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The Success of China’s Hit Talk Show Qi Pa Shuo (U Can U Bibi)

The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

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The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

Not a week goes by without Qi Pa Shuo (奇葩说), an online talk show competition created by iQiyi (爱奇艺), becoming the focus of discussion on Chinese social media sites. Although the show is already in its fourth season, it is now more popular than ever.

Qi Pa Shuo is a contemporary talk show concept that brings together a group of very diverse – often funny and extravagant – Chinese people to debate various topics and dilemma’s relating to, amongst others, love, marriage, family, career, and friendship.

Qi Pa Shuo was first aired in November of 2014 and still has staggering viewer ratings. The talk show is also big on Weibo, where its official page has over 1,1 million fans. Hashtags related to the show often become trending topics.

The panel of hosts/judges on Qi Pa Shuo, led by He Jiong, a key figure in China’s entertainment industry.

The huge success of the show lies in its marketing and concept as a purely online variety show that brings a somewhat sophisticated form of celebrity entertainment.

 

LET’S GET IT ONLINE: BOOMING ONLINE VIDEO MARKET

“Chinese tech giant Xiaomi paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qipashuo’s main sponsor.”

 

Qi Pa Shuo is an online talkshow, meaning that is created by Chinese online video portal iQiyi, where it is streamed twice a week. It is also online in the sense that the show interacts with topics that come from Chinese online social media.

Although China still has a flourishing television market, younger audiences now prefer online streaming to traditional TV channels. China has the largest online population in the world, and 88% of its internet users watch online videos, either on mobile or computer.

This percentage is higher when it comes to the younger online audiences, with 90.6% of the post-95s generation visiting video websites.

iQiyi (爱奇艺) is one of the biggest online video platforms of China. Sometimes referred to as “China’s Netflix”, iQiyi is an ad-supported video portal that offers high-definition licensed content to registered users. Apart from its online library with a myriad of movies from China and abroad, iQiyi also has its own production studio that produces films and other online content.

With the creation of Qi Pa Shuo, iQiyi has made a smart move. Since the majority of iQiyi users are born post-1980s, the program caters to the interests of that generation – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of style and fashion. The show already had 260 million views and then 300 million views in its first and second season.

The show is free to watch but is heavily sponsored; not a scene goes by without seeing product placement. Chinese tech giant Xiaomi reportedly paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qi Pa Shuo’s main sponsor for the fourth season. The Xiaomi brand name is visible in the show’s logo and practically everywhere else in the studio.

Qi Pa Shuo’s host He Jiong with branded content from sponsors on his desk.

Besides Xiaomi and Head & Shoulders shampoo, Chunzhen Yoghurt is also a prominent sponsor of the show, with packs of the products standing on all desks and tables.

As mentioned, the show is not just broadcasted online, it also interacts with online topics; the issues addressed in the show are selected from different online Chinese Quora-like Q&A forums such as Baidu Zhidao and Zhihu.

The most popular online topics related to love, lifestyle & career are selected to come on the show. In selecting the topics this way, the producers already know that they are of interest to a great number of netizens.

 

RIGHT TOPICS, RIGHT PEOPLE

“Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”

 

Over the past few years, Qi Pa Shuo has seen a myriad of topics, including:

– “Is it okay to check your partner’s mobile phone?”
– “Should you have a stable career by 30 or should you chase your dreams?”
– “Can you get married without being in love?”
– “Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”
– “Should you push your friends to return the money you borrowed them?”
– “Could you be a single mum?”
– “Should you help a school friend who is being bullied in fighting back or do you tell the teacher?”
– “Will you be happier with or without buying a house?”

Participants on the show, some being established names and others newcomers to Chinese showbiz, battle against each other in two teams in who is the best debater and who has the best Chinese speech skills. Celebrity judges or ‘mentors’ have to comment on the performance of the debaters, and debaters also have to try to convince the audience.

Qi Pa Shuo is called ‘Let’s Talk’ or ‘U Can You BiBi’ in English (the latter is a wordplay on Chinglish), but its Chinese title can be roughly translated as “Weirdo’s Say” or “Unusual Talk.” The term “Qi Pa” (奇葩) is often used to describe someone or something that is very odd or unusual. Participants on the show, both the newcomers and the well-known faces, are outspoken personalities with a special way of talking or unique fashion style.

By bringing together an eclectic group of big names and newbies, Qi Pa Shuo has the best of both worlds; it is a platform that attracts viewers because it features some of China’s most loved celebrities (host He Jiong, for example, has 83.8 million followers on Weibo), and it also keeps fans curious and attracted by introducing some new faces (Hu Tianya, Yan Rujing, Jiang Sida, etc.) – many of which have already become major celebrities themselves since the start of the show.

Presenter Shen Xia a.k.a. Dawang (1989) gained popularity after appearing on Qipashuo as a debater.

Although many of the topics discussed are frivolous and funny (“What would you do if you found an egg placed by an alien?”), the show has also seen some groundbreaking moments since it first aired.

Yan Rujing (1991) had her major breakthrough after becoming a Qi Pa Shuo debater.

In 2015, an episode on whether or not gays should come out to their parents moved many people to tears when celebrity mentor Kevin Tsai (Cai Kangyong/蔡康永) spoke openly about coming out as homosexual during his career as a Taiwanese TV host.

In an emotional speech, Tsai shared his difficult experiences of being openly gay in the showbusiness and said he hoped to convince people that “we’re not monsters.”

The show also made headlines in 2016 when internet celebrity Xi Ming a.k.a. Chao Xiaomi came on the show to talk about how it is to be gender fluid and not conform to a certain gender.

Chao Xiaomi came on the show in 2016 and discussed experiences as gender fluid individual (image via Time Out Beijing 2016).

Reactions on Chinese social media show just how alive the issues discussed in Qi Pa Shuo are, as topics adressed during the show often turn into heated discussions on Sina Weibo and other social media platforms, where netizens give their own viewpoint or discuss why they think their favorite debater is the best public speaker.

 

IMPROVING SPEECH SKILLS

“Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

 

Recently, the success of Qi Pa Shuo is also often discussed in the Chinese media. According to an article by Rednet.com, one important reason why the talk show is such a hit is because young people in China are increasingly interested in debating and improving speech skills.

The Rednet article argues that Qi Pa Shuo is part of a broader talk show entertainment genre that is currently becoming more popular, showing that after online games and more superficial types of entertainment, there is now a new group of online audiences who want to see entertainment that is a bit more sophisticated and educational.

The growing interest in speech skills is also evident looking at the success of the podcasts and books on how to speak that sprang from the show, initiated by mentor Ma Dong and debater Ma Weiwei. Having good debating skills and general eloquence is seen as an asset for one’s career and social status.

Ma Weiwei (left) and Ma Dong.

“Because Qipashuo recommended this book, I simply just bought it to read it,” one netizen says on Weibo: “Who does not want to be able to speak like people such as Ma Dong or Ma Weiwei, so composed and self-assured. The book is pretty good, it teaches people how to speak well and how to say the right thing, it all makes sense. Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

“How to Speak Well”, the book that have sprung from the Qi Pa Shuo programme.

On Weibo there are also vloggers like Baituola Junior (@拜托啦学妹) who take the topics as discussed in Qi Pa Shuo and make people on the streets discuss them.

These kinds of videos and trends show the rise of a generation that has a passion for speaking their mind and building strong arguments. Qi Pa Shuo further stimulates this drive by showing that anyone – girl or boy, young or old, gay or straight, goofy or trendy, celebrity or not – can be an effective and witty speaker if they put their mind to it.

Qi Pa Shuo is broadcasted every Friday and Saturday at 20.00 at iQiyi.com.

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alex

    May 25, 2017 at 4:36 am

    Very interesting article! Is there somewhere I can watch this with English subtitles? My Chinese is not good enough to follow yet… I’m particularly interested in Chao Xiaomi’s episode about gender fluidity

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China Celebs

The Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Controversy: From Teacher to Husband

The hashtag “Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Getting Married” has over 100 million views on Weibo .

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Six years ago, Chinese pop star Zhang Muyi (24) declared his love for the then 12-year-old Canadian model Miki Akama. Now, their wedding announcement has become a most-discussed topic on Chinese social media – a highly controversial love affair.

The hashtag “Zhang Muyi & Akama Miki Getting Married” has over 100 million views on Weibo today. Some think the relationship between the pop singer and child star is pedophilic, others say it’s fate, but could it be a marketing strategy?

Watch our latest video on this topic here:

By Manya Koetse and Boyu Xiao

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

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Six Years after Chinese Pop Star Zhang Muyi (24) Declared Love for 12-Year-Old Miki Akama, They’re Now Tying the Knot

Zhang Muyi became her music coach when Miki Akama was only 8 years old. A decade later, the couple announces their wedding on Weibo.

Boyu Xiao

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Six years after Chinese pop star Zhang Muyi (1987) publicly declared his love for the then 12-year-old music pupil Miki Akama (2000), the two have now announced their wedding on Weibo. Although some say their love is meant-to-be, others say it is a case of pedophilia.

In 2012, it made international headlines when the then 24-year-old Chinese popstar Zhang Muyi publicly declared his love for 12-year-old Canada-born model Miki Akama.

The two met when Zhang Muyi was hired to be Miki’s music coach when she was only 8 years old. In 2012, Muyi wrote on Weibo that he “simply couldn’t wait” for Miki’s next four birthdays to pass, saying he was “counting down each one.”

24-year-old Zhang and 12-year-old Miki in 2012.

At the time, the 12-year-old Miki, whose mother is Chinese/German and whose father is Japanese, had already built up a fanbase of 500,000 followers on Weibo. She replied to Zhang, saying: “Wait until I’m old enough to marry you, and then I’m going to say “I do”.’

Six years later, the now 30-year-old Zhang Muyi (@张木易, 1.4 million followers on Weibo), and the 17-year-old Miki Akama (@张千巽, 1.8 million Weibo fans) have announced their wedding through social media.

On April 4, Zhang wrote on Weibo: “You’ve made me see the most beautiful picture in this world,” adding a photo of a wedding dress. Miki responded to the post, writing: “You make me as beautiful as I can be.”

He later added: “We are indeed preparing for our wedding in all kinds of ways. On September 11, 2018, Miki will turn 18, and it will be ten years since we first met.”

The wedding announcement prompted a wave of reactions. Within 48 hours after the post, Zhang’s photo had received 23,800 responses and nearly 18,000 shares. The couple became one of the most-searched hot topics on social media in China on April 6, and the hashtag “Zhang Muyi and Miki Akama Getting Married” (#张木易张千巽结婚#) received more than 85 million views by Friday.

Although there are many netizens who wish the couple a happy life and find their story romantic, there are also many opponents who think the base of the couple’s relationship is unhealthy.

Weibo account @LoveMatters (an account affiliated to RNW Media) writes:

In most parts of the world, it is hard to give blessing to a relationship between a teacher and their student. The fundamental reason for this is that there is an unequal power relation between teachers and students, which makes it difficult to speak of an equal and truly harmonious connection between two people. Let alone if one of the two persons is underage; this further intensifies the unequal relationship in terms of knowledge and experience. Let’s not even focus on whether or not this is pedophilia.

“We should discuss this from the angle of pedophilia,” one netizen responds: “Because even though it is now disguised as ‘romantic love’, its base still essentially is the relationship between an adult and an 8-year-old girl.”

Many others also say that this a “white-washing of pedophilia,” with some expressing that it makes them “feel like vomiting.”

In response to the controversy, Miki addressed their engagement on Weibo in a lengthy blog post.

In her statement, Miki expresses the shock at the negativity surrounding their wedding engagement, saying that people are “turning this story into something they want it to be,” and that they are downgrading her to a “brainless girl” who has been “living in the dark” all her life.

“I do want to correct something,” she writes:

There are people who are changing our story and are using the fact that I was 8 years old [when we met], and in doing so, are harming us and our loved ones. In their articles, they are deleting the part that really matters: When I was 8, I met Muyi and he was my music teacher; teaching me how to sing and teaching me self-confidence. By the time I was 12, my parents had let me read many books and see many movies, and I had a good education at school. Many of my friends with the same age as me had started reaching puberty and I also started to think about who I liked. I could talk to Muyi about everything. He said that when I would reach the age of dating, he would help me check them out. At the time I did not understand what it meant, and he said he would not let me date bad guys, because it is very easy for people to get hurt. Looking back now, Muyi was also still young at that time, so I told him that if he did not want me to get hurt in the future, he should just marry me. At the time we were just joking around, like playing house. With that uncomplicated promise, I grew up with him by my side. Of course, we will stay pure until marriage.”

Regardless of Miki’s statement, many netizens still hold their own opinions about the matter. Some compare Zhang and Miki to the case of the Taiwan lyricist Li Kuncheng (李坤城) and his wife Lin Jingen (林靖恩, 1996).

The couple became a big topic of discussion in 2015, when the then 58-year-old Li tied the knot with the then 18-year-old Lin.

Li Kuncheng with his 40 year younger fiancee in 2015, image via Asianpopnews.com.

About Zhang and Miki, one commenter writes: “I don’t think this is as serious as pedophilia. The goal of pedophilia is unpure [sex], but they have been together a long time. Zhang has no evil intentions.”

Still, many people express their worries about the situation, wondering “where the parents are” in this, and saying that they do not want their own children to be influenced by this.

By now, some experts and KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) have also gotten involved in the matter. While influential Nanjing police officer Wang Haiding (王海丁, @江宁婆婆) condemns the relationship, famous Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe (@李银河) says it does not meet the criteria of pedophilia.

Renowned Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe answers a question on Weibo about whether this is pedophilia or not.

The three principles of sex that I have proposed are that it is is voluntary, between adults, and in private. If it is in line with these three principles, it is not punishable by law. The law can punish adults who have sex with girls under the age of 14, but if they wait with having sex until they are both adults, then the law cannot control them. (..) Pedophiles are people who sexually assault children. This is clearly not the case here.

Amidst all controversy and analyses, many netizens just jokingly say: “I’m also ready to meet my future spouse – too bad they’re still in kindergarten.”

UPDATE – see our latest video about this topic here:

By Manya Koetse and Boyu Xiao

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

©2018 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. ©2014-2017

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