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Reactions to Brexit in Chinese (Social) Media

News of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is fully dominating international headlines and has become the number one trending topic on Sina Weibo. As Brexit is now also making front-page news in China, What’s on Weibo provides an overview of reactions to Brexit in Chinese (social) media

Manya Koetse

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News of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is fully dominating international headlines and has become the number one trending topic on Sina Weibo. As Brexit is now also making front-page news in China, What’s on Weibo provides an overview of reactions to Brexit in Chinese (social) media.

Britain’s vote to leave the EU is dominating the headlines worldwide. On June 24, ‘Brexit’ also made it to the number one spot of Weibo’s trending topics list under the hashtag of ‘Britain out of EU Referendum’ (#英国脱欧公投#). For many Chinese media outlets and netizens, the outcome of the Brexit referendum shows the risks of democracy and populism.

 

“We’re eyewitnesses to history.”

 

“We’ve become eyewitnesses to history,” Chinese netizens said (“我们竟然成为了历史的见证人”), with others already advising younger generations to remember this day: “Dear students, this will be an exam question. In which year, what month and what day did Britain leave the European Union?”

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‘Brexit’ is the number one trending topic on China’s biggest social media platform Sina Weibo.

British prime minister Cameron announced that he would resign after the referendum outcome and that a new leader would be needed by October. That news was shared on Sina Weibo over 6050 times within twenty minutes after its release. “The UK is surely moving fast today,” one Weibo netizen responded. Another commenter jokingly writes: “Cameron says: ‘You stupid retards, I was just playing around and you fools took it seriously!'”

Other Chinese netizens also make fun of Cameron (卡姆伦), saying that by allowing this referendum over the UK’s EU membership to take place, he has “crushed his foot while trying to move a rock” (“搬起石头砸自己的脚”) – that he has fallen into the pit of his own digging. “You’re not careful for a second, and before you know it you’ve made history,” one netizen comments.

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Chinese reactions to Brexit on Sina Weibo: “We’ve become an eyewitness to history”.

There are also netizens who seem to understand Britain’s choice for leaving the EU: “It is like a husband and wife,” one commenter says: “If you can go on, you stay together, but if you cannot go on, you get a divorce. Staying together would only intensify the conflict.”

 

“Britain leaving the EU is a reflection of the ongoing global trend of populism.”

 

On Tencent’s opinion and commentary In Touch Today platform, Chinese author Xi Yinghong (奚应红) says Britain leaving the EU is a reflection of the ongoing trend of populism (民粹主义) that is currently spreading not only in Europe, but throughout the world. Xi writes that the division between those voting to “remain” and “exit” the EU can be crudely seen as a disagreement between the British (political) elite and the ordinary people, who seem to “speak a different language” on a variety of issues, “making communication difficult”:

“While London’s social elite is still loudly debating the negative implications of Brexit for UK economy, migration, and national sovereignty, the masses are more likely to be infected by these kinds of slogans: ‘We want to control our own borders, formulate our own laws, and get our money back from Brussels.’ Although they are talking about the same issues, the way they are expressed reflect a different psychological and emotional stage – and this difference is especially evident when it comes to the issue of immigration.”

According to a Tencent opinion poll that accompanied the article, a majority of Tencent readers already expected Britain to leave the EU.

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Opinion poll by Tencent: “Do you think the UK will leave the EU?” 31.47% says they will remain, 68.53% says they will leave.

On the question: “Do you think populism is a dangerous global trend?”, 35% of netizens indicated they do not perceive populism as a potential threat, whereas nearly 65% of participants do feel it is potentially dangerous.

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The opinion poll by Tencent: “Do you think populism is a dangerous global trend?” 35.41% says no, 64.59% says yes.

One much-upvoted comment to the article says: “The issue of Britain leaving the EU is a very complicated one that involves political, economic, as well as diplomatic problems. It is an issue that should’ve been be left to the experts, not to ordinary people who do not have a fundamental understanding of economics and foreign diplomacy. Now the British need to bear the consequences of their choice.”

 

“The democratic system will drag Britain through the mud.”

 

Influential economic newspaper The Economic Observer (观察) made Brexit big front page news (featured image) today, with headlines saying: “Britain Leaves EU, Cameron Resigns”. In the leader, journalist Li Lin (李晽) wonders “whether Cameron will be condemned by history in the UK and throughout Europe” for the outcome of the Brexit referendum, that could cause a “butterfly effect” (蝴蝶效应).

One reader comments: “Some people will be happy and some will be sad that UK is separating itself from Europe. Fact is that the democratic system will further drag Britain through the mud. It seems that a major reshuffle in the world is really about to begin now.”

China’s biggest newspaper The People’s Daily (人民日报), the official news outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, did not make Brexit front page news. Instead, their headlines are all focused on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, 海合作组织) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Chinese president Xi Jinping met with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

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Not Brexit, but the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting was on the frontpage of China’s largest state media outlet.

The two presidents reportedly spoke about the promotion of the SCO in regional development and security. Apart from Russia and the PRC, the 2001-founded Shanghai Cooperation Organization currently has 6 other members, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Putin and Xi also spoke about enhancing the Sino-Russian bilateral ties and their strategic partnership. Brexit was not part of their agenda meeting.

 

“This day will go into the history books as the moment that led to the collapse of the European Union.”

 

Some media and netizens also discuss to what extent Brexit will influence China. According to the West Strait Morning Post (海西晨报), experts say the referendum’s outcome will be positive for Chinese students studying abroad due to the devaluation of the pound. They also state that Britain’s vote to leave the EU is expected to have a “limited impact” on the trade relations between China and Europe.

Many Chinese netizens follow the news about Europe with much interest. A post by the Chinese Wall Street Journal saying: “After Brexit, Dutch politician Geert Wilders has promised to organize a referendum about the Netherlands leaving the EU” has attracted much attention and was shared over 10,000 times within a couple of hours.

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Dutch politician Geert Wilders is a much talked-about topic on Chinese social media today.

 

“First Britain leaves the EU, and then the Netherlands will follow. The EU is crying,” a Weibo user says.

“I can understand it,” one other commenter says: “Even countries like Turkey will enter the EU, and the Netherlands would not want that.” “Muslim immigration has greatly contributed to countries leaving the EU,” another netizen comments.

Overall, many netizens see Britain’s vote to leave the EU as the beginning of a further disintegration of the EU. Apart from a potential referendum in the Netherlands, there are also many expecting a second independence referendum in Scotland. News and analysis outlet Caixin.com writes: “The UK decision will encourage the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and other countries to also leave the EU,” reporting about a speech given by U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage earlier today.

“I have an inkling that this day will go into the history books as the moment that led to the collapse of the European Union,” one Weibo user concludes.

– By Manya Koetse

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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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

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China Media

Online Outrage over Gansu Female Medical Workers Required to Shave Their Heads

Heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of visual propaganda? A video showing female medical workers having their heads shaved has triggered controversy.

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A Chinese media post praising female nurses for having their heads shaved has sparked outrage on Weibo and WeChat. Are these women heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of gendered visual propaganda?

A video showing tearful female medical workers having their head shaved before going to COVID-19 epicenter city Wuhan has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The video, originally posted by Gansu Daily (每日甘肃网) on February 15, shows how a group of female nurses is standing in line to have their hair shaved off in preparation of their mission to Hubei to assist during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In the short segment that has since gone viral on Weibo and WeChat, some women can be seen crying while having all of their hair shaved off.

According to Gansu Daily and other Chinese media, the fifteen nurses, including one man, are part of a medical aid group that was sent out to Wuhan this weekend. Their hair was reportedly shaved off “in accordance with requirements” to make their work more efficient and reduce the risk of infection.

The original news post praises the women as “the epidemic’s heroes in harm’s way” (“疫情中最美的逆行者”) – a term also used to describe brave firefighters during the 2015 Tianjin explosions (for more background on this term in Chinese, also see Xinhua and Zhihu).

Although the story praises the female medical workers as heroes and was soon reposted and promoted by many other (state) media, it was not just met with positive reactions from Chinese netizens.

On the contrary: it triggered waves of criticism over the medical team’s supervisors requiring the women to shave off their hair, with many deeming the measures unnecessary, humiliating, and sexist.

“Why do they need to shave all of their hair, the men don’t even need to do that?!”, some Weibo commenters wonder.

Many Weibo users wonder how necessary it actually is for the women to go completely bold for medical work purposes, wondering why the male workers do not need to shave their heads and why the women could not just opt for a shorter hairstyle instead – suggesting the media circus surrounding the shaving of the heads is more about visual propaganda than actually being a necessity.

“I am a medical worker myself,” one Weibo user writes: “I consulted an infection control doctor [on this matter] and they said it is not necessary at all to have a bald head. Short hair is convenient enough, and hair has a protective function too to reduce [skin] irritation from the friction of wearing hats and masks. It furthermore also has a function of catching sweat, preventing it from dripping to your eyes. A shaven head does more harm than good.”

“Why do people need to bleed and cry in order for them to become heroes?”, others say: “This is just cruel.”

Adding to the online fury was a photo showing the group of medical workers after their heads were shaved, as the one male nurse in the group not only seemed to wear a better quality face mask, but also appeared to have much more hair left than the female nurses.

The original Gansu Daily post has since been deleted from social media.

On WeChat account Epoch Story (“epochstory2017″/Epoch故事小馆), author Chen Mashu (陈麻薯) posted a critique on February 17th titled “Please Stop Using Female Bodies as Propaganda Tools” (“请停止用女性的身体,作为宣传的工具“).

Recent online Chinese visual propaganda in times of the coronavirus crisis has seen a strong focus on Wuhan medical workers.

This kind of visual propaganda often highlights the idea of “sacrificing,” especially when it comes to women as pretty girls, loving mothers, or good wives.

In the WeChat article, author Chen argues that Chinese state media always uses women’s bodies as a tool for propaganda, and argues that it should not be necessary for women to endure extra hardship or suffering (in this case, sacrifice their hair) in order to make them admirable ‘model workers.’ The fact that they are fighting on the front line should be more than enough reason to praise them, Chen writes.

While these women’s tears were “used to try to impress the audience” and become an example of some “collectivist spirit,” Chen argues, this kind of propaganda backfired because the individual needs and wishes of these women were completely ignored during the process.

Although the original story and visuals may have meant to be empowering in times of coronacrisis, they are actually counterproductive to female empowerment at large.

This is not the first time the role of women in Chinese state media propaganda become a big topic of discussion online.

In 2016, a photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls” (十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web during the Wuhan flood also caused controversy. In the online media campaign, Chinese state media paid a ‘tribute’ to rescue workers by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

At time of writing, various posts about the shaved heads of the Gansu medical workers have been taken offline.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan) and Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr), with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China Media

“Our Cities Are Sick, But We Will Make Them Better” – Popular Online Video Promotes Chinese Unity in Times of COVID-19

Chinese state media are spreading more hopeful and positive online content in times of coronacrisis.

Jialing Xie

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From Guangzhou to Shenzhen, from Wuhan to Chengdu, bustling streets and busy markets are left empty and quiet, as China is in the midst of dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

“[People are] afraid, they are anxious, and the masks they wear widens the distance between them,” a whispered female voiceover says in a new 3-minute ‘documentary’ video that has been propagated online by Chinese state media over the past week.

The short video shows scenes from cities all across China – a deserted train station in Wuhan, a person cycling on a quiet Beijing street, a nearly empty highway in Shenzhen – while a tracker in the corner shows the number of confirmed coronavirus diseases cases in that location.

While the first half of the online ‘shortdoc’ emphasizes how COVID-19 has affected every corner of the country in negative ways, making the past Chinese New Year the most depressing one in decades, the second half shifts to a message of hope and positivity.

Instead of highlighting the grey and empty streets across China, the video focuses on the energy and courage of the medical workers, policemen, and construction workers across the country doing what they can to fight the battle against the coronavirus.

“We are looking forward to the day we will take off our masks again, leave our homes, be with our loved ones, and enjoy that tasty bite of steaming hot buns.”

The voiceover continues to say that “every city will wake up again” and that “the smiles will return to people’s faces,” concluding: “Because we are still together [in this], because we are Chinese.”

The short video ends with the slogan “Our cities are sick, but we will cure them” (“我们的城市生病了,但是我们会治好它”).

Originally posted by state-run media People’s Daily on Weibo, the three-minute film attracted more than 80 million views within two days after it was posted. By now, the hashtag “3-minute Documentary Features Chinese Cities in Times of Epidemic” (#3分钟记录疫情下的中国城市#), also hosted by People’s Daily, was viewed almost 90 million times.

The video was produced under the ‘New Studio Media Group’ (Xinpianchang / 新片场社区) with video contributions from 48 different content producers from all over the country. Xinpianchang is a Beijing-based online media group and video content platform founded in 2012.

Many online viewers express that they are touched and inspired by the short doc.

Recently, Chinese social media has seen more short videos depicting what life in times of coronacrisis is like for people living in different parts of China.

Chinese publication The Cover (封面新闻) recenty also posted a three-minute video of the scenes in Chengdu city, showing that its once bustling streets are now more like a ghost city.

Some Weibo netizens from Wuhan also post short videos of their city, repeating the slogan “Our city is sick, but we will cure it” and welcoming people to visit Wuhan once this epidemic is over.

Over the past weeks, Chinese state media have started to disseminate and propagate more hopeful online content, praising the work of those fighting COVID-19 and showing support to the people of Wuhan and emphasizing the unity of China in times of crisis.

For more about this and other COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Jialing Xie

This article has been edited for clarity.

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.

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

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