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China’s High-Speed Railway: Netizens Praise Excellent Service

The personal account of one high-speed railway passenger went viral this week. His view: China’s high-speed railway staff should be praised more, as their service has become better than that of developed countries.

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The personal account of one high-speed railway passenger went viral this week. His view: China’s high-speed railway staff should be praised more, as their service has become better than that of “developed countries”.

One passenger posted his experiences with China’s high-speed railway on Sina Weibo this week, praising the good service of its station and train staff. The story became one of the top trending Weibo posts of the day, with many netizens agreeing with the man that China’s train services are high standing.

See the translation below for the full account of the man’s story.

[box] “A few days ago I went on a business trip to Tianjin. Halfway there, at the Jinan stop, I stepped out to stretch my legs. I may have been too distracted, because I did not even hear the whistle blow. As a result, I saw the train slowly picking up speed right beside me. It took me five seconds to realise that it was actually my train that was leaving. Inside was my luggage, my computer, my mobile, and my wallet.

I stood there for a bit before I became clear-headed: I was left at the train platform! I arrived at the service desk somewhat depressed, and explained my predicament to the staff. While I was telling my story, I felt the young woman behind the service desk scrutinising me with her eyes.  She probably thought: this traveler looks quite normal, how could he be so stupid?

After she had heard my explanation, she asked me to wait and started to get in touch with the conductor of the train by calling internal inquiries. After she had traced down the number of the train manager, she explained the situation and handed me the phone. After they asked for my details, seat number and luggage, they told me they would take care of my things and hand them over to the staff at Beijing Station. Although I was going to Tianjin, the final stop of the train was Beijing.

I wanted to thank the staff after hanging up the phone. She told me to wait a bit, and again, helped me to get in touch with a conductor of the regular train service. Right then, a middle-aged woman came up to the service desk. She was crying so badly that she could barely speak. The staff asked her what the problem was, but not much came out. After a little while, when the woman had calmed down, we found out that her situation was quite simple: she had missed her train. According to what she told, she had already changed her train reservation twice, and missed it both times. The main reason was that it was her first time taking a high speed train, and she could not find the boarding gate.

The service staff seemed to relax after hearing the story. I understood why – when she first saw the woman crying like that, she probably thought there was something worse than just missing a train. This was easy to handle. The staff made another phone call and then looked at me, saying: “Hey mister, can I ask you for a favour?” I said: “I know, I can bring this lady to her train.” She said: “It won’t be such a hassle. You are on the same train, you just help her to your train.” That sounded even more easier.

As I was walking with the lady to the train, she kept repeating to herself: “I feel so useless, that is why I cried.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said: “You only couldn’t find the train’s boarding gate, that’s all. Look at me, I frequently travel, and I suddenly found myself alone on a platform, having let the train go without me. Compared to you, I am the one who’s muddle-headed.” The woman smiled.

As we arrived at the train, the woman and I found the train manager. She already knew about the phonecall from the service desk, and understood our situation. I specifically explained that although my original destination was Tianjin, I needed to go to Beijing to pick up my luggage, and that if needed to, I would pay extra for my ticket. The conductor was a young woman, under the age of 28. She listened and wondered: “So why is your luggage not taken to Tianjin?” “This is what the conductor told me.” “Wait a bit,” she told me: “I will check for you.”

Then, after another set of procedures (inquiring the number, contacting the conductor) she told me: “Your luggage will be send directly to Tianjin, and the station staff will hand it over to you there.” She also comforted the woman, and told her not to worry at China’s high-speed rail station, where she could always just look for some staff to help out. She then advised us to sit in the dining car.

When we were nearing Tianjin, the conductor came up to me and said: “I’ll help you when getting off the train, to avoid you not being able to find any staff.” As we arrived and got off, a young man was waiting for us with my computer bag in one hand, and my funny thermos flask in the other.

The whole event was so warm. Every staff member had their own duty, and went beyond their responsibility. The conductor of the later train I took had no reason to reach out to me like that. She only had to ensure that I could go on and could get off the train. But she also considered that it would be inconvenient for me to go to Beijing, and she helped me to arrange it. It was very considerate service.

When I told my friend of my experiences afterwards, he told me to write it down. It’s good to praise our high speed railway staff; their service exceeds normal service and is at a high level. It is even better than that of developed countries. It’s very good. I have also experienced this kind of service on foreign airlines. I had missed my flight and got good service. The core value: trying to solve the passenger’s problems is no trouble.

This time, there was unexpected consideration and warmth, getting this kind of service in China for the first time.

[/box]

The story has been shared over 8700 times on Weibo.

For one netizen, the story is familiar: “I am one of those people who is sleeping when getting on the train, and peeing when getting off the train. One time I went from Guangdong to Shilong, and I only woke up in Pingchang. As a result… a beautiful train manager reassuringly smiled at me, and made some phonecalls to arrange a train back. It gave me warm feeling reading this story. Thank you, China!”

“This reminds me of my neighbours,” one other commenter says: “The whole family went to the station to bring their daughter, who was going to study in Changsha, to the train. As the train departed, the whole family was on the train, and their daughter was still on the platform.”

China has opened its first high-speed railways (HSR) in October 2003, and has now built 10,000 miles (16093 km) of high-speed tracks within its borders (NBC). With HSR, it is now possible to travel the 819 miles (1318 km) from Beijing to Shanghai in 5 hours; a train journey that would have cost at least eight to ten hours only a couple of years ago.

By Manya Koetse

©2015 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 Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

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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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

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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