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“Remember Their Faces”: An Online Tribute to the Chinese Soldiers Killed in Border Clash with India

“My love is crystal clear, it is only for China” – quotes and images; this is how the PLA soldiers are remembered on Weibo.

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Quotes, photos, music, and posters; this is how the four Chinese soldiers killed at the Galwan Valley clash are being remembered on Chinese social media.

In June of 2020, four Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed during a bloody border clash with Indian troops. The battle in the Galwan River Valley, in the disputed frontier region of Ladakh, was the deadliest border clash between the two countries in four decades.

News of the Chinese casualties was not released until late February of this year. Directly after the clash last year, Indian authorities said 20 of its troops had been killed. After the clash, a lot of fake news about the incident was circulating online.

That allegedly also played a role in why details about the deaths were revealed now, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin (华春莹) stating that the truth about the incident was “distorted and misled international public opinion.” She also said that “China’s disclosure of the truth about the border confrontation in June 2020 helps people understand the facts and show respect for the martyrs.”

Hua suggested that China initially did not report on the news to promote the “cooling and relaxation of the situation.” According to Foreign Policy, it is rare for the People’s Liberation Army to admit its casualties.

The four Chinese soldiers who were killed on June 15 of 2020 are Chen Hongjun (陈红军), 33, Xiao Siyuan (肖思远), 24, Wang Zhuoran (王焯冉), 24 and Chen Xiangrong (陈祥榕), 18.

Their commanding officer Qi Fabiao (祁发宝), 41, was badly injured during the clash. The four killed soldiers were posthumously awarded honorary and first-class merit citations. The injured regimental commander was also conferred with an honorary title.

On social media platform Weibo, the hashtag “Four PLA Soldiers Died in China-India Border Clashes” (#4名解放军官兵在中印边境冲突中牺牲#) had received 1,2 billion views by early March. Another hashtag, ‘The Central Military Commission Honors the Five Heroic Officers and Soldiers Guarding the Borders’ (#中央军委表彰5名卫国戍边英雄官兵#) received 250 million views on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlets made noteworthy efforts to shape the ways in which the soldiers are to be remembered, merging the political and the personal, and praising their patriotic commitment. Various official media accounts such as CCTV and People’s Daily have posted several images on social media to pay respect to the officers and soldiers, including the images below, using the phrases “The place where I stand is China” (“我站立的地方是中国”) and “I will defend the motherland with my life” (“我的祖国,我用生命捍卫守护”).

The phrase “We can’t lose an inch of our motherland” (#祖国山河一寸不能丢#) was also used in posts dedicated to the remembrance of the killed soldiers.

People’s Daily also published a video paying tribute to the soldiers along with the text “Please remember their faces” (“请记住他们的面孔”). The song “China Is Where I Stand” accompanies the images and footage of PLA soldiers in the video.

China Daily also published the quotes of the honored soldiers.

They are the following:

Qi Fabao: “Not everyone can understand my choice, but I have no regrets.”(”不是所有人都能理解我的选择,但我却无怨无悔”).

According to Chinese media reports, Colonel Qi was the first one during the border clash who went forward along with just a few other soldiers and officers to negotiate with the Indian troops. He supposedly approached them with open arms when he was met with violence and was attacked with steel pipes and stones. He suffered serious injuries to the head.

Chen Hongjun: “No matter what post I hold, I will contribute my utmost.”(”党把自己放在什么岗位上,就要在什么岗位上建功立业”.

As a battalion commander, Chen allegedly immediately came to the rescue when he saw Qi was being attacked, bringing other soldiers into what is described as a “rain of stones.” Chen leaves behind his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time.

Chen Xiangrong: “My love is crystal clear, it is only for China.”(”清澈的爱,只为中国”). 

According to Chinese media reports on this confrontation, Chen Xiangrong rushed to the front and used his body as a shield to protect his comrades behind him. He was only 18 when he died.

Xiao Siyuan: “We are the boundary markers of our country. Every inch of soil under our feet is part of the motherland.” (“我们就是祖国的界碑,脚下的每一寸土地都是祖国的领土”). 

Xiao reportedly also used his body to protect his comrades from stones, sticks, and pipes. He held a photo in his wallet of his girlfriend, with whom he was preparing to get married.

Wang Zhuoran: “Mum and dad, I may not be there until the end, but if there is an afterlife, I will still be a filial child and care for you well.” (“爸妈,儿子不孝,可能没法给你们养老送终了。如果有来生,我一定还给你们当儿子,好好报答你们.”)

Wang reportedly drowned while crossing a river to rescue his comrades.

 

After the details of these soldiers were released, many netizens on Weibo expressed their gratitude to them and praised the men.

The battalion commander saved the regimental commander, the soldier saved the battalion commander, and the squad leader saved the soldiers. I pay my utmost tributes to you heroes!”

“Chen Xangrong, he is only an 18-year-old kid! I really don’t want to call him a martyr. So heartbreaking!”

“Remember their names: Qi Fabao, Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran! Salute!”

While hundreds of comments and posts on Chinese social media remember the soldiers, the ways in which they are remembered and the border clash is recounted remains a sensitive issue.

It has been reported that former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, have been detained for “insulting” the Chinese soldiers under a law against “defaming heroes.” Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his (now-deleted) Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the border clash. News of his arrest received over 460 million views on the hashtag page (#辣笔小球被批捕#).

By early March, video footage came out showing a detained Qiu expressing remorse over his comments.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, the tribute to the PLA soldiers continues: “Thank you to our heroes,” hundreds of commenters write: “We pay our respects to all those soldiers who are guarding the frontier!”

 
By Vivian Wang and Manya Koetse

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

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

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘Call Me By Fire’ All-Male Variety Show Becomes Social Media Hit

‘Call Me By Fire’ is the male version of ‘Sister Who Make Waves’ and it’s an instant hit.

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A Chinese reality show starring 33 male celebrities titled Call Me By Fire (披荆斩棘的哥哥) has become an instant hit after its premiere on Mango TV last week.

The show is considered the male version of the hit variety show Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风破浪的姐姐, read more here) but with different rules. The contestants, ranging from age 27 to 57, are all in the entertainment industry; the group includes pianists, singers, dancers, actors, hosts, and rappers.

List of contestants, Mango TV.

They are required to perform individually and in a team for the first episode’s performances. Chinese viewers were surprised to see some of the high-quality performances, which then went viral on social media.

Li Chengxuan (@李承铉 a.k.a. Nathan Lee), who was previously mostly known for being the husband of Chinese actress Qi Wei (戚薇), rapped in a low voice and wowed the audience. The hashtag about his first stage performance on the show garnered more than 120 million views ( #李承铉天上飞舞台#). A video of his performance can be found here.

Li is a former member of the South Korean boy band TAKE. In 2014, the Korean-American pop star married Qi, who later gave birth to their first daughter Lucky. When Qi went back to focusing on her career, Li decided to be a stay-at-home dad.

Just like some of the other show contestants, Li also appeared on the talk show Definition (定义), where he spoke to the female journalist Yi Lijing about his life as a full-time father. In that show, he expressed how he used to think being a full-time parent would be easy. “It takes a lot of time and energy to take care of the baby and the family, but as a result, it always looks like you haven’t done anything all day.”

He describes how he experienced a time of depression during which he tried his best to be a good parent but sometimes just could not control his temper. Li explains how he would regret these moments of anger and then would cry at night when his daughter was asleep.  (Interview video here.)

Li’s experiences as a full-time parent struck a chord among Chinese netizens, especially among stay-at-home moms. The hashtag “Li Chengxuan Was Depressed for Over a Year As a Full-Time Dad” (#李承铉当全职爸爸抑郁了一年多#) received more than 600 million views on Weibo. Under the hashtag, commenters shared their experiences and struggles in being full-time parents.

One netizen wrote: “This is so true. We do so much when taking care of our children, but other people often feel like it’s nothing. When you lose your temper in front of the kid, you feel terrible inside and start to question yourself about why you failed to control yourself, and then you make another promise not to lose your temper anymore.”


Another Weibo user wrote: “See, when a mom looking after her kids feels depressed, it is not because she is weak and sensitive! It is because the job itself will make any human being depressed.”

Li later responded on his Weibo account, saying he just did his part as a parent, and this is what any new mom or new dad will face. That post also received thousands of comments and over 285,000 likes.

So far, the hashtag of the Call me By Fire TV show has received a staggering 4.4 billion views on Weibo (#披荆斩棘的哥哥#).

Image via Sina News.

The show’s performances and Li sharing his struggles as a stay-at-home dad are not the only reasons for the show’s massive success on Chinese social media. Some other related issues also made the show gain more attention.

Even before Call Me By Fire aired, the show already made headlines when the 55-year-old Taiwanese singer Terry Lin Zhixuan (林志炫) reportedly fell off the stage while filming.

Later, one of the contestants left the show after some social media drama. Chinese singer Huo Zun (霍尊) announced his withdrawal from the show after his ex-girlfriend accused him of being a cheater and leaking some WeChat conversation screenshots to prove that he actually disliked the show.

The remaining 32 contestants will enter the real ‘elimination stages’ in the following episodes. The show and highlight clips can be viewed on the Mango TV official site here.

 

By Wendy Huang

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