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Top 10: Overview of China’s Most Popular TV Dramas of Summer 2018

These are the top-scoring TV dramas in China of this moment – and they are all produced in the PRC.

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Tong Liya in 'Patriot'

Turn on the airconditioning and get ready for some binge watching; these are the top trending TV dramas in China to watch this summer.

Note: also see our Top 30 of all-time classic Chinese TV Dramas here!

China still has one of the most booming TV drama industries in the world, with dozens of new dramas being released every month, drawing in millions of viewers through the country’s most popular online video streaming platforms.

We’ve compiled a top ten of most popular Chinese TV dramas based on the current popular charts of the leading websites in Chinese online video, including Tencent Video, iQiyi, Sohu, Youku, LeTV, 360kan, Sogou Video, along with Baidu’s and Weibo’s popular TV drama charts.

Like fashion and music, TV drama trends constantly change with the times and seasons. This summer, Chinese viewers are mostly into dramas that are themed around (historical) love stories and suspense. What is noteworthy is that the often very popular fantasy & martial art series, Sino-Japanese war dramas, and the ever-popular South-Korean tv dramas are not making it to the list of top-watched series this time; the current top 10 series are all produced in mainland China.

This list has been compiled by combining the top ranking lists of this moment to make sure we have all the current top-scoring TV dramas in China included. Please note that some of these series are currently still airing and have no English subtitles available at this time. Some links we provide here (such as those to Viki) have content restrictions depending on location. To circumvent you could consider purchasing a vpn (read more).

These are the dramas Chinese netizens are watching the most right now:

 

#10. Shanghai Women’s Manual (上海女子图鉴)

Mainland China
Genre: urban, romance
Directed by: Cheng Liang, 程亮
Episodes: 20, start May 8 2018, by Youku

Chinese video platform Youku released Shanghai Women’s Manual (or Women in Shanghai) last May, following the series Beijing Women Manual; both series are adapted from 2016 popular Japanese drama series Tokyo Joshi Zukan.

This successful TV drama, that currently ranks number 5 in Youku top 30, stars actress Wang Zhen’er (王真儿) as Luo Haiyan – a small-town girl who tries to make it in the big city.

Following Luo Haiyan’s life from college to corporate world.

The series revolves around career and romance in Shanghai, following Luo’s life from the days of university graduation to her first struggles and successes in the corporate world. Throughout Luo’s career path, her university sweetheart Zhang Tianhao (played by Taiwanese actor Li Chengbin 李程彬) keeps on playing an important role in her life.

Two pluspoint aspects of this series; the scenery is enjoyable (nice images of Shanghai streets and aerial views), and some of the music used in the episodes is great. The TV drama can be watched here (no subtitles, if you know of where to watch with English subtitles please leave comment).

 

#9. On Fire (走火)

Mainland China
Genre: suspense, crime
Directed by: Li Xiaoping 李小平 and Li Xiaoting 李小亭
Episodes: 40, start June 6 2018, by Zhejiang TV

Ranking no.4 in Weibo’s current most popular charts of the day and no.6 in Youku top 30, On Fire or Flame (走火) is a TV drama about a group of young police officers facing complicated and serious cases.

 

#8. White Deer Plain (白鹿原)

Mainland China
Genre: Contemporary historical drama
Directed by: Liu Jin 刘进
Episodes: 77, start July 16 2017

Currently ranking first in Baidu’s popular drama charts and number two in LeTV top 10, White Deer or White Deer Plain is a succesful tv drama that is based on the award-winning Chinese literary classic by Chen Zhongshi (陈忠实) from 1993.

The preparation and production of White Deer Plain was certainly not rushed; it reportedly took 17 years before this TV drama finally went on air.

This work’s success in China has previously been compared to that of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. White Deer Plain was previously also turned into a movie (2011).

The historical epic follows the stories of people from several generations living on the ‘White Deer Plain,’ or North China Plain in Shanxi province, during the first half of the 20th century. This tumultuous period sees the Republican Period, the Japanese invasion, and the early days of the People’s Republic of China.

The series is great in providing insights into how people used to live, from dress to daily life matter. The scenery and sets are beautiful. Some Youtube channels work on providing subtitles for this show, but we couldn’t find one channel with complete English subtitles yet.

 

#7. Great Expectations (远大前程)

Mainland China
Genre: Period drama, romance
Directed by: Xie Ze and Chen Xitai 谢泽、陈熙泰
Episodes: 48, start April 1 2018, by Hunan TV

Scoring number one position in the LeTv popular dramas chart, Great Expectations is set in Shanghai in the early 20th century.

The drama follows the story of Hong Sanyuan (played by Chen Sicheng 陈思成), who has come to Shanghai from a small town in search for a better life together with his mother and close friend Qi Lin. The new life in Shanghai does not come easy, however, and Hong gets wound up in political affairs and power struggles as he transforms from a street hooligan to a revolutionary.

Fun fact: besides starring in this TV drama as the main actor, Chen Sicheng is also the screenwriter and producer of Great Expectations. Drama is available through Viki here.

 

#6. Dr. Qin Medical Examiner 2 (法医秦明2清道夫)

Mainland China
Genre: crime
Director: Li Shuang, Chen Jiahong 李爽、陈嘉鸿
Episodes: 20, June 15th 2018, Sohu TV

This series is currently ranking number one in the Sohu hot drama charts. It is the sequel to one of the most successful network dramas on Sohu TV: Medical Examiner Dr. Qin (法医秦明), an adaptation from best-selling novels by Chinese forensic expert Dr. Qin Ming.

The series sheds light on the profession of forensic doctors, following their hardships and professional working attitudes, and stars Eric Liu Dong Qin, Liu Chang, and Yu Shasha. The original series is now available on Viki with subtitles.

 

#5. Patriot (爱国者)

Mainland China
Genre: Historical drama
Directed by: Gong Chaohui (龚朝晖)
Episodes: 50, June 9 2018, Jiangsu

Zhang Luyi (张鲁一) and Tong Liya (佟丽娅) star in this 50-episode drama that is curerently number two in Weibo’s popularity charts, getting a 7.1 rating at Sogou Video.

As the only series in this list, it is set at the time of the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), and tells the story of underground Communist party member Song Xiaqiao on a secret mission, who has to deal with spies and traitors. His love interest is played by the beautiful Tong Liya.

The marketing posters for this TV drama really stand out; they are original and quite stunning. Available to watch on YouTube (Chinese).

 

#4. Love Won’t Wait (如果,爱)

Mainland China
Genre: Urban, family drama
Directed by: Zhang Zheshu (张哲书)
Episodes: 47, May 27 2018, Mango TV and others

After 40 years of hard work, Wan Shicheng (Zhng Shuangli 张双利) has succeeded in establishing the biggest restaurant in the city. Despite his success, his family and daughters are facing many struggles – one of them, played by Cecilia Cheung (张柏芝), is caught in an abusive relationship while the other becomes pregnant after a one-night stand.

Love Won’t Wait is the top scoring tv drama in iQiyi charts at time of writing, and is ranking number 4 in Weibo’s popularity charts. The series can be viewed here (no English subtitles, let us know if available.)

 

 

#3. The Way We Were (归去来)

This is the number one show at 360kan and Youku, and top scoring show in Tencent Video this week.

Shu Che (Luo Jin 罗晋), Xiao Qing (Tiffany Tang 唐嫣), Liao Ying (Amelie Xu 许龄月) and Ning Ming (Tim Yu) are Chinese children from rich households living in the US. The TV drama follows the trials and tribulations of these students and their elite lives – facing challenges in love and legal battles.

The Way We Were is available for viewing on Viki or through Youtube (above) with subtitles.

 

#2. Summer’s Desire (泡沫之夏)

Mainland China
Genre: Youth drama, romance
Directed by: Yu Zhonzhong (于中中)
Episodes: 36, May 8 2018, by Zhejiang TV, iQiyi and others

The number one hottest tv drama at Sogou at time of writing, also ranking number three at Weibo’s weekly best-rated tv drama’s, is “Summer’s Desire.”

The popular TV series is based on the 2007 novel Summer of Foam by Ming Xiaoxi. It stars Zhang Xueying (张雪迎), Qin Junjie (秦俊杰), Madina Memet, and Huang Shengchi (黄圣池) and focuses on the love story between female protagonists Yin Xiamo and Ou Chen and Luo Xi.

 

#1. Lost in 1949 (脱身)

Mainland China
Genre: Suspense, historical drama
Director: Lin Ke (林柯)
Episodes: 47, June 11 2018

Lost in 1949 is the number one TV drama on Weibo’s popularity charts this week, along with the top scorer on iQiyi, and scoring a 8.8 rating on Tencent’s Video.

The stars of this spy drama are Chen Kun (陈坤) and Wan Qian (万茜). Chen actually plays two different roles in this drama.

The story is set in early 1949 at the time of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Huang Liwen is on her way to Shanghai to mourn her lost husband when she runs into Qiao Zhicai, who has been released from prison and is on a mission to find the person who framed him. In a coincidence meting, the suitcases of Qiao and Huang get mixed up. Huang’s suitcase contains an important item she needs to deliver to the underground organization of the communist party. It is the beginning of their adventure and lovestory, in which the protagonists’s devotion to their country plays an important role.

Want to read more? Check out:
Top 10 of TV Drama in China 2017
Top 5 of Best Drama Series Winter 2017/2018
Best TV Dramas in China Summer 2017
Most Popular Television Series in China in 2016
Top TV Drama 2015

By 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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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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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. labarron

    June 19, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Can someone recommend good VPN for streaming China’s TV dramas?

  2. bren

    June 21, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Great article! Lots of new shows to check out.

    Just a small note, I think 白鹿原 takes place in 陕西, which is usually written as Shaanxi.

  3. Chris

    November 29, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Hi,

    I found Love won’t wait with English subtitles here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJof90AYsK8&feature=youtu.be

    Have a good one

    Chris

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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 10 Overview of China’s Most Popular TV Dramas February 2019

The top scoring TV dramas in China of this moment, winter 2018/2019.

Gabi Verberg

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From beautiful costume series to suspenseful war-themed productions – these are the most popular TV dramas in China this season, an overview by What’s on Weibo.

China has one of the most booming TV drama industries in the world, with dozens of new dramas being released every month, drawing in millions of viewers through the country’s most popular online video streaming platforms.

We’ve compiled a top ten of the most popular Chinese TV dramas of this moment, based on the current popular charts of the leading websites in Chinese online video, including Tencent Video, iQiyi, Sohu, Youku, LeTV, 360kan, Sogou Video, along with Baidu’s and Weibo’s popular TV drama charts.

Please note that this list has been compiled by combining the top-ranking lists of this moment. And we have chosen to exclude popular drama series that already made it in our previous top-ten lists (here, here, here), despite their ongoing popularity.

Most of these series are available for viewing online, some also with English subtitles. If you need a VPN to circumvent any geo restrictions, we recommend either NordVPN or ExpressVPN to do so. Note: also see our Top 30 of all-time classic Chinese TV Dramas here!

Here we go:

 

#10 Mystery of Antiques 古董局中局

China Mainland

Chinese title: Gǔdǒng jú zhōng jú 古董局中局
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Directed by: Wu Bai (五百) aka Guo Shubo (郭书博), Yu Qing (余庆)
Episodes: 36, December 2018, Tencent Video

Mystery of Antiques is an adaption of the like-named novel by award-winning novelist Ma Boyan (马伯庸). The main character in the drama series is played by Xia Yu (夏雨), who previously won awards for acting at various film festivals from Venice to Beijing, and from Taiwan to Singapore.

The series currently ranks fourth on Baidu’s most popular drama list, and seventh on the 360kan most popular series rankings.

The drama tells the story of the ordinary small antique shop owner, Xu Yuan (Xia Yu), who comes from a family of antique traders. One day, a visitor coming to the shop brings Xu into a conspiracy that goes beyond his wildest dreams and links him to a legendary treasure. It is the start of a dangerous and tumultuous journey, in which Xu does all he can to clear his family’s name and change his fate.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has over 20.000 followers.

The show, in Chinese, is available on QQ.

 

#9 Forty Years We Walked 我们的四十年

China Mainland

Chinese title: Wǒmen de sìshí nián 我们的西十年
Genre: Coming of age
Directed by: Wang Zi (王梓)
Episodes: 60, November 2018, Jiangsu TV, iQiyi, Tencent Video, Sogou Video, Mango TV, LeTV, Fun TV, PP TV, Youku

This coming of age story, featuring beautiful images of Beijing, is directed by Hunan-born filmmaker Wang Zi. Wang was born in 1986 and started his career as an actor in 2008. Some say that this series is very much based on Wang’s own experiences in his journey to becoming a director.

The series is currently the second most popular series on Sogou Video.

Forty Years We Walked tells the life story of Feng Dou, who falls in love with television and film from the first time he ever sees a TV at his friend’s house. In middle school, he becomes well-known together with his friend for collecting old tv-parts and building “new” televisions from them. Feng continues to pursue his passion for tv, setting up several businesses. However, as he Feng gets older, he starts to question his purpose in life until he realizes what it is he was always intended to do.

On Weibo, the official account of the series is currently nearing 20.000 followers.

The show is available on AsiaTVSub here or on Youtube here with Chinese subtitles.

 

#8 Well Intended Love 奈何BOSS要娶我

China Mainland

Chinese title: Nàihé BOSS yào qǔ wǒ (奈何BOSS要娶我)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Wu Qiang (吴强)
Episodes: 20, January 2019, Sohu Video TV, Mango TV

Well Intended Love, that features the youngest cast within this overview, including Xu Kaiwei (徐开骋, 1990) and Simona Wang (王双, 1991), tells the love story between a wealthy man and mostly unknown young actress. The series is currently the most popular drama series on Sohu Video.

The series revolves around undiscovered actress Xia Lin who is suffering from leukemia. To afford a surgery that can save her life, she gets involved with the wealthy CEO Ling Yizhou. At the same time, Xia continues to pursue her career as an actress. Ling and Xia eventually get married and live a happy life together in secrecy until Ling finds out that Xia has a hidden agenda.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has over 190.000 followers.

See the complete series including English and Chinese subtitles on YouTube here.

 

#7 The Legend of Hao Lan 皓镧传

China Mainland

Chinese title: Hào lán chuán  皓镧传
Genre: Costume Drama, War, Romance, Historical Fiction
Directed by: Li Dachao (李达超)
Episodes: 62, January 2019, iQiyi

The historical drama The Legend of Hao Lan, starring Wu Jinyan (吴谨言), Mao Zijin (茅子俊), and Nie Yuan (聂远), chronicles the rise of Li Hao Lan to become the Empress Dowager of the Qin dynasty, after a long drawn battle between Zhao and Qin, towards the end of the Warring States period (475–221 BC).

The series is currently ranked third most popular series on 360kan and fourth most popular on iQiyi. Viewers of the latter evaluate the series with an average of 7.0.

Its popularity shows that historical drama is still very much booming in China’s drama industry. Recently, state media critique on period costume dramas that focus on conflicts in the imperial court became a hot topic on Chinese social media. The criticism singled out Yanxi Palace in particular, a show that was then canceled on TV for its “negative impacts,” signaling heightened censorship on Chinese costume dramas.

For now, however, The Legend of Hao Lan is going strong – and it stars the same main characters (Wu Jinyan and Nie Yuan). It depicts the story of the brave woman Li Hao Lan, daughter of Imperial censor Li He of Zhao state, who gets framed by her stepmother and is sold as a slave to Lu Buwei. Lu later presents her as a gift to Sun Yiren, a Qin royal that resides in Zhao as a hostage. As Li and Lu arrive in the royal Zhao palace, they unite and start their battle for power.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has over 40.000 followers.

See the complete series including Chinese subtitles here. Also available on Viki (incl. English subtitles).

 

#6 Candle in the Tomb: The Wrath of Time 鬼吹灯之怒晴湘西

China Mainland

Chinese title: Guǐ chuīdēng zhī nù qíng xiāngxī (鬼吹灯之怒晴湘西)
Genre: Adventure, Suspense
Directed by: Fei Zhengxiang (费振翔), supervised by Guan Hu (管虎)
Episodes: 21, January 2019, Tencent Video

The Wrath of Time is the third season in the fictional Candle in the Tomb series, an adaption from the novels by Zhang Muye. The series chronicles the adventures of a gang of tomb raiders as they excavate the truth behind a mysterious curse. Previous seasons were Candle in the Tomb: Mu Ye Gui Shi (鬼吹灯之牧野诡事) and Candle in the Tomb: The Weasel Grave (鬼吹灯之黄皮子坟). Despite this series being the third season, it’s not really necessary to see the first series to understand the third season.

The series, starring Pan Yueming (潘粤明), Gao Weiguang (高伟光), and Xin Yulei, currently ranks third most popular drama series on Tencent Video scoring a 9.3, and fourth most popular serie on 360kan.

This third season of the Candle in the Tomb series is set in a time when the warlords are fighting for power and bring disaster upon the people. With the purpose of finding the ancient tombs from the Yuan dynasty, tomb raider Chen Yulou and warlord Luo Laowai embark on a journey to the Xiangxi Mountains. On their way, they meet Zhe Gushao, who is set on finding a pearl that will end the spell upon his clan. Despite the mutual suspicion of each other’s motives, Chen and Zhe rely on each other to get to their destination.

The third season does not have an official account on Weibo, however that the series is quite popular can be seen from the hashtag “Candle in the Tomb: The Wrath of Time” (#鬼吹灯之怒晴湘西#) which already got over 690 million views, and received more than 2.3 million comments on Weibo.

See the complete series including English and Chinese subtitles here.

 

#5 Behind the Scenes 幕后之王

China Mainland

Chinese title: Mùhòu zhī wáng (Mùhòu zhī wáng)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Li Jun (李骏)
Episodes: 42, January 2019, Youku TV, Dragon TV, Beijing TV

Behind the Scenes, starring Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) and Luo Jin (罗晋), is currently ranking second place on Weibo’s top ten most popular TV dramas, and third on Youku’s top 10 TV drama series.

The series revolves around ambitious student Bu Xiaogu and the famous producer Chun Yuqiao. Bu is thrilled when she is given the opportunity to work with the man she greatly admires. But she quickly discovers that he is nothing like she imagined. With her hopes and dreams shattered, Bu gets involved in an accident. Chun unexpectedly takes on the sole responsibility for the accident, setting off a special relationship between the two.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has over 80.000 followers

See the complete series including Chinese subtitles here.

 

#4 Spy Hunter 天衣无缝

China Mainland

Chinese title: Tiānyīwúfèng (天衣无缝)
Genre: Action, Detective
Directed by: Li Lu (李路)
Episodes: 48, January 2019, Zhejiang TV, Jiangsu TV, Tencent Video, Youku, iQiyi, Mango TV

Spy Hunter, starring Lu Yi (陆毅) as one of the main characters, currently ranks second most popular drama series on both 360kan and iQiyi.

This fictional story takes place in the spring of 1931 when the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is establishing logistic bases in several big cities. Two Special service teams try to establish a new secret underground route and depot. But one day, their secret base in Tianjin is exposed, and the life of agent Wan is sacrificed. In the name of justice, Wan’s brother goes looking for the truth behind his brother’s death.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has approximately 50.000 followers.

See the complete series including English and Chinese subtitles here.

 

#3 I Will Never Let You Go 小女花不弃

China Mainland

Chinese title: Xiǎonǚ huā bu qì (小女花不弃)
Genre: Costume Drama, Fantasy, Adventure
Directed by: Cha Chuanyi (查传谊)
Episodes: 51, January 2019, iQiyi, Tencent Video, Youku, PPTV

I’ll Never Let You Go is an adaptation of the like-named novel by Zhuang Zhuang (桩桩). The series stars many famous actors including Ariel Lin (林依晨), Lin Bohong (林柏宏), and Zhang Binbin aka Vin (张彬彬).

On Tencent Video the series currently occupies second place in their most popular drama series hotlist, scoring an average of 8.2. And also on Weibo, Youku, and 360kan, the series holds a position in the top five.

I’ll Never Let You Go is a coming-of-age story revolving around a young with a unique gift, who wanders the world alone after her entire family was killed to protect the girl’s special gift. One day, the girl meets a courageous masked man who saves her life, after which they fall in love. But everything turned around when the girl discovers who the man she loves really is.

On Weibo, the verified Weibo page of the series has over 4.6 million followers, making it the most popular series on Weibo of this list.

See the complete series with Chinese subtitles here. Also available on Viki (including English subtitles).

 

#2 Anti-Japanese 荡寇


China Mainland

Chinese title: Dàng kòu 荡寇
Genre: Drama, War, History
Directed by: Jiao Xiaoyu (焦晓雨)
Episodes: 60, November 2016, Guizhou TV, iQiyi, Sohu TV, PP TV, Youku

This TV drama, that has the remarkable English title ‘Anti-Japanese‘ (the original Chinese title roughly translates as ‘sweeping away the enemy’) was first aired by Hunan TV in November of 2016. Since then, it was broadcasted by at least eight different television stations and platforms.

The most recent rebroadcast started on January 19, 2019, and the numbers show that people still can’t get enough of the drama. On iQiyi, the series currently ranks first place, and on Sohu and LeTV the series ranks second and fourth place respectively.

The TV drama is set at the start of the War of Resistance again Japan (1937-1945). When an intelligence team of the Communist Party finds out about a box with classified information regarding the development chemical and biological weapons that is sent out by the Japanese army, Yang Erhu is sent to stop their evil plans and to protect his country.

See the complete series including Chinese subtitles here.

 

#1 The Story Of Minglan 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦


China Mainland

Chinese title: Zhī fǒu zhī fǒu yīng shì lǜféi hóng shòu (知否知否应是绿肥红瘦)
Genre: Historical fiction, Family, Politics
Directed by: Zhang Kaizhou (张开宙)
Episodes: 73, December 2018, iQiyi, Tencent Video, Youku, Youtube, Hunan TV

The fictional Story of Minglan, starring Zhao Liying (赵丽颖) and William Feng (冯绍峰) as main characters, is an adapted screenplay a novel by Chinese author Zheng Yi (郑怡) aka Guanxin Zeluan (关心则乱).

The series currently dominates the drama top charts, occupying the first place on Tencent Video, Youku, Baidu, Weibo, Sogou Video and 360kan.

The story of Minglan tells the coming of age story of an intelligent concubine daughter that has to grow up dealing with her unkind stepmother, an indifferent father, and unreasonable sisters.

Minglan learns to hide her skills and true intentions in order to survive until she meets Gu Tingyu, and the two fall in love. After Gu becomes a powerful official, and the two get married, Minglan rises to prominence.

On Weibo, the official account of the series has nearly 1.7 million followers.

See the complete series including Engish and Chinese subtitles here.

By Gabi Verberg

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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China Celebs

Zhai Tianlin’s Alleged Plagiarism Triggers Discussions on Academic Cheating in Chinese Universities

“Colleges and Universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”

Gabi Verberg

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Earlier this month, Chinese actor Zhai Tianlin (翟天临) drew the public’s attention for his appearance at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, where he starred as a police officer preventing his parents from being scammed. Now, Zhai, again, is at the center of attention: not for his acting skills, but for allegedly committing academic fraud.

The famous actor is a Beijing Film Academy Ph.D. graduate and postdoctoral candidate at Peking University, one of China’s most renowned universities.

His alleged academic misconduct has been a topic of discussion for some days now. During a live broadcast with fans, Zhai apparently said he did not know what CNKI (知网) is, an academic database that all scholars in China will be familiar with.

It led to suspicions on Zhai’s academic standing, and people on the Quora-like Q&A platform Zhihu accused Zhai of not publishing any academic papers in recognized scholarly journals – something that is mandatory for Ph.D. students in China in order to fulfill their graduation requirements.

Zhai’s academic records increasingly became the focus of attention on February 9th, when one Weibo user (PITD亚洲虐待博士组织), a graduate student from Beijing, posted the results of a plagiarism detection test that was run on one of Zhai’s papers.

The test result revealed that of the 2783 words used in the paper, that was published last year, 1482 words were copied from other texts, indicating a 40.4% similarity score.

After the Beijing Film Academy released a statement that they would be investigating Zhai Tianlin, state media outlet China Daily posted a message on their Weibo account, stating that “academic standards must be the same for everyone” and that “postdoctoral researchers are a university’s greatest honor, ” and that “who wants to carry the crown should also carry the weight.”

On that same day, Peking University also published a statement saying that they are investigating the incident.

Zhai Tianlin (1987), who is also known as Ronald Zhai, is most known for starring in various popular Chinese TV shows and dramas, such as White Deer Plain and The Advisors Alliance.

The plagiarism allegation case has become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media this week. The hashtag “Peking University Responds to Zhai Tianlin Case”  (#北大回应翟天临事件#) has been viewed a staggering 650 million times on Weibo at time of writing, while the hashtag “Beijing Film Academy Sets Up Zhai Tianlin Investigation Team” (#北电成立翟天临事件调查组#) received more than 490 million views.

The storm is not likely to blow over soon, as new reports now also allege that Zhai’s MA-thesis relies heavily on the scholarly work of Chen Kun, a famous Chinese actor who also attended the Beijing Film Academy.

Although the scandal has triggered countless reactions condemning Zhai, there are also many people on social media who are directing their anger towards the universities and state media, with one typical comment saying: “By solely focusing on Zhai, you are avoiding the real problem. Colleges and universities face great corruption problems, that is what you should be looking into.”

Another person wrote: “I feel like the public opinion is focused too much on this case of ‘academic misconduct.’ What the media should be investigating is: why was the paper not checked for plagiarism before its publication? What the Beijing Film Academy should be looking into is how somebody can graduate with a paper that is not up to standard? And how someone who clearly doesn’t hold the appropriate academic abilities has access to its programme.”

“Peking University and Beijing Film Academy are both responsible for this fraud. How could they ever enroll such a fraudulent person?!” others wrote. 

Some commenters seem to have no trust in China’s academic standard, saying: “Are you telling me you [the universities] didn’t know about this when you admitted him? Now you are setting up investigation teams, but it is all just for show.”

Academic corruption in the Chinese educational context has been a well-known problem for years. As early as 2002, the Ministry of Education implemented various policies to combat academic misconduct, defining it as an act of academic dishonesty that is punishable, but the problem is still widespread (Kai 2012).

Some studies suggest that one of the factors that play a role in plagiarism in China relate to the fact that ‘plagiarism’ is something that is often defined in very general terms, with university handbooks nor policies clearly codifying instances of “appropriate and inappropriate source use” (Hu & Lei 2015, 236).

There are also many other factors at play, however, such as the pressure for doctorate students to publish their papers, and the phenomenon of  “publishing cash incentives,” which would allegedly trigger more academic fraud.

On Chinese social media, many people express that they hope that the institutions involved will “set an example” for other universities and “be transparent” in the way they’ll handle Zhai in case he is found guilty of plagiarism.

Many also pointed out the irony in the fact that it was Zhai who played the police officer that prevented his parents from being scammed during the CCTV New Years’ Eve Gala.

“This is just all so embarrassing,” some write: “Now it looks like not just Zhai’s PhD status should be taken from him, but also his MA title.”

Others suggest that this whole scandal would make an excellent topic for another TV drama, starring Zhai Tianlin, doing what he does best: acting. Some voices suggest that people should wait for the investigations into Zhai’s work to be completed before condemning him. With the massive online attention for this case, it might not take too long for more facts to surface on the case. We’ll keep you updated.

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse

References

Hu, Guangwei and Jun Lei. 2015. “Chinese University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism.” ETHICS & BEHAVIOR 25(3): 233–255.

Kai, Ren. 2012. “Fighting against Academic Corruption: A Critique of Recent Policy Developments in China.” Higher Education Policy (25): 19–38.

 

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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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