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Fake it till you make it: Rent-a-Date and Chinese New Year

During Chinese New Year, parents press their kids to get married. To avoid the hassle, Chinese bachelors and ‘spinsters’ rent a fake boyfriend or girlfriend.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese New Year (also known as ‘Spring Festival’) is just around the corner, and Sina Weibo has started a countdown to the 31st of January. The anticipation of Spring Festival is evident in Weibo’s trending topic list, where ‘Going home for Chinese New Year’ or ‘Meeting the parents-in-law’ are subjects of the day. One important subject within the Chinese New Year excitement involves the pressure from parents for China’s singles to get married, and to bring home a potential partner for the holidays. To avoid the hassle, many Chinese bachelors and ‘spinsters’ decide to rent a fake boyfriend or girlfriend. This article sheds some light on China’s rent-a-date phenomenon – how does it work, what do netizens say about it and the most important question: why is ‘rent-a-date’ such a booming business during Chinese New Year?

It is the 27th of January, only four days before Chinese New Year. A girl who calls herself ‘White Tea’ uses her Weibo account to find a suitable escort for Spring Festival: “Renting a boyfriend for New Year,” she writes: “Time: the third day to the fifth. Location: Chengde. Requirements: 28-32 years old, 170 to 180 cm tall, living around the north of Yangtze River, minimum undergraduate education level, someone refined and not too ugly. Will take care of all costs and expenses for travel, food and stay. If you’re interested, send me a private message.” ‘White Tea’ is not the only one looking to rent a boyfriend for the holidays. The ‘rent-a-date business’ has been booming for a couple of years now. The demand for these kinds of services is on the rise due to two main issues: the large number of Chinese singles at marriage age, and the traditional societal expectations for them to get married.

whiteteaThe Weibo post of ‘White Tea’, asking to rent a boyfriend for Chinese New Year.
 

Since 1950, marriage officially became a ‘freedom of choice’ in Mainland China, abolishing the feudal marriage system of arranged marriages. Even though marriage became a free choice, it was still considered a “necessary and ‘natural’ step for each individual” (Croll 1981, 1-2). According to Confucian values, which are deeply embedded in Chinese culture, marriage is a family’s collaborative project. Traditionally, parents would arrange a marriage in accordance with social hierarchy. Confucian philosophy advocates the suppression of romantic feelings; marriage is an undertaking, a family business (Higgins et al 2002, 75). During the Mao years, romantic love was also discouraged. Expressing love, passion or sexuality was perceived as being bourgeois and highly individualistic; it did not contribute to the collective communist goal (Koetse 2008, 17). The end of the Mao era and Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Open Door’ policy in the late 1970s changed Chinese society in terms of economy, but also led to more freedom in love, sexuality and marriage (Higgins et al 2002, 75).

Due to the transformations in Chinese society in the late 1970s, there is a huge generation gap between the Chinese people that were born in the 1980s/1990s and their parents. Their differences in values and attitudes in terms of love and marriage do not only relate to the Open Door policy, but also to the implementation of the one-child policy since 1979. Because of preferences for sons and the practice of sex-selective abortions, the policy has affected the gender ratio within China, leading to a ratio of 118 males to 100 females (Burger 2012).

The problems caused by existing pressure on China’s young men and women to get married (which especially surfaces during the annual family New Year festivities) are a combination of 1) the difference in attitudes and expectations about love and marriage between parents and their post-1979 children, and 2) the (statistical) difficulty to find a suitable partner for China’s twenty and thirty-somethings.

With China’s surplus in men, it would be expected that females easily find a spouse. However, this is not the case for all women. In recent years, the issue of ‘leftover women‘ has been the focus of attention in many media reports both in and outside of China. The ‘leftover women’ are career-focused women with a good educational background, who are not ready to get married yet or are unable to find the right man. This also has to do with traditional views on marriage, where men look for a relatively young spouse (around the age of 25) who is a bit below him on the social ladder in terms of education or wealth, whereas women traditionally want a partner that is a bit above them in these aspects. This leads to a large number of smart, independent and good-looking women being ‘leftover’, as well as a large number of lower-educated and low-income men remaining unmarried.

Renting a date for New Year is especially convenient for ‘leftover women’. They often reside in China’s bigger cities and annually travel a long way to see their family. Because of their jobs and the distance between them and their hometown, it is only natural that parents have not met their ‘boyfriend’ yet. Due to their higher income, they can afford to rent an escort. Renting a boyfriend temporarily takes away the parental pressure or nagging questions from curious neighbors on why the daughter of the family is ‘still single’ at the age of 27 or above.

One can look for a date through Weibo, as ‘White Tea’ did, but most ‘fake boyfriends’ offer their services on Taobao Marketplace, China’s biggest online shopping platform. Searching for ‘rent a boyfriend’, many results come up with pictures of young men including their prices and description. A lady named Maoli complains on Weibo: “”I have just checked Taobao for renting a boyfriend for New Year, and there’s a bunch of selfies from ugly men selling themselves. Since when did this industry go downhill…?” The following are some examples of boyfriends-for-rent on Taobao:

 

2014pngThis man charges 300RMB per day. He describes himself as “not handsome, but pragmatic and stable”. In a short introduction about himself, he writes: “Man, 27 years old, 171cm, 65kg, Bachelor’s degree, working in Shanghai. Can work during holidays and weekends, or after office hours. Willing to travel outside the city. Will accompany you for shopping, car-rides, dinner parties, meeting your parents, social occasions, etc. I’m a happy talker and will cheer you up. Have had my driver’s license for three years. Can drive a car with shift stick. I’m a stable guy with a good sense of humor. We can negotiate my price. But if the feeling is right, I might do it for free.” 

 

rentabeauzwart

This young man is available for rent throughout the country. He asks 200RMB per day. For driving, he asks 30RMB per hour. For talking about love-related issues, he asks 30RMB per hour, for listening and appearing very interested he also asks 30 RMB. For meeting friends: 50 RMB per hour. Meeting family: 100 RMB per hour. For sleeping on a sofa, there’s an additional fee of 100RMB. In his accompanying text he writes: “Every single young woman is in distress before New Year’s. During family meals, there’s always nagging: ‘You’re all grown up now, why don’t you have a boyfriend yet?!’ The pace of today’s society is so fast. It’s not that you don’t want to search, but because of several reasons (..) your social circle is narrow, and there are no right men to choose from. Watching other couples in love at parties makes you feel akward and even more lonely (…) But now! Like every single lady wants, for a small prize, you can bring a handsome rented boyfriend to any occasion to save your dignity. I will save you from your parent’s pressure to get married. In any akward social situation, I will help you face your friends. (..). Height: 1.78. Weight: 70 KG. Appearance: Very good. Education: Bachelor’s degree. Occupation: Engineer in IT. Skills: Driver’s License, Singing, Cooking, Household, Drink Alcohol, Physically Fit, Can Also Function as Bodyguard. Qualities: Self-possession, Good Taste, Pragmatic, Strong Views, Appreciation of Life, Art and Spirituality. Weak Points: I smoke (I can stop smoking if client desires so) (…).

 rentboyfriendzwart

This young man from Fujian charges 500 RMB per day. He is prepared to join you for dinner, dates, and for meeting your parents. He can be booked anytime between January 28 until February 6th. He will not travel outside Fujian. Can be booked for one or multiple days. He is willing to bring gifts to please your parents, but you will have to buy them yourself. 

 

In the end, renting a partner to satisfy the family does not solve the deeper issues behind the phenomenon. On the long term, the gender ratio between Chinese men and women will have to become more balanced; the one-child policy is already being loosened. On a short term level, traditional ideas about the ideal marriage age and the requirements for potential spouses will have to undergo serious transformations. In the end, Confucius might have to make some room for Cupid in order to let love rule. And if Cupid’s arrow misses, there is always Taobao.

Happy New Year.

 
References
Burger, Richard. 2012. Behind the Red Door: Sex in China. Hong Kong: Earnshaw Books.
Croll, E. 1981. The Politics of Marriage in Contemporary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Higgins, Louis, Mo Zheng, Yali Liu and Chun Hui Sun. 2002. “Attitudes to Marriage and Sexual Behaviors: A survey of Gender and Culture Differences in China and the United Kingdom”. Sex roles 46(3/4): 75-89. 
Koetse, Manya. 2008. “Shanghai Baby: China Voorbij. Een Chinese roman verbannen naar het westen”. Bachelor Thesis Literary Studies. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.
 

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

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Backgrounder

‘Good Doctor’, Digital Hospitals: How Mobile Apps Are Alleviating China’s Healthcare Problems

With the rapid digitalization of China’s healthcare, Chinese patients now have more ways than one to receive medical assistance.

Manya Koetse

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China’s healthcare industry is facing some serious challenges. As Chinese society is rapidly digitalizing, mobile apps now provide innovative solutions to alleviate pressing problems in the country’s health services sector.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “Good-Doctor Apps und Digitale Krankenhäuser.” 
 

Social Credit System, artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras; these are some of the hottest topics making headlines in mainstream Western media when discussing China-related developments recently.

With the rapid digitalization of Chinese society, these topics certainly have come to play a more important role in social media discussions within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But if there is one issue that seems to concern Chinese social media users the most, it is not facial recognition nor their ‘Sesame score’: it is the topic of healthcare.

In December of 2017, a photo showing a crying mother kneeling down beside a toddler on the sidewalk in front of a Shanghai hospital went viral overnight. The moment was captured on camera by a reporter who was visiting Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital.

The photo of Guo Yinzhen and her son that went viral in China (image via NetEase, source: https://3g.163.com).

The mother, Guo Yinzhen, is a single parent who had traveled from a remote village to seek medical help for her 3-old-son, who was suffering from congenital hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’ Already having traveled to the city multiple times and spending all her money on medical bills, Guo could not afford the additional 100.000 yuan (€ 12.600) for medical procedures needed to save her son’s life.

Guo’s story struck a chord with Chinese netizens, who continue to share the heartbreaking photo on social media to this day. It has become emblematic of China’s healthcare problems.

 

Crowded Hospitals and ‘Healthcare Disturbance’

 

The key to an adequate healthcare system, no matter where in the world, is that there is a right balancing in the “iron triangle” of efficiency/cost containment, high quality care, and patient access.[1] China, however, struggles with all three sides of this triangle.

Guo’s case is an extreme example, but many people in China dealing with less serious health issues and needing basic medical services also struggle to afford and access the healthcare they need.

Over 95% of people in China have health insurance, but people from different regions do not enjoy the same benefits and their out-of-pocket expenses can vary greatly. Uncovered medical costs can sometimes be catastrophic and simply unaffordable for patients and their families.

As more money flows are going to healthcare facilities in China’s cities, there is also the issue of varying levels of providers’ medical education and the overall healthcare quality, with the substantial majority of modern hospitals still existing in urban areas.

Easy access to the right kind of healthcare can be especially problematic for China’s rural population, as people often need to travel long distances and have to go through the lengthy process of registering and waiting for their doctor’s appointment, which sometimes requires them to stay in the city overnight.

For all of these reasons, China’s bigger public hospitals can get super crowded, sometimes resembling shopping malls on an end-of-season sales day. On social media, both patients and medical workers often complain about the stress brought about by the huge crowds and the shortage of doctors in hospitals across the country.

Perhaps it is no wonder that China even has a word to describe outbursts of violence between patients and doctors: ‘Yī nào’ (医闹, literally: “healthcare disturbance”).

Weibo user ‘Sunscreen’ complains about the crowds at Huashan Hospital.

One major problem within China’s healthcare conundrum is the lack of local family or primary-care doctors, which often makes bigger hospitals the first stop to any kind of medical treatment for Chinese patients.

The reasons for this issue are manifold. There is a general lack of trust in private and smaller local healthcare clinics, for example, and patients often choose to go directly to a bigger hospital to avoid making extra costs.

This makes it extra difficult for many community health care centers – that are already struggling – to make enough money and to retain qualified staff. In a society that is rapidly aging, the challenges facing China’s healthcare industry are only becoming more pressing.

 

A Doctor Today, Just an App Away

 

As China’s online environment is thriving, new innovative online apps are popping up on a daily basis. Some of these apps, that have found their ways into China’s most popular app rankings, are offering solutions to some of the country’s most pressing healthcare problems.

One of these apps is Ping’an Good Doctor (平安好医生), which was developed by health insurance provider Ping’an in 2015 and calls itself China’s “one-stop healthcare ecosystem.”

“Ping’an Good Doctor” promotional image by Ping’an.

Employing some 1000 medical staff in its in-house team, contracting over 5,200 external doctors, and collaborating with 3000 hospitals and thousands of pharmacy outlets across the country, the app is somewhat of an “online hospital.”

Through the app, users can look through an online database of medical professionals, order medicine at nearby pharmacies, get 24/7 online medical consultancy, search for information about both Western and Chinese Traditional Medicine, etc., but they can also use Ping’an Good Doctor as a fitness app to track their own health.

Screenshot of Ping’an app screen, by author.

When looking for a specific doctor for a one-on-one consult, the app first lets users select an area of expertise (e.g. dermatology or gynecology), and then offers a list of different specialists in various price categories.

Doctors from well-known hospitals, for example, or those with excellent ratings, have a one-time consultation fee of 100 yuan (€ 12,60). Other doctors can be consulted starting from 30 yuan (€3,70). All costs can be paid efficiently via online payment apps.

Doctors to pick from within the app’s various price categories.

Ping’an Good Doctor uses an AI-driven system to ask patients various questions about their symptoms and to automatically create a user’s medical record to save time. Based on the AI-generated record and the conversation with the patients – files such as photos can also be uploaded to the app -, the doctors can prescribe medicine or refer the patient to a hospital for an offline appointment if needed.

Ping’an recently announced that its number of registered users exceeded 300 million users, with 62 million monthly active users. Because the app keeps building on its AI-driven system, Ping’an Good Doctor can be expected to only become a ‘smarter’ smart health app the more popular it gets.

Although Ping’an is now leading within China’s medical app category, there are many other apps providing similar services, such as Chunyu Yisheng (春雨医生), Haodafu Online (好大夫在线), or DingXiang Doctor (丁香医生).

The emergence of these apps is just one of the many ways in which China’s digital developments, online media, and tech giants are impacting the healthcare industry, profoundly changing how patients receive healthcare information and access medical services now and in the future.

List of recommended medical apps in the Tencent app store.

In a way, China’s medical consultation apps fill the void in offline primary care. Patients who would otherwise turn to hospital care as their first stop can now  access medical consultations any time, any day, at a relatively low cost. Those who suffer from relatively harmless conditions could be diagnosed by a medical specialist via the app and get the medicine they need within a matter of minutes. With the growing popularity of these kinds of apps, many patients no longer need to visit a hospital at all.

Are smart health apps such as Ping’an Good Doctor the solution to China’s healthcare problems? No, they’re not. Struggling mums like Guo Yinzhen will not find the help they need there. But they do contribute to a more efficient healthcare environment where crowd flows in hospitals can be reduced, and patients do not need to spend a lot of time and money to stand in hour-long queues to get five minutes of their doctor’s time.

Although smart health apps could not help Guo Yinzhen and her son, social media apps could. As soon as their story went viral in late 2017, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Foundation Xiaoxingxin offered to cover medical treatments for the little boy, with a notable pediatric neurosurgeon operating the child. According to the latest updates, the boy’s situation was “looking good.”

Hopefully, the same holds true for the challenging sides of China’s healthcare industry.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

[1] Burns & Liu, 2017: 3-4.

References/Linked Sources

Burns, Lawton Robert, and Gordon G. Liu. 2017. “Introduction.” In China’s Healthcare Industry: A System Perspective, Lawton Robert Burns and Gordon G. Liu (eds), pp-1-116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Economist, 2017. “China needs many more primary-care doctors.” The Economist, May 11 https://www.economist.com/china/2017/05/11/china-needs-many-more-primary-care-doctors [20.10.19].

Zhou, Viola. 2018. “Does China Have Universal Healthcare? A Long (And Better) Answer.” Inkstone, Oct 10 https://www.inkstonenews.com/health/china-translated-does-china-have-universal-health-care/article/2167579

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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Backgrounder

How Chinese Kuaishou Rebel ‘Pangzai’ Became a Twitter King

He’s been called a ‘Twitter king’, but how did the unexpected online fame of this ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Jessica Colwell

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Twitter has fallen in love with a Chinese farmer after his drinking videos on Kuaishou were cross-posted abroad and went viral. He has embraced his new fans and Western social media, arguably becoming one of China’s most successful cultural ambassadors of the year.

He describes himself as the “inventor of tornado beer drinking style” and as an “ordinary peasant from China.” ‘Hebei Pangzai’ only joined Twitter in August of 2019, but he already has a Twitter following of more than 111.6K.

Although his account is temporarily restricted by Twitter at time of writing (“due to suspicious activity”), his popularity is only growing. Some Twitterers, such as the China twitterer Carl Zha (@CarlZha), are even initiating a “#FreePangzai campaign” to restore the account of the “one true King.”

But where and when did the online fame of ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Let’s begin our introduction to Pangzai with one tweet from March of this year, when Twitter user ‘Hunnaban Trenchboss’ posted a video from Chinese short video app Kuaishou (快手) showing a man – ‘Pangzai’ – wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette while preparing an incredible mixed drink.

The man in the video smoothly pops the cap off a bottle of beer with a chopstick, pours some in a large jar, then twirls the bottle and propels the rest of the beer in a tornado of force down his throat.

He follows that up by pouring in more beer, some blue liquor, an egg, some Pepsi, and a hefty glass of baijiu – which he dumps in only after lighting it on fire, igniting his finger, and coolly lighting his cigarette. He then chugs the entire concoction in a matter of seconds.

“How do I become as cool as this guy, The Coolest Guy?”, the tweet said.

The same video was shared again in August by a few Russian accounts, was retweeted by an American account, and then went completely viral, racking up millions of views and tens of thousands of retweets.

That video has now been viewed almost 12 million times on Twitter, and has inspired tens of thousands of fans who herald him as ‘king.’

The man in the video referred to as ‘Pangzai’ (胖仔, ‘chubby dude’) is Liu Shichao (刘世超), a 33-year-old farmer and small-time Chinese internet celebrity from a city called Xingtai in Hebei Province.

According to an interview with Technode, he found out about the video on Twitter when some of his new foreign fans opened Chinese social media accounts to find him and tell him about his overnight online fame.

“One message told me that I was a celebrity now in America,” he told Technode: “So I chatted with the person [who sent the message] for a whole day, with the help of translation software.”

Within two days of his video going viral, Pangzai had figured out how to use a VPN, opened his own Twitter account and started uploading videos.

He even posted a reply on the original viral video to alert everybody to his account.

Liu’s early response to his viral video on Twitter.

Since then, Liu ‘Pangzai’ has amassed over 111,000 followers and has posted many more videos of everything from drinking, to cooking, to exploring his countryside hometown.

But it was the drinking videos specifically that earned him his following, both abroad and in China.

 

IT STARTED ON KUAISHOU

“Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account.”

 

Liu began his internet career three years ago on Kuaishou, a Chinese short video app massively popular among China’s lower-tier cities and countryside.

In contrast to the polished, celeb-heavy platform Douyin, which is most popular among urban youths, Kuaishou is a platform for the masses. Its users are known for their crazy antics and general disregard for personal safety.

Liu Shichao’s Kuaishou account has 354,000 followers, but the majority of his videos have been removed.

Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account. Posting under the handle “Chubby Dude from Hebei” (@河北胖仔), he uploads videos of himself eating and drinking in eye-popping combinations, or sometimes smashing things – from bricks to unopened water bottles – with his bare hands.

Liu’s video of breaking bricks with his hands was also popular on Twitter.

Liu also gained notoriety, and a couple hundred thousand followers, from his mastery of the so-called ‘beer tornado technique’ (小旋风 xiǎo xuànfēng).

According to an interview with the BBC, he peaked at 470,000 followers on Kuaishou and was monetizing his online fame with some 10,000 RMB ($1420) per month.

Liu’s signature beer tornado technique features in the first video he posted to Twitter.

Unfortunately for Liu, China’s Cyberspace Administration announced a crackdown on vulgar and illegal content across multiple social media platforms in spring of 2018, with a focus on Douyin, Kuaishou, and its sister news company Jinri Toutiao. Kuaishou was pulled from app stores until it cleaned up its act.

It is unclear just how many videos and accounts have been removed as a result of the cleanup. We can get a rough idea from an announcement by Kuaishou earlier this year that in March of 2019 alone, it removed an average of over 11,000 videos and blocked almost 1,000 accounts every day.

The result for Liu was that his account was suspended for four months and the majority of his most popular videos, including the one that went viral abroad, were removed for promoting ‘unhealthy drinking habits.’

When you look at his Kuaishou account today, you won’t see many videos focused solely on baijiu and beer chugging.

The videos that remain on his account do include drinking (and his signature tornado move) but it is always accompanied by eating food or some other activity (such as sitting deep in a field of corn, munching on roast duck and dribbling baijiu down a corn leaf into a glass.)

In a video posted to Kuaishou, Liu pours baijiu into a glass from a corn leaf, before then lighting it on fire and chugging it.

Liu still has 354,000 followers on Kuaishou. His Chinese fans, like his foreign ones, marvel at his cool and collected manner as he eats and drinks all sorts of disgusting things.

Canned herring features heavily in his most popular recent videos, where he can be seen sipping the juice directly from the can.

In one of his videos on Kuaishou, Liu eating herring directly from the can, to the disgust of his fans.

“This has to be the most unaffected anyone has ever been by eating canned herring,” says one fan. “The flavor is disgusting! 99.9% of people who try this would vomit,” another online commenter replies.

 

AN UNEXPECTED TWITTER KING

“Liu is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life.”

 

This year, Liu seems to have embraced his newfound international stardom with grace and savvy.

He uses Twitter’s in-app translation to help him communicate with fans and has been highly interactive on the platform.

Liu ‘Pangzai’ was also quick to open up a Paypal account and share it with followers, and has recently made YouTube and Instagram accounts to prevent scams pretending to be him. He has also collaborated with a Twitter fan to sell T-shirts online in America.

Many online fans have dubbed him ‘king’, perhaps the highest praise one can receive on the internet today.

But in contrast to the sunglasses and chill demeanor of his videos, Liu does not appear to be an internet celebrity overly obsessed with being cool.

Instead, he is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life (and drinking habits) with the rest of the world.

Liu began using translation software to communicate with fans soon after joining Twitter.

After reposting all of his old drinking videos from Kuaishou, Liu started asking Twitter fans what they would like to see from him. Many responded that they wanted more about his life in rural China.

He has since followed up with videos showing him fixing a pipe with his friends, exploring his local market, cooking sweet potatoes, and, of course, a tutorial on how to master the ‘tornado beer’ technique.

Liu explaining on Twitter how to perform the tornado beer technique that helped make him famous.

Many have expressed concern for his health in light of his drinking habits, but he has assured everybody that everything he does is “within his ability” and that he doesn’t drink like that very often.

Liu is grateful for all the support and praise he has received from abroad. “It’s crazy to have all of these foreign friends all of a sudden,” he recently said in an interview with Deadspin: “I really have to thank them a lot. If I have a chance I will find them and we can drink together.”

Seemingly to that end, Liu has recently organized a party to be held near his hometown in China, exciting fans all over the world and spurring many to apply for passports and visas.

Once Liu began inviting people to his party, he changed the date and location in order to accommodate more attendees.

The date is set for December 14, 2019 in Zhuamadian City, Hebei Province; too soon for many to make it, but he promises another party in the spring. There is talk also of organizing a visit for Liu ‘Pangzai’ to go to America.

 

WINDOW INTO CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA

“Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet.”

 

Although there are many vloggers like Pangzai in China, he stands out on Twitter as some sort of window into Chinese social media, especially because this online world is usually so separate from the Western realms of social media.

The recent explosive growth of Chinese social media apps such as TikTok has not done much to facilitate this kind of cultural interaction between China and the West.

Although Tiktok is, in fact, a Chinese app (called Douyin 抖音 in China), there are actually two different versions of the same app in mainland China and abroad, meaning that the other ‘Pangzais’ of the Chinese internet still remain within the social media spheres of the PRC, rarely gaining fame outside of the Great Firewall.

In China, aside from his fans on Kuaishou, Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet. He is mentioned only one or two times across Weibo, and searches for his name and handle on WeChat, Baidu, and various Chinese tech news sites bring up nothing.

Liu is a rare example of genuine soft power coming out of China. A pure, grassroots man of the people with strong cultural appeal who sincerely enjoys sharing his life and his culture with the rest of the world. His tweets are full of affection and appreciation for his fans, as well as frequent prompts for followers to share their own lives and customs of their home countries.

To watch his introduction to Twitter and rise to fame is to see the best of the internet: cultural interaction, genuinely shared delight, and mutual admiration inspired by hilarious antics caught on camera.

His Twitter fans express their hope that Twitter Support will soon lift the temporary ban on their ‘Twitter king.’ To them, it’s perfectly clear: this online king is nowhere near dead, long live Pangzai!

Follow the #FreePangzai hashtag on Twitter.

Update: Panghaizi is out of Twitter jail!

 
Want to read more about unexpected online celebrities from China? Also see:
The Story of Two Farmers Who Became Internet Celebrities;
The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor”;
From Farmgirl to Fashionista: Weibo Celebrity Fairy Wang.

 

By Jessica Colwell
Follow @whatsonweibo

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