (or we’re getting more tired), so what did we miss? The people you saw earlier were representatives of national medals and national honorary titles, including some people honored in the fight against COVID19.

There was the Peaceful Snow Picture song (瑞雪平安图) featuring Han Xue, Yuan Jiawei, and Wang Junkai – who is hugely popular as a member of the TFBoys.

We have now arrived at the xiangsheng act featuring Li Yinfei and Ye Peng.

——–

Sun Nan

Feb 12 00:24

Chinese singer Sun Nan is a recurring performer on the Spring Festival Gala. He was also the singer who danced together with 540 robots in an earlier version of the gala.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli Sing “Fall on Me”

Feb 12 00:30

These Italian performers joined via ‘cloud’ performance and were not actually in Beijing.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Burning Snowflakes/Love is Here (Olympic 2022 Song)

Feb 12 00:37

This performance is called ‘Burning Snowflakes’ (燃烧的雪花) and it is among the acts that was discussed a lot before tonight due to the participation of Yang Mi (1986).

This beautiful actress and singer gained fame and popularity through her various roles in Chinese hit TV dramas. Born in Beijing, Yang already started her acting career at the age of 4. Yang is now seen as one of Chinas biggest actresses, and also as one with the most commercial value; she was listed in the Top 10 Forbes Chinese Celebrities of 2020. And with 110 million fans (!) on her Weibo account, she is one of the most popular social media stars in China.

Also on stage is Chinese actor Liu Ye (刘烨, 1978), who is regarded as one of China’s top actors.

The enormous dancing panda on stage perhaps tells us more on what we can expect for the Winter Olympics in China in 2022.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Meanwhile..

Feb 12 00:47

While the show is entering its final phase and Jay Chou is singing Mojito.. (virtual presence via cloud tech, he’s not in the studio)..

..the news that BBC is no longer allowed to broadcast in mainland China is already called the biggest news of the Chinese New Year.

Updated with video links:
Link to video of Jay Chou performance; Link to video of following performance

——–

The Last Dance

Feb 12 00:30

This is the last dance of the night, a dance for ‘good luck’ featuring lead dancers Wang Haitian and Zhou Xu, with a performance by the China Eastern Performing Arts Group.

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

——–

Unforgettable Night

Feb 12 00:55

Unforgettable Night! The last song of this night is “Unforgettable Night” (难忘今宵).

It is sung by the senior singer and dancer Li Guyi (李谷一), who became famous with the song ‘Homeland Love’ (乡恋) around the time of China’s Reform and Opening Up – the singer and her songs are nostalgic for many viewers. Li Guyi also appeared at the very first version of the Gala in 1983, and became the singer that sang the most at the event.

Li Guyi sings the same song every year at the end of this show. The last song ends with all performers of the Beijing venue on stage. The song repeats the phrases 共祝愿 祖国好: let’s all wish together that the country will be good, that it will last long and be prosperous. The hosts wish everyone a happy new year, and much luck for the new year. And so do we! It’s a wrap, happy niu year to you!

Updated with video link:
Link to video of this performance

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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.

©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 Digital

From Red Packet to Virtual Hongbao: Lucky Envelopes in China’s Digital Era

Raising virtual cows, shaking with phones – this is the Chinese New Year tradition of giving red envelopes in the digital era.

Things That Talk

Published

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The custom of giving out red paper envelopes has evolved into a world of virtual lucky money and online games. This is the transformation of a Chinese New Year’s tradition, reported by Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

Ever wanted to raise a digital cow? This year, you can raise your own lucky cow (福牛) for Chinese New Year on Weibo. Through maintaining and raising their virtual cow (or ox), users can participate in this online game to win red envelopes, a well-known and beloved tradition linked to Chinese New Year.

The hashtag “Lucky Cow’s New Year’s Travelogue” (#福牛新春旅行记#) is linked to Weibo’s celebration of Chinese Spring Festival and the Year of the Ox. Users are expected to be active on Weibo daily to raise their cow/ox, similar to the once so popular Tamagotchi. Whilst leveling up their cow, users get the possibility to earn digital red envelopes.

The online game is another development in the story of the red envelopes, known in China as hongbao (红包). Often given during Chinese New Year, the envelopes can also be given at other joyous occasions like weddings. These red envelopes are given to each other by friends and family members to wish each other a happy new year and are always filled with an amount of money.

Red envelopes for sale via Taobao.

The practice of giving money during Chinese New Year goes far back in Chinese history. The earliest form of the red envelope is said to be yasuiqian (压祟钱). In order to keep evil spirits away, called sui (祟), people put money underneath children’s pillow since the evil spirits were said to be warded off by coins.1 These coins were woven together using a string.

Yasuiqian

As time went by and paper money and envelopes became more widespread, string and coins were replaced and the red envelope was created.

Red envelopes are used by Chinese all over the world nowadays. The amount of money inside depends on many factors. Recently, the tradition has left behind its tangible form and entered the digital era.

 

“Adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes”

 

In 2014, the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat (微信) launched a new function that allowed users to send virtual red envelopes. Users could send an amount of money directly to another user, or an amount of red envelopes could be sent into a groupchat. When the function launched, users worldwide could shake their phones in order to receive free red envelopes. The amount of money that was given to users surpassed 500 million yuan ($77.5 million).

WeChat’s inventive idea put digital red envelopes on the map in China. During the peak of the event, 800 million shakes were recorded per minute. There were two types of envelopes introduced in 2014 by Tencent, the company that owns WeChat:

1. A regular red envelope that could be sent directly from one user to another.
2. A ‘group’ red envelope, with a limited number to be grabbed and a limited sum of money which can be grabbed by all users in a group if they are fast enough. The sum inside this envelope is randomized, adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes.

Other companies also wanted a piece of the digital red envelope cake: Weibo and AliPay combined their strengths a year after WeChat introduced its digital hongbao in order to promote their version of the digital red envelope.

A ‘war’ then broke out between the two companies. AliPay handed out 600 million renminbi ($93 million) worth of red envelopes as a response to WeChat’s 120 million envelopes sent out during the televised celebration of Chinese New Year.2

 

“Digital red envelopes can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact”

 

In the years after, the digital red envelope became more and more popular. Weibo and Alipay also came with their version of sending red envelopes online. The companies organized large-scale actions to make users make use of their form of digital red envelopes.

WeChat, for instance, gives users the option to make the red envelopes very personal through adding stickers and personal messages, making the digital red envelope an even more enjoyable experience.

Does this new development of the traditional red envelope make the tangible envelope obsolete?

When asked by the digital newspaper The Paper (澎湃新闻) about whether the digital red envelope might replace its tangible brother, scholar Tian Zhaoyuan (田兆元) of East China Normal University said that the digital red envelope can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact. Though friends and family may send one another digital red envelopes, it does not mean that it replaces the tangible red envelopes.3

The tradition of sending red envelopes is and will be inherently linked to Chinese New Year. Though both the paper and digital forms of the tradition remain incredibly popular, the virtual hongbao will definitely win territory once more this year as travel is restricted due to COVID-19. Especially in these times, the digital red envelope is the best digital way of wishing family and friends a happy new year.

Why are ‘lucky envelopes’ not just red, but sometimes also green or purple? Read more via Things That Talk here.

 
By Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

Xiaojun Zhang (China Studies, BA) is an MA student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on contemporary Chinese culture, symbolism and food. For Things That Talk, she currently works on a project about Chinese-Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. Check out the story “Hongbao: from paper envelope to digital gift” on Things That Talk here!

 
Footnotes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Kin Wai Michael Siu. 2001. “Red Packet: a Traditional Object in the Modern World.” Journal of Popular Culture 35 (3), 103.
2 Chen, Liyan. 2015. “Red Envelope War: How Alibaba and Tencent Fight Over Chinese New Year.” Forbes, Feb 19 https://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2015/02/19/red-envelope-war-how-alibaba-and-tencent-fight-over-chinese-new-year/?sh=1b88bccccddd.
3 The Paper, Zuowei yi zhong “xinnian su”, weixin hongbao hui qudai zhizhi hongbao ma? 作为一种“新年俗”,微信红包会取代纸质红包吗?, https://cul.qq.com/a/20160208/012888.htm.

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.

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

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