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“Support China’s New Era” Campaign Goes Viral on Chinese Social Media

China’s propaganda machine has been running at full speed this week – now Weibo’s celebrities also pitch in.

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On the day of the conclusion of the 19th National Congress in Beijing, Party newspaper People’s Daily launched a new hashtag. With #SupporttheNewEra, Chinese celebrities show that they stand behind Xi Jinping and his “new era” philosophy.

The 19th CPC National Congress concluded on Tuesday in Beijing. The occurrence of the major twice-a-decade meeting, from October 18 to October 24, went hand in hand with an online propaganda campaign and strict censorship of social media comments.

The National Congress online propaganda campaign took on many forms this week, with different Chinese media outlets spreading pictures with highlighted slogans, short clips of the event, rap videos explaining China’s ‘New Era’, interactive games that made users clap for Xi Jinping, or even vocabulary lists underlining China’s modernization.

On Tuesday, Party newspaper People’s Daily initiated Weibo hashtag ‘Wèi xīn shídài dǎ call’ #为新时代打call#, roughly meaning ‘give a shout-out to the new era‘ or ‘show support for the new era,’ with a brief explanatory sentence saying: “In the new era, it is our turn to strive to make China really strong!”

By Tuesday night, the topic had received over 440 million views and more than 1,5 million comments.

“Give a shout out to China’s New Era”

The participation of big celebrities turned the campaign into an online hit.

Chinese actress Wang Ziwen, a.k.a. Olivia Wang, who has more than 11 million fans on her Weibo page (@王子文Olivia), posted a 4-second clip in which she gave a ‘shout out’ to China’s new era.

Celebrities such as pianist Lang Lang (郎朗 11.8 million Weibo fans), singer Zhang Yixing (张艺兴, 27 million fans on Weibo), singer Jike Junyi (吉克隽逸, 4+ million followers), and many others also posted similar ±5-second-videos in which they speak out in support of China’s ‘new era.’

This shoutout by singer Zhang Yixing received thousands of shares, likes, and comments.

The closing session of the 19th National Congress passed a resolution to incorporate Xi Jinping’s ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想) into the Party’s constitution. ‘Modernization’ is the keyword for China’s ‘new era.’

The wave of celebrity videos on China’s new era triggered thousands of reactions from Weibo’s netizens and celebrity fans who then also expressed their support for the Party’s new plans.

This latest campaign could be the answer to an issue addressed in the Japan Times, which suggested that Chinese authorities struggle to get propaganda messages across in era of extreme celebrity culture.

Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that “Chinese people are increasingly ignoring party propaganda and are much more interested in movie stars, who represent a new lifestyle and more exciting aspirations.”

By mobilizing dozens of big Weibo celebrities, and with millions of commenters interacting with the hashtag, People’s Daily‘s campaign could be called a major success.

However, many commenters seem to be much more interested in the celebrity videos than the message it contains. “I just wanna give a shout out to you, baby,” many responded to Oliva Wang’s video.

With the flood of National-Congress-focused hypes this week, other netizens say that “it’s just been enough.” “I just wanna give a shoutout to myself now,” one commenter says.

By Manya Koetse

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

©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.

China Arts & Entertainment

Successful Reality Show ‘The Birth of Actors’ Surrounded by Controversy

Some viewers suspect there is foul play in this acting competition.

Boyu Xiao

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The Chinese reality show ‘The Birth of Actors’ (演员的诞生) has become a huge TV hit and a favorite topic of discussion on social media in China. But, despite receiving much praise, the show is repeatedly surrounded by controversy.

Reality show ‘The Birth of Actors’ (演员的诞生) has been trending on Chinese social media for weeks now. Since its first airing in late October 2017, the Zhejiang Satellite TV hit has repeatedly become a focus of discussion on Weibo.

Its first two episodes alone already had a viewership of 330 million. The show’s hashtag (#演员的诞生#) received 4,6 billion views on Weibo so far.

The show is hosted by the popular actor and director Zhang Guoli (张国立).

The live show invites Chinese actors and actresses to re-enact famous scenes from TV-series or movies. A team of judges, consisting of renowned celebrities Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Song Dandan (宋丹丹), and Liu Ye (刘烨), give commentary and marks.

The celebrity team, along with the studio audience, then votes over who will stay on the show and who has to leave. The show’s winner gets a chance to perform with one of the acclaimed ‘judges.’

Foul Play?

Chinese netizens, however, have been questioning the show’s credibility since many deemed the show’s ‘losers’ better performers than its winners. In the first episode, for example, judge Zhang Ziyi harshly criticized Chinese actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽) over “lacking respect for her job,” but Zheng Shuang won the competition anyway.

In December 2017, Chinese actress and show contestant Yuan Li (袁立) started a big discussion over the validity of the show when she posted screenshots on Weibo of a conversation with a woman working for the show. In this conversation, the show’s staff member promised Yuan Li that she would win the first competition and go on to the next stage, to eventually perform with Zhang Ziyi.

Yuan Li on the show (image by Sina.com).

According to Yuan, not only was this promise broken, the show allegedly also edited Yuan’s performance in such a way that it made her look like a “crazy person.”

‘The Birth of Actors’ responded to the allegations, stating that the staff member’s conversation with Yuan Li was not representative of her function at the show. The woman has since resigned from the show.

Corrupt Voting System

Despite the fact that the show’s production has denied allegations, rumors of a corrupt voting system are persistent. Later in December, actress Yuan Li also exposed on Weibo that the machines given to the studio audience of the show are actually fake.

Photos of the non-functional machines were originally taken by a Weibo netizen named ‘Sea Breeze Diary 1983’ (@海风日记1983), who claimed they joined the live recording of ‘The Birth of Actors’ as the studio audience.

Later, however, other sources claimed the vote machines did not belong to Zhejiang TV’s ‘Birth of the Actors,’ but to another show by Beijing Satellite TV, and that Yuan Li was spreading false rumors.

Copyright Infringement

On January 2nd, the show made headlines again after it had featured a re-enacted scene from the Hong Kong stage classic I Have A Date with Spring (我和春天有个约会) by dramatist Raymond To (杜國威).

The Hong Kong production company’s chairman responded to the episode through Weibo, claiming that ‘The Birth of Actors’ never approached the company for copyright to the scenes.

Screenshot from the re-enacted ‘Date with Spring’ scene.

Not only did the chairman accuse the show of copyright infringement, he also stated that the performance of the actors in the Zhejiang Satellite TV show “entirely distorted the nature of the play’s characters and its experience,” and that it “completely destroyed the image of the original script,” “wrecking the spirit of this classic drama.”

The scene became a topic of discussion earlier when Zhang Ziyi called its performance “the most awkward” she had ever seen.

Ongoing Success

Despite all of its controversies, or perhaps because of them, ‘The Birth of Actors’ has continued to draw large numbers of viewers.

It is not the first time a popular Chinese TV show faces allegations of copyright infringement and fake voting systems. Previously, Dutch production company Talpa sued Zhejiang Satellite TV for its hit TV show ‘New Singing of China’ (中国新歌声), of which the Dutch company owned the TV format (‘The Voice of..’) rights.

Many other Chinese TV shows including voting systems have been accused of influencing or faking audience votes. These controversies often draw more attention to a TV show, which usually grows its viewership.

Besides its controversies, the show has another recipe for success: its all-star cast members that mixes established names with new talent (小鲜肉). As China’s idol industry is thriving, this show gives millions of viewers exactly what they want: superstars, competition, entertainment, and some juicy gossip.

By Boyu Xiao and Manya Koetse

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 Arts & Entertainment

Mixing Chinese Opera With Pop Music, Jason Zhang Becomes a Social Media Hit

A classic Chinese opera song has become a viral hit.

Susanna Sun

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A song that mixes pop and rap with traditional Yue opera has become a viral hit on Chinese social media. Despite the praise for the song, some people say pop and opera should not be mixed.

In the second episode of Battle For the Heavenly Voice, Dragon TV’s new music contest show featuring celebrity singers, pop singer Jason Zhang (张杰) recently took the Internet by storm.

Zhang performed a rearranged Chinese Yue opera piece titled “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (天上掉下林妹妹), mixing elements of pop, rock, and rap music with traditional Chinese opera.

Jason Zhang, also known as Zhang Jie (张杰), is a Chinese mainland pop singer. In 2007, Zhang rose to fame after taking fourth place on Hunan Channel’s singing competition show Super Boy.

His popularity has increased over the past two years: having made it into the final round of I Am a Singer, Zhang is widely recognized in China as a talented singer with a hard-working, down-to-earth attitude.

Earlier this week, Jason’s pop music rendition of the famous opera song debuted on the new music show and went viral almost immediately. The hashtag ‘Zhang Jie Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” (#张杰天上掉下个林妹妹#) has thus far received more than 170 million views on Weibo.

The hashtag page’s introduces the song as “a blend of traditional Chinese opera, rock, and R&B music, full of originality and freshness, showing the young singer’s willingness to preserve our traditional culture as a responsibility.”

Check the video here:

Yue opera (越剧), one of the five main types of traditional folk opera in China, is characterized by its lyricism and prized particularly for its intimate portrayal of emotion. “Sister Lin Fallen From Heaven” originally is a duet song from Yue opera’s adaptation of thee Dream of the Red Mansion, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.

‘Dream of Red Mansion’ special opera cinema, 1962.

The song is sung at the beginning of the story, when protagonists Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu first meet. They both have the same strange feeling that they have been close friends for a long time and have met again after a long separation. Using an emotional melody, the duet shows the affection Baoyu and Lin Daiyu feel in such a lyrical way that it has become the most well-known song representing Yue opera.

 

“A disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

 

Yue opera mostly uses Wu dialect in singing and speech. The Wu dialect’s vowels and consonants are quite different from standard Mandarin. Zhang, not a native speaker of Wu dialect, memorized the standard Yue opera pronunciations of lyrics with both alphabet combinations and Mandarin word substitutes.

The version of the song as performed in this 1962 special opera cinema with leading actress Xu Yulan:

Given its courageous mixing of music styles, “Sister Lin Fallen from Heaven” has been praised as extraordinary, with netizens applauding Zhang for his experimentation. On Weibo, there are many positive comments, such as: “I appreciate your act of promoting Chinese opera culture so much. Hope there will be more surprises like this in the future.”

However, a few passionate Yue opera lovers did not seem to approve of Zhang’s Yue opera singing: “His Yue opera singing is so unprofessional. It doesn’t sound like Yue opera at all. His song is a disgrace to the art of Yue opera.”

A netizen named Kou Li Dao has one of the most upvoted comments under the video:

Some will praise Jason Zhang for singing a Chinese opera song, and some will criticize him for not ‘respecting’ our traditional folk music. Indeed, Zhang did not sing Yue opera in the most ‘orthodox’ way, but he is showing his efforts to introduce and spread Chinese opera culture to the younger generations in his audience. We should all embrace his act of integrating Chinese traditional with contemporary music, because only by constantly experimenting with new styles of modern music, Yue opera will not remain an isolated art – it will be an ever-developing art.

By Susanna Sun

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

©2017 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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