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New SK-II Commercial Shows the Strong Message of China’s “Leftover Women”

A new ad campaign by skin care brand SK-II on China’s ‘leftover women’ has gained huge support on Chinese social media.

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A new ad campaign by skin care brand SK-II titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’ (她最后去了相亲角) has gained huge popularity on Chinese social media. The short video shows how women, pressured to get married by their families and society, pluck up the courage to speak out and get their message heard.

The Japanese cosmetics company SK-II released its new campaign film on April 6, which attracted over 1.2 million views on Chinese video platform Youku within a day. The film, titled ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’, seems to have touched the hearts of many “leftover women” in China.

“I will not die unless you get married!”

In China, marriage often comes with social and familial pressure. This holds particularly true for women. Once over 25, single girls are soon tagged “leftover women” (剩女), and the immense pressure to marry comes into play.

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The pressure reveals itself in various ways. Parents suddenly seize every opportunity to investigate your ‘relationship status’, and vague relatives show their surprise upon hearing still single. Married friends become the ‘perfect examples’ that pop up during dinner talk: “Look at ***, her child can go buy soy sauce now!” Spring Festival, usually the time for family cosiness, turns into a nightmare where you are constantly bombarded with questions and unwanted advice concerning your marital status. You may even find yourself in an awkward situation where you are lured into meeting a total stranger on a blind date.

But it is always the parents who are the most concerned. In the ad campaign, moms and dads express their worries over their single daughters, saying “don’t be so picky!”, “you’re already a leftover woman now”, “please get this solved as soon as possible”, and: “one day your single status will be a heavy burden to our heart”. The most serious of these concerns appears in the beginning of the film, where a man’s voice says resolutely: “Father will not die unless you get married!” (“你一天不结婚,父亲就一天不死”)

Marriage Corner, People’s Square, Shanghai

Why is marriage so important in China? In SK-II’s campaign, it is mainly explained through Chinese culture, where the traditional view holds marriage as an indispensable part of life, and where there’s a conception that only married women are ‘real’ women. Another cultural aspect is the Confucian philosophy of filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s father. Not getting married is perceived as a defiance of filial piety.


The SK-II ad campaign that has gone viral on Chinese social media.

The pressure to marry becomes real tangible at the ‘marriage corner’ in People’s Square, Shanghai. For several years, parents get together at People’s Square at weekends. They write their children’s information on a piece of paper, including their appearance, job, income, education, and whether they have an apartment or a car. Parents can then look if any of the posted persons fits their ideal of the perfect son- or daughter-in-law. In 2014, an app named “Marriage Corner at People’s Square” was even published for iOS systems, allowing parents to continue their search online.

Although the marriage corner is a popular spot for parents helping their kids look for a partner, young people are generally not particularly enthusiastic about this idea. In the ad campaign, one woman says the marriage posts are like “commercial advertisement to sell a product.”

“I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake. I will not be happy.”

In the final part of the video, the featured “leftover women” decide to go to the Marriage Corner themselves. Not to surrender to the pressure and settle on a husband, but to make their own “advertisements” with smiling pictures, saying: “I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake; even single, I have a happy life which I love.”

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‘Confident’, ‘independent’, ‘life-loving’ – that is how these women define themselves. One father responds saying: “If she is happy with being single, we will respect her choice.”

Chinese netizens have collectively expressed their support for the women in the film. One netizen says, “Whether I am married or not is nobody’s business… even if I don’t marry until I’m 80, as long as I am happy, my dad has no say in it.”

Many also write about their wish to be the boss over their own marriage choice. Another netizen says: “Our society has always taught women how to lower their heads; it has never really respected women (..). I wish all girls live a happy, confident and courageous life!”

Calling for change in traditional view on women

The popularity of SK-II’s ad campaign is not surprising. Its chosen topic is a hot topic in China recently, as discussions about traditional views on women regularly flare up on social media.

On March 26, the story of a 27-year girl attempting suicide due to marriage pressure triggered heated discussions on Weibo. Many netizens identified with the girl, and told of their own experiences of being ‘forced to marry’ (逼婚).

Earlier this week, a heated discussion erupted about how society treats women, after the attack of a woman in a Beijing hotel.

Popular Weibo accounts such as Women’s Rights Voice post daily updates on women in China, their portrayal in the media, and gender equality.

pressure

Meanwhile, the SK-II video is still being shared and discussed on Chinese (social) media. Many netizens praise the brand for its smart marketing, others only see the message it brings: “Don’t let other people determine your future for you.”

– By Diandian Guo

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

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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