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“The Biden Era is Approaching”: Discussions of U.S.-China Relations under the ‘Sleepy King’

Now that the electoral storm has somewhat settled, the issue of what Sino-American might look like under Biden is much discussed in Chinese online media.

Manya Koetse

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Joe Biden on the Great Wall, CCTV 拜登到中国爬长城 http://news.cctv.com/world/20081105/123682_3.shtml

Now that the storm of jokes and memes surrounding the American elections has settled, more serious discussions regarding Biden’s win and what it might mean for China are surfacing in China’s online media environment. These commentators and academics approach the subject from different angles.

The American elections have been a major topic of discussion in the Chinese social media environment over the past weeks.

For many netizens on Weibo and beyond, the presidential race was one between the ‘King of Understanding’ (懂王, also ‘King of Knowing’) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

Trump’s quotes on the things he knows and understands “more than anyone else” have become somewhat famous on Chinese social media (“people are really surprised I understand this stuff‘”), earning him the ‘King of Knowing’ nickname.

Trump’s nickname explained by Global Times.

Joe Biden got his nickname for dozing off during a speech and for an edited (fake) video that went viral in which Biden was seemingly falling asleep during a live interview.

But the Democrat has more nicknames on Chinese social media, including ‘Grandpa Bai’ (Bài yéyé 拜爷爷), or the cute ‘Dēngdēng‘ (登登).

His name in Chinese is usually written as (Bàidēng 拜登), although netizens have made up many more creative ways to write his name (拜灯, 白等, 败蹬).

Now that it has become clear that former Vice President Joe Biden has won the 2020 US presidential race, Chinese media, bloggers, and netizens are reflecting on the Biden victory with a more serious tone, with the phrase “the Biden era is approaching” recurringly popping up on social media.

There are many articles and posts in China’s online media sphere that focus on Biden’s journey to the presidency, including how he faced family and personal tragedy during his political career.

But, as noted in our previous article on Chinese discussions on Trump versus Biden, most of the online articles and posts about the outcome of the American elections focus on what the shift in power might mean for China and Chinese–U.S. relations.

Over the past few days, Chinese media outlets have posted several interviews, op-eds, and videos of Chinese experts discussing the future prospects of Sino-American relations under Biden. We have selected some of these that have become popular on Weibo or news app Toutiao.

 

Hu Xijin: “The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations.”

 

“Is anyone under the illusion that Biden’s rise to power will lead to a major U.S.-China détente? I’m certainly not. And neither is anyone in my circles, whether they’re journalists, academics, or officials.”

Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the editor-in-chief of the Global Times – a daily newspaper under the auspices of Party news outlet People’s Daily -, has over 23 million fans on his Weibo account. He frequently posts lengthy texts about his views on current news developments, both on Chinese social media as on Twitter (@HuXijin_GT). (For more about Hu Xijin, also check out this SupChina article.)

On November 9, Hu posted about the Biden win, writing:

Along with China’s further development, America’s strategic precautions against China will only get heavier. China only needs its own continuously growing strength to draw a baseline for the United States in its relations with China. The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations. I reckon this already is the general consensus of China’s mainstream society.”

This view, that it does not really matter whether Biden or Trump leads the U.S. for the next four years, was also reiterated in a recent blog post published by Global Times in which the author wrote: “Regardless if it’s the Democrats or the Republicans, both hold a negative stance when it comes to the China issue. (..) No matter who comes to power in the future, there is a high probability that they will continue to suppress China.”

In his November 9 post, Hu Xijin stressed that the outcome of the American elections is not of great significance for the status-quo of Sino-American relations, but he did add that Biden’s win might possibly positively affect the irregular patterns of current Sino-American relations. The political mistrust and power games that took place under the Trump presidency might make way for a period of U.S.-China relations that is less tense.

One of the most popular comments in response to Hu’s post basically summarized Hu’s message, writing: “America’s goal is to suppress China. The leaders might be different, the methods might not be the same, but the goal remains unchanged.”

 

Prof. Shen Yi: “It’s all for the betterment of the US – not for China.”

 

Shen Yi (沈逸) is the Associate Professor of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. On Weibo, he has over 927,000 fans.

On November 10, Shen commented on Biden’s win through a video that was published on Chinese social media by The Observer (观察者).

Shen’s view is somewhat different than that of Hu. Instead of arguing that it does not matter whether Biden or Trump takes office, Shen argues that Chinese people should not mistake foreign politicians for friends, and remember that U.S.-China relations are all about power politics. Even though Chinese netizens sometimes warm up to American leaders like ‘Grandpa Bai’ (拜爷爷), and jokingly make them part of their daily discussions, their views of them should be more serious.

Shen says: “When the American media announced Biden’s victory, there were even some people in China who ‘shed tears of gratitude’, thinking that Sino-American relations will now get back on track.” But Shen gives a warning to those who sighed with relief about Biden’s win, saying: “You should not forget that Biden is a politician. He is an American politician. (..) He is not a Chinese leader.”

Shen suggests that even if Biden would relax some of the tougher China policies after he takes office, for example regarding trade or technology, he would only do so for the betterment of the U.S., not because it would help China. Trump put ‘America first’, but so will future U.S. leaders: “It’s all for themselves.”

Shen mentions that Chinese people should draw a lesson from China’s position during the Korean War and its ‘Resist America, Aid North Korea’ campaign, when China fought on Korean soil to counter ‘American aggression.’ In the worst-case scenario, he argues, China would again firmly stand ground against U.S. powers: “To combat American hegemony, we can only respond with the only language they can understand.”

 

Prof. Yao Yang: “It’s impossible to go back to how U.S.-China relations used to be.”

 

“During Trump’s four years in office, he’s established a political heritage that can’t be immediately erased – including the worsened relations between the U.S. and China. If Biden takes power, will there be a shift in Sino-American relations?”

Yao Yang (姚洋) is the dean and professor at the National School of Development of Peking University. He previously also taught at the University of Washington and New York.

In a recent op-ed for Beijing News, the professor writes that in these initial discussions of what Biden’s office might mean for the future of the relations between Beijing and Washington, it must first be acknowledged that Chinese-U.S. relations will never go back to how they used to be.

Whereas Hu took a stance from the perspective of the people, and Shen discussed the upcoming Biden era from the stance of international power relations, Yang approaches the subject through a more historical lens.

Yang argues that the tensions between China and the U.S. did not start with Trump. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, which tried to peacefully contain China’s ambitions, disrupted the general tranquility that existed before 2008. “China started to be seen as a rival,” Yang writes, adding that this idea of the U.S. and China being geopolitical competitors was continued under Trump and is expected to remain the same under Biden.

Looking back at half a century of U.S.-China relations, Yang claims that the friendly relations between the two countries in the 1970s and 1980s were because of the changing relations with the Soviet-Union and that the U.S. policy of engagement with China from the 1990s to 2010 was based on the hope that China would become more like the United States.

When, around 2010, it became clear to the U.S. elite and leadership that China was not going to be Americanized and that the Chinese path to development was actually successful, the response was one of resentment. Yang asserts that the China policies during the four years under Trump show this angry response towards a China that has taken a different route than America had hoped for during the decades preceding 2010.

Does this mean that nothing will change for U.S.-China relations under Biden? Not necessarily so. Although the two countries will remain to have a competitive relationship, Yang does expect China and the U.S. to have more peaceful relations under the administration of Biden, which will shift away from Trump’s “Cold War mentality” towards China.

 

Zheng Yongnian: “Biden’s China Policy will be much more predictable.”

 

An interview with Chinese political scientist and political commentator Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) was posted by 21st Century Business Herald (21世纪经济报道) on November 11, focusing on American politics and Biden.

Zheng holds similar views on the upcoming Biden era as the other commentators mentioned in this article, namely that the general state of China-US relations will not be drastically changed when Biden comes to power.

Zheng does stress, however, that Biden’s win might have a positive impact on the international community at large, bringing more rationality and an intention to cooperate. In that regard, the Biden era will probably be more similar to the Obama presidency, Zheng says.

Although no major changes are expected under Biden when it comes to U.S.-China relations, Zheng does assert that Biden’s win is positive for Chinese leadership because this president will be much more predictable than Donald Trump.

“Biden’s foreign policy will probably be a basic continuation of the Obama era. So of course there will be some change in Sino-American relations. There’s no fear of hard-line [policies], there are mainly worries about unpredictability. Trump would constantly create these black swans, there’s just no way to predict it. The predictability of the Biden team will be stronger than that of Trump.”

More from What’s on Weibo on China–United States relations here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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China Arts & Entertainment

Zheng Shuang, Zhang Heng, and ‘Surrogacy Gate’: A Timeline

One celebrity couple breakup, two children born through surrogacy: this sad and messy topic has exploded on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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A celebrity surrogacy scandal is dominating discussions on Chinese social media, with one hashtag on the case attracting over 3 4 billion views. The scandal is triggering discussions on the topic of surrogacy in China.

Her name is Zheng Shuang (郑爽, 29), his name is Zhang Heng (张恒, 30). They’re both celebrities in China; she is a super famous actress, he is a well-known producer.

This week, it is not their work that made them go viral on Chinese social media, but a surrogacy scandal taking place in the United States that is dominating all trending lists on Weibo.

Zheng and Zhang in happier times.

The social media storm started on Monday, January 18, when rumors surfaced on Weibo and Wechat that the celebrity couple had separated. Some netizens had located a ‘dissolution’ case concerning the couple through the public access of the US federal court system.

Subsequently, news and rumors began circulating that the couple had two children in the US through a surrogacy arrangement, but that actress Zheng Shuang refused to have them because she and Zhang had broken up – even though her name was on their birth certificate.

The topic soon became known as the Zheng Shuang ‘Surrogacy Gate’ (郑爽”代孕门”).

Chinese media outlet Netease Entertainment published images of the children’s birth certificates and confirmed through sources close to producer Zhang Heng that he was stranded in the United States with the two babies, unable to bring them back to China with him since Ms Zheng allegedly did not cooperate with the necessary legal procedures.

It was Zhang Heng himself who spoke out about the situation on his Weibo account (@张恒KN) on January 18. He wrote the following post:

“Hi everyone, I’m Zhang Heng. Long time no see. As everyone has seen, I again hit the hot search lists recently. Since the past year or so, there has been baseless slander, disrespect, and endless online violence against me on the internet. My family is also frustrated, helpless, and mentally exhausted because of my problems. There’s no way to lead a normal life or to socialize normally. We’re unable to reunite because of this. I really feel so, so bad.   

I realize I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. Because it’s not just me facing everything; it’s also my cherished family members. I’ve decided to speak up, for my family and for myself, and to set the record straight. 

The online rumors about me committing fraud, borrowing from loan sharks, evading debts, taking funds and slinking off to America, etc –  they’re all rumors and I swear I’ve never done these things, nor would I ever do them. It is true that I am in America, but my family and I have been in the United States for over a year because we had to take care of and protect our two young and innocent children. We had no choice but to remain here.

I have hired a lawyer to handle related matters, and I believe the actual facts will be restored by the American and Chinese courts. Finally, I hope the media and righteous people can recognize the truth in this matter, and will not be blinded by internet rumors.” 

The children caught up in this scandal are one girl, born on January 4 2020, registered in the state of Nevada; and a boy, born on December 19 2019, registered in the state of Colorado. The birth certificates that were leaked to Chinese media show both Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang as the legal parents of the two babies.

Also leaked to Chinese media is an older audio recording in which Zheng, Zhang, and both of their parents allegedly discuss what to do with their unborn babies. In the voice recording, Zheng’s side argues that the children should be given up for adoption, with Zheng herself even complaining that the babies could not be aborted because the surrogate mothers were already seven months pregnant.

On January 19, Zheng Shuang herself also responded to the matter on Weibo (@郑爽SZ), where she did not address the matter directly but said that this is “a very sad and private matter that I did not want to discuss in front of everybody.” She further wrote that legal teams in China and the US “never gave up defending the legal rights of me and my family since last year.”

Zheng Shuang, image via Sohu.

Of the two former partners, Zheng is the most famous celebrity. Born in Shenyang in 1991, she rose to fame when she starred in a popular TV series in 2009 (Meteor Shower 一起来看流星雨). She became an award-winning actress and was chosen as one of the most bankable young actresses of the post-90s generation. On her Weibo account, she has over 12.4 million followers.

 

‘Surrogacy Gate’: The Timeline


 

While this case is unfolding in front of netizens’ eyes and through their own research, more and more details are coming up.

Money plays a major role in the falling-out between Zheng and Zhang, and a private lending dispute – involving no less than 20 million yuan (around 3 million dollars) – seems to be one of the reasons for their break-up.

Since the story is somewhat messy and complicated, we will attempt to reconstruct a timeline of events here.
 

TIMELINE:

2018, May
• Zheng and Zhang meet on the set of the variety show This Is Fighting Robots (这就是铁甲), where Zhang does the show’s production. Weeks later, intimate photos of the two surface online.

2018, August
• The couple officially announces their relationship status and start a company together.

2018, November
• Ms Zheng allegedly loans Mr Zhang 20 million yuan ($3 million).

2019, January 19
• Zheng and Zhang ‘secretly’ get married in the United States on January 19 of 2019. Zheng’s dog, “Wolfberry Kris” (@枸杞kris), has its own Weibo account where some ‘wedding photos’ of the joyous occasion are shared on this day.

2019, Fall/Winter
• Zhang and Zheng both appear on the TV show Meeting Mr. Right (女儿们的恋爱).

• An annual report of Zhang and Zheng’s entertainment-meets-tech company, a joint business venture named Shanghai Whale Valley AI Tech (上海鲸谷座人工智能科技有限公司), shows that Zheng Shuang invested over 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) while Zhang – the company’s legal representative – only contributed 200,000 yuan ($30,800).

2019, September
• In a Weibo post of January 2021, Zheng Shuang claims that Zhang cheated on her in September of 2019, which is why she left the US and went back to China.

2019, October 31
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang go viral on Chinese social media when Zhang writes a love song for Zheng, and publicly announces his love for her (#张恒给郑爽写歌#).

2019, December 18
• Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang announce their breakup, and rumors suggest that the two are caught up in a dispute over money.

2019, December 19
• The son of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Colorado.

2020, January
• The daughter of Zhang Heng and Zheng Shuang is born through surrogacy in Nevada on January 4.

• Zheng Shuang files a lawsuit in Shanghai, suing Zhang Heng for borrowing 20 million yuan from high-interest loaners under her name to invest in personal business ventures.

2020, November
• Shanghai Jing’an Court rules that Mr. Zhang needs to pay back 20 million yuan ($3 million) plus overdue interest to Ms. Zheng. Zhang Heng appeals the case, arguing the money involved was never a loan but a financial compensation and advance payment for invested labor, since Zhang also acted as Zheng’s manager while they were together.

2020, December
• Zheng Shuang quits as a mentor on the Shine! Super Brothers (追光吧!哥哥) variety TV show after a clip exposing her gossiping about the past relationship of two co-stars circulated online.

2021, January 18
• Zhang posts his story on his Weibo account, stating he is stranded in the United States to take care of his two young children, implying Zheng has abandoned the babies. He also posts a photo of him with the two children.

• A voice recording in which Zheng talks about what to do with her unborn children surfaces in Chinese media, along with the birth certificates. The topic explodes on Chinese social media.

2021, January 19
• Zheng Shuang posts a reply to the matter on her own Weibo account, in which she is vague and evasive about the issue concerning the children. She implies that Zhang has “ulterior motives.” She later adds that Zhang cheated on her in the fall of 2019.

• In light of all controversy, Italian fashion brand PRADA cuts ties with Zheng Shuang, with whom they had a cooperation agreement. Zheng was announced as one of the brand’s new Chinese ambassadors earlier in 2021.

• London jewelry brand Lola Rose deletes all content including Zheng from their social media.

• Harper Bazaar deletes a feature on Zheng Shuang from their social media.

• Chinese cosmetic brand Chioture also posts a statement on Weibo saying it has terminated its contract with Zheng Shuang, who formerly was a spokesperson for the company.

• The second hearing of the Zheng versus Zhang lawsuit takes place in a Shanghai court over the disputed loan. Zhang and Zheng are both represented by their lawyers. (No news on outcome yet).

• State broadcaster CCTV condemns surrogacy in a post on Weibo.

• Zheng Shuang appears in public in Beijing, where she is followed by paparazzi. She does not respond to any questions, but her appearance still goes viral on social media with over 640 million views (#郑爽风波后首现身#).

2021, January 20
• Huading Awards announces it will revoke the honorary titles of Zheng Shuang, renouncing Zheng’s former awards as best actress and favorite TV star. Over 2.2 million people ‘liked’ this update on Weibo (#华鼎奖取消郑爽荣誉称号#).

• China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television officially shuts out Zheng Shuang.

• The Weibo hashtag “Birth Certificates of Zheng Shuang and Zhang Heng’s Children” (#郑爽张恒孩子出生证明#) reaches a staggering 4 billion views.

2021, March 22
• The hearing for the supposed dissolution of Zheng and Zhang’s marriage is scheduled to take place in Denver, US.

 

Surrogacy Abandonment


 

Although the timeline of events leading to the current situation might suggest that Ms. Zheng and Mr. Zhang are both at fault for handling matters in an irresponsible way, it is Zheng’s “surrogacy abandonment” that mostly triggers the public’s anger on social media.

Many people feel that Zheng Shuang is lacking morals for abandoning her children and call her “cold-blooded.” There are also those who think the actress has serious mental problems. Despite all backlash, Zheng still has a strong fan base with people who still support her.

The scandal has sparked more discussions on the issue of surrogacy in China, which already was a big topic earlier in January when a story came out on a baby born through surrogacy who had no birth certificate and no legal registration (link here).

Although surrogacy is officially not legal in China, there is a flourishing underground surrogacy market, and many couples who are struggling with fertility issues travel overseas for surrogacy arrangements. It is not clear why Zheng and Zhang used surrogates to have children.

On Weibo, many people speak out against surrogacy practices, arguing that having children is not a business and surrogacy puts vulnerable women at increased risk of exploitation.

The hashtag “Firmly Oppose All Forms of Surrogacy” (#坚决反对一切形式的代孕#) received over 290 million views and thousands of comments.

One person commented: “Children are not a commodity you can buy, sell, or return. They’re a life-long responsibility, they are the future of our society.”

 
This story will be updated following the latest developments.
 
By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes


Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

After 88 Days of ‘Missing in Action,’ Jack Ma Appears in Public Again

“Daddy, you’re back!” – Jack Ma reappears after three months of silence.

Manya Koetse

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Jack Ma’s alleged ‘disappearance’ made international headlines and also generated many discussions on Chinese social media.

But now, after not appearing in public for 88 days, the Alibaba founder has finally popped up again in a video that is circulating online. News of his appearance was first reported by Tianmu News (天目新闻), a news platform under the umbrella of the Zhejiang Daily.

The video was recorded during an online award ceremony for rural teachers, which was attended by 100 educators from around the country. In his speech, Ma expressed his respect for China’s 2.9 million countryside teachers and said that although the physical event for the rural teaching initiative was canceled due to COVID19, they would all meet again once the epidemic is over. The event is usually held annually in Sanya, Hainan.

Jack Ma, who used to be a teacher himself, previously put forward the Rural Teachers Program to further develop and modernize education in China’s countryside areas.

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Chinese media report that Alibaba shares immediately went up after Ma’s online appearance.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma personally still has not posted anything on his Weibo account, where his latest post of October 17th 2020 is still attracting new comments every day. Today, some people commented: “Teacher Ma, I finally saw your face again in a video! It made me happy.”

Other wrote: “Daddy, you’re back!”

For more on Jack Ma and his recent ‘disappearance’, read “Daddy Ma, Are You OK?” – Jack Ma’s Situation Discussed on Chinese Social Media.

By Manya Koetse


Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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