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Stars or Weaklings? Autism and Public Awareness in China

World Autism Awareness Day has brought more attention to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in China, where autistic children are often labelled as either ‘stars’ or ‘weaklings’. Although Chinese public awareness on autism is growing, there is still a lot that needs to be done to remove existing general misconceptions.

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World Autism Awareness Day has brought more attention to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in China, where autistic children are often labelled as ‘stars’ or ‘weaklings’. Although Chinese public awareness on autism is growing, there is still a lot that needs to be done to remove existing general misconceptions.

April 2nd marked World Autism Awareness Day. Especially for this day, Chinese pop musician Huazi (@华子在哪儿) published a song dedicated to dads of autistic children, along with several other famous singers. The song was a follow-up to an earlier 2014 track for moms of autistic children. The aim of the so-called Star Series (星星系列) music is to raise public awareness on autism and call for social support for autistic children and their families.

 

“China has a metaphoric name for kids with autism: ‘Children from the Star’.”

 

In Chinese, autism is known as zibizheng (自闭症, literally: ‘self-enclosure disorder’) or guduzheng (孤独症, literally: ‘loneliness disorder’). Just as ASD-affected individuals in the West are often referred to as being like ‘Rainman’, drawing reference to the famous 1988 movie, China also has a metaphoric name for kids with autism: ‘Children from the Star’ or ‘Stars on Earth’ (来自星星的孩子).

On occasion of the 2016 World Autism Awareness Day, a university branch of China’s Young Volunteers Society promoted the topic #World Autism Day on Sina Weibo, attracting 827 million reads and more than 100 thousand discussions. Popularity of the topic has grown significantly compared to the World Autism Day of 2015. The song by Huazi was one of the highlights of this year.

 

“Not only autistic children suffer from their condition – their parents suffer just as much.”

 

Huazi has been devoted to autism-related charity for more than three years, making music for ASD-affected families. As the singer has previously stated, he feels that not only autistic children suffer from their condition – their parents suffer just as much. His songs carry the message to those parents, telling them that they are not alone. Huazi also calls for more understanding for autism from society.

127647427_14278961350771ndifferent experts talk about autism in this programme.

Official Chinese news outlet Xinhua Welfare (新华公益) chose this occasion to launch the first episode of its TV programme A Nine-Person Journey of Welfare China (公益中国九人行) on autism. The programme invites nine experts, including psychologists, neuroscientists, education specialists, as well as institution directors, to address different questions on autism; asking what autism is, how to help autistic children, what the future perspectives of these children is, and what kind of environment society can create for autistic people.

 

“Although the first diagnosis of autism was already made in 1943 in America, it was not until 1982 that the condition first appeared in medical records in China.”

 

Society’s growing awareness on autism is relatively new in China. Although the first diagnosis of autism was already made in 1943 in America, it was not until 1982 that the condition first appeared in medical records in China – thanks to Nanjing child psychiatrist Professor Tao Guotai.

In 2006, autism was first listed as a mental disorder in China’s “Eleventh Five Year” Development Programme for the Disabled (中国残疾人事业“十一五”发展纲要). In 2008, amendments to Act on the Protection of Disabled of People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国残疾人保障法) stated that the state shall ensure the rights of recovery, education, employment and social participation of disabled people, including people affected with autism.

Legislative and social efforts have helped to establish professional institutes for autistic children. According to China Autism Support, a total of 52 autism institutes were established between 2000-2012, suggesting that support for autistic children has significantly increased over the past decade. The list covers almost all of China’s provinces and regions.

Apart from offering professional interventions to help autistic children find their way in society, some of the institutes also take up the task of social research. In 2012, Stars and Rain (星星雨), a pioneering non-governmental educational organization for autism, published the first report on medical support for autistic children in China in cooperation with Beijing Normal University. The report points out that the low availability of institutional support and the high price for treatment hinders many children from receiving adequate care. The report also exposed that the professional standards of the practitioners were unsatisfactory: only 16.6% of them received proper college training in their field.

 

“A growing focus on the potential of people with ASD instead of emphasizing their ‘abnormality’.”

 

In 2014 and 2015, more comprehensive reports on the current situation of Chinese autistic children came out (中国自闭症儿童发展状况报告). They covered the legislative, institutional and familial dimensions of education for autistic children in China. These reports were conducted by China’s largest facility for autistic children named Wucailu (五彩鹿, the Centre for Autism Research and Xinhua Welfare. The reports were widely covered in Chinese media, drawing more public attention to ASD.

The vision of institutions like Wucailu does not differ much from that of similar institutions in the West, where there has been a growing focus on the potential of people with ASD instead of emphasizing their ‘abnormality’ (see Ted Talks on this). This perspective on ASD, however, is yet to fully reach the general Chinese public.

Despite the increasingly supportive and empathetic discussion on ASD in China, there are also less sympathetic voices. In 2015, Li Laoxi (李老西), teacher for children with special needs, openly attacked the ‘romanticisation’ of autism on online question-and-answer platform Zhihu.

 

“They are not children from the Star, they are the weaklings on Earth.”

 

Having worked in the field for more than 10 years, teacher Li Laoxi openly attacks the romanticizing of autism, saying that notions such as “neurodiversity” are only being used for the sake of political correctness. In his recently published book Notebook of a Special Education Teacher for Autism (《自闭症特教教师手记》), Li Laoxi writes:

I am against all forms of romanticizing autistic children. They are not children from the Star, they are from the Earth like us – and they are the weaklings on Earth. The experience as a teacher for children with special needs is one of endless despair. To use a common word to describe these children’s situation- stupid; stupid beyond the imagination of many… at the beginning of my career… I asked myself “is there a more stupid kid on Earth”? Later I discovered, indeed there are.

Despite his harsh tone, Li Laoxi has many supporters. His popularity could be linked to persisting misunderstandings and ignorance towards autism amongst the Chinese public. One common misconception is that autism is caused by loneliness, and that children will naturally grow out of it as they get older; there is a general belief that autism can be “cured”. A recent celebrity-invested project that aimed to cure autism through horse-riding drew criticism for its misleading promises.

Meanwhile, the discussion on autism remains alive on China’s social media. Weibo accounts such as Beijing’s Autism Forum, Autistic Children Association and many others form online places for people to go to for information. WeChat accounts including the autism support group (自闭症互助团) or autism net (孤独症网) do the same. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, World Autism Awareness Day, along with Huazi’s music, have at least sparked off some discussions that contribute to a brighter future for China’s autistic children, who are much more than just ‘stars’ or ‘weaklings’.

– By Diandian Guo

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

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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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What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?

Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”

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What are Weibo’s “Super Topics” (超级话题) and what makes them different from normal hashtags?

Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.

Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.

These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:

 

#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.

Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.

A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).

On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.

A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.

 

#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content

Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.

A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.

One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.

Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.

 

#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather

Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.

Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.

The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.

Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).

What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.

 

By Manya KoetseGabi Verberg, with contributions from Boyu Xiao

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

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

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Why Trump Has Two Different Names in Chinese

Why does ‘Trump’ have multiple names in Chinese?

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First published , updated version published March 7, 2019

It is confusing even for Chinese netizens and journalists: why does Donald Trump have multiple names in Chinese? And which is the right one to use? What’s on Weibo explains.

Donald Trump has two most commonly used different names in Chinese. In Mandarin*, they are Tèlǎngpǔ (特朗普) and Chuānpǔ (川普). Both names have been used by Chinese mainstream media and netizens for years.

*(Due to the scope of this article, we’ll just use the Mandarin pinyin here.)

In the Chinese translation of Donald Trump’s autobiography The Art of the Deal (1987), the ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ transliteration is used, whereas the translation of the George Ross book Trump-Style Negotiations (2008) uses ‘Chuānpǔ’ as the Chinese name for Trump.

Considering that Trump is making headlines every day, more people are wondering why Trump has two Chinese names, and which one is the correct name to use. There are even discussions about the topic on Chinese social media.

 

Why are foreign names translated?

 

Why are non-Chinese names actually translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being such vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and script, the majority of Chinese people will find it hard to pronounce a foreign name that is written in English.

Writing foreign names or terms in Chinese script has a long history and practical reasons which won’t be further elaborated on here. At present, aside from being standardized, it does not just help Chinese speakers to pronounce these words, it also makes it easier to remember them. Most Chinese names usually consist of two or three characters; the first character is the surname, and the last character(s) is the given name.

Translating a name to better adapt to the culture in which it is used does not only happen with English names in China; you often see the same happening with Chinese names in foreign countries.

In that case, the first character (surname) is moved to the back, and the given name changed into an English one. Alibaba’s Ma Yun, for example, has become globally known as ‘Jack Ma.’ Film star Zhao Wei is called ‘Vicky Zhao’, Tencent’s Ma Huateng is known as ‘Pony Ma,’ and the popular actress Lin Yun is called ‘Jelly Lin.’

 

The right way to translate a foreign name in Chinese

 

There are multiple ways to translate a foreign name to Chinese. Most commonly, a name is translated into Chinese characters that are phonetically similar to the original name, without necessarily being very meaningful. The transliteration of ‘Hillary’ (Clinton), for example, is ‘Xīlālǐ’ (希拉里). ‘Bush’ is translated as ‘Bùshí’ (布什).

Another option is to choose a name purely based on meaning rather than phonetics. One example is Elvis Presley, who is called ‘Cat King’ (Māo Wáng 猫王) in Chinese, which stays close to his nickname “The Hillbilly Cat.”

The best option when translating a foreign name into Chinese, however, is to make sure it stays close to its original pronunciation while also using elegant characters. In other words; it is nice when a name’s translation makes sense both phonetically and semantically. Marilyn Monroe’s last name in Chinese is Mènglù (梦露), for example, which sounds like ‘Monroe’ and has the characters for ‘Dream Dew’ – a perfect transliteration for such a dreamy actress.

Even when the characters used for a foreign name in Chinese are not necessarily intended to convey a certain meaning, it is important that they do not have any negative connotations. Nobody wants a character in their name associated with divorce, disease or death – it is believed to bring bad luck.

Another thing is that it is considered helpful for foreign names in Chinese is to maintain a ‘foreign flavor’ to it, to make it clear that the name is actually a transliteration. To give an example raised in this Nikkei article: President Reagan’s name is generally translated as Lǐgēn 里根 in Chinese – the characters being somewhat uncommon for a Chinese name.

The same name could also be written with the characters 李根, very common for a Chinese name, but then it would be difficult to know whether a media report is talking about Reagan the President or just a local Chinese person by the same name. Transliterations of foreign names, therefore, are often easily recognizable as foreign names on purpose.

 

Trump, Tèlǎngpǔ, and Chuānpǔ

 

In the case of Trump, his Chinese names are mainly chosen for phonetic reasons, with different sources using different characters. Part of the challenge in deciding the right Chinese translation for his name, is the fact that Chinese does not have consonant cluster ‘tr’ as one sound.

The Chinese-language Nikkei newspaper dedicated an op-ed written by Chinese scholar Ke Long (柯隆) to the matter, who argues that although it may all seem trivial, it is actually quite confusing and unpractical for president Trump to have more than one name in Chinese.

The Chinese media in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and most overseas Chinese-language media, refer to Trump as ‘Chuānpǔ’ (川普).* According to the World Journal, the biggest Chinese-language newspaper in the US, it is the only proper way to translate this name, yet most Chinese state media and Chinese-language UK media (such as BBC) all use ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’

* (The Chinese version of The New York Times 纽约时报中文版 is an exception, as ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 is generally also used in this publication.)

Author Ke Long explains that Chinese translations of foreign names try to stay as close as possible to the pronunciation of a name in its original language. This is why the name of the city ‘Paris’ is pronounced ‘Bālí’ (巴黎) in Mandarin Chinese, staying close to the French pronunciation, and ‘Amsterdam’ being ‘Āmǔsītèdān’ (阿姆斯特丹), which follows the city’s Dutch pronunciation.

If the British would pronounce ‘Trump’ as ‘te-lan-pu,’ then it would thus perhaps be more understandable why media such as the BBC would write Tèlǎngpǔ. But they don’t pronounce it like that, Ke Long argues, saying that the use of ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ thus does not make sense, and is actually closer to the Japanese way of writing Trump’s name (‘トランプ’: to-ra-n-pu).

More so, the author writes, it does not make sense for Chinese media to take over the British transliteration of the Trump name. Considering Trump is American, Chinese media should follow the translations made by American media. He also notes that if it would be about the Prime Minister of Britain, the Chinese transliteration should follow the one used by the media in the UK.

Although the Nikkei author seems to advocate for a singular use of ‘Chuānpǔ’ by all media, no Chinese media are necessarily ‘wrong’ in their transliteration of the name Trump. The ‘Tèlǎngpǔ’ 特朗普 translation follows the example of outlets such as the BBC, while Chuānpǔ 川普 follows that of other media.

Some Chinese bloggers argue that Chuānpǔ 川普 is the best way to write Trump’s name, because the first character, that actually means ‘river,’ is commonly used in Chinese, making the name sound more ‘natural’ and easy to pronounce than ‘Tèlǎngpǔ.’ Moreover, they argue that the Mandarin ‘chuan’ sound is more appropriate to convey the pronunciation of ‘tr’ than the ‘te-lang’ way.

In the end, the reason why Trump has two names most commonly used in Chinese is just a matter of media, with various mainstream outlets adopting different names since Trump first made headlines, and without there being any clear consensus on which Chinese name to use across all these different Chinese-language media platforms around the world.

 

Chuángpù and Chuángpò?

 

On Chinese social media, President Trump even has more than two names. There are also netizens referring to him as 床鋪, 闯破 or 床破 (Chuángpù/Chuángpò); these are all transliterations that contain strange or negative characters, making the name unrefined and harsh-sounding on purpose to make the name ‘Trump’ look and sound bad.

Although there have been online discussions on the right transliteration for the name Trump, it is unlikely that there will be one official Chinese name for the US President in the near future. Xinhua News, China’s official state-run press agency, has consistently been using Tèlǎngpǔ 特朗普 for years, and will probably continue to use it.

Many netizens simply use both versions of his name in one post to avoid confusion, and some news reports have even started using both names in its headlines (image below).

Despite the somewhat confusing situation at hand, there are also those who do not seem to mind at all. “Who cares if it is Tèlǎngpǔ or Chuānpǔ anyway?” one netizen says: “In this day and age, we all know who it is we are talking about.”

– By Manya Koetse
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This article first appeared in 2017 and has been republished with various corrections:
– The first version did not properly convey the argument made by author Ke Long in his Nikkei piece, which is more clearly laid out in this version.
– This version has added some extra information coming from sources after 2017.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please email us.

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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