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Trending Video Triggers Weibo Debate on Terrorism and Islam

Shocking footage showing Syrian parents sending their daughters off for a suicide attack has sparked widespread debate on Chinese social media on the topic of terrorism and Islam.

Manya Koetse

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A shocking video that shows how parents bid their young daughters goodbye before a suicide mission in Syria, has sparked widespread debate on Chinese social media on the topic of Islam – an increasingly recurring subject of discussion on Weibo, where anti-Islam sentiments are on the rise.

A video showing parents sending their daughters off for a suicide bombing mission in Syria has become a top trending topic on Sina Weibo on Friday. The footage shows a man and a burqa clad woman with two girls, reportedly aged 7 and 9, saying their goodbyes before the girls leave to bomb themselves.

The video was spread on Twitter earlier this week. According to The Daily Mail (December 21), the video was filmed by the Jihadi father of the two girls, of which one is suspected to have blown herself up at a police station in Damascus on December 16. In the video, the alleged father of the two girls tells them how to carry out suicide bomb attacks and to praise Allah before they are embraced by the woman in the burqa.

The news was taken over by Chinese state tabloid Global Times on December 22 and was soon shared thousands of times on Weibo. The topic “Sending a 7-Year-Old Off For Suicide Bombing” (#送7岁女儿做人肉炸弹#) then became trending, receiving over 5,5 million views before Friday afternoon.

The trending news triggered discussions between Weibo users on the topic of terrorism and Islam. The main debate was twofold; many linked the problem of terrorism to the religion of Islam, while others defended the religion and called the terrorists the ‘rotten apples.’

 

“The Islamic belief has an inherent problem, and it needs to undergo a change, like Christianity did in Europe after the Middle Ages.”

The online discussions on the topic of Islam and terrorism have especially been surging on Chinese social platforms such as Weibo over the past two years. In 2014, China implemented several measures to keep religious expressions to a minimum after a string of terrorist attacks committed by Chinese muslim extremists.

Although China is a predominantly atheist society, there are five official state-approved religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, and Protestantism. Islam is thus permitted in China, as long as it conforms to state-approved principles. Instead of guaranteeing free exercise of religion, the Chinese constitution only guarantees freedom of religious belief. China has a muslim community of 20 million, of which the majority lives in the northwestern regions of Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu and the Qinghai provinces.

After the 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, officials increasingly expanded restrictions on ‘promoting religious extremist ideologies’, and the ban on wearing burqa’s or ‘face masking veils’ (面罩袍) was legally approved. These events sparked debates on the cultural identity of Chinese muslims and their religion at large.

News reports from Europe and America, such as the Paris shootings, Brussels attack, Orlando nightclub incident, or the Cologne mass sex attack, but also political discussions such as that over the refugee crisis or the burkini ban in France, all became trending topics in Chinese social media and gave rise to discussions on the topic of the influence of the islam religion or the identity of muslims in China.

“They identify themselves through their religion,” Weibo users said about Chinese muslims: “They only identify themselves with Islam. But we identify them as Chinese.”

About the religion in general, other web users said: “The Islamic belief has an inherent problem, and it needs to undergo a change, like Christianity did in Europe after the Middle Ages. If not, Arabic society will not progress.”

 

“The rise of aggressive anti-Muslim sentiments on social media is a worrisome step in the wrong direction.”

In the fall of this year, The Diplomat reported on anti-Muslim sentiments taking over China’s social media scene. According to author Mu Chunsan, there is a surge of hostility on China’s social media toward muslims.

The author connects this hostility to an alleged fear of the Han Chinese, China’s main ethnic group that makes up 90% of the population, that their position as the dominant group might be threatened and that China will become Islamasized.

“The rise of aggressive anti-Muslim sentiments on social media is a worrisome step in the wrong direction,” Mu writes.

At the same time, however, there has also been a rise in Muslim activity on Chinese social media. Earlier this year, What’s on Weibo reported on the rise of ‘Weibo imams’ with verified accounts from which they post videos or microblogs about Islamic teachings to thousands of followers.

imam

Besides online imams, there are also a myriad of other accounts on Weibo that support local mosques and propagate the Islamic belief.

The rise of both strong anti-muslim sentiment on the one hand, and an increase in online activities promoting Islam on the other, has created an online environment where heated debates on the topic of Islam frequently take place, especially after an extremist attack.

 

“There really is just no way to avoid becoming prejudiced about Islam.”

The trending video of the Jihadi father is another topic that has given rise to widespread discussions on Islam religion and terrorism. Many Weibo users express their shock on the video, feeling sorry for the children.

“What did these children do to deserve this? Terrorist organizations really have no conscience,” one user (@北方汉子的邮局) said. “This just makes me cry,” another person wrote.

“Is this called a ‘Holy War’? It is despicable, cruel and inhumane. I am happy we live in a peaceful country,” another commenter (@成利国际) replied.

Many other Weibo users discussed the religion at large and expressed anti-Islam sentiments.

“There really is just no way to avoid becoming prejudiced about Islam,” one person (@丁花狗他爸) said. “This religion is like a cancer,” another (@雪天宇瞻) commenter wrote.

“Is it not time for the world to declare war on muslims?”, one commenter named ‘Waffen’ said: “Don’t talk about political correctness, and don’t talk about terrorists being just a small group among muslims. This religion is an evil cult.”

But there are also many netizens, also muslims, who defend their religion and say that terrorist actions have nothing to do with Islam.

“Is this what Allah teaches you? Under the Islam flag, you bring shame upon the religion of Islam!”, one popular commenter (@我就是小懒蛋呀) said.

 

“The majority of terrorists are muslim – this contributes to an unstable society.”

One Weibo user (@产粮君) responds: “I’ve just spoken to a true muslim girl, and these sorts of [extremist] things really are in the Koran. But the Koran is not a doctrine, it is a wartime classic book, which is why it contains extreme content. For them, it is a historical book and the actual religion is not like this (…) It is a mistake to equate the Koran to the Islamic religion.”

Another female Weibo user (@脸蛋胖乎乎) says: “I study in the Southwest. My dormmates are Xinjiang Uygur, Ningxia Hui, and Qinghai Hui [Chinese muslim minorities/regions]. According to the comments here, my life is supposedly in danger every day. However, the fact is that I’ve been happily eating their local specialties for the past four years. I accompany them to the Muslim canteen to eat, and they don’t care about me eating takeaway pork. There’s good and bad people, don’t kill them all with one stick.”

“Don’t exaggerate, people. There are good and bad people within this religion, more good than bad. Nobody’s born with a passion for killing other, it’s how they were raised,” – one person (@草地长青) writes.

Many Weibo netizens seem worried about the connection between Islam and terrorism:

“These parents who send their children off as suicide-bombers also think they are respecting their religion. You muslims really contradict yourself! Let me ask you, don’t you support the terrorists who want to start an Islamic State in the name of Allah? Sorry, but I have no respect for your religion (..) that brainwashes the masses,” – (@草莓布丁星冰乐).

“The majority of terrorists are muslim, and muslims are all quite extreme – this contributes to an unstable society,” another commenter said.

“Wait, not all muslims are terrorists,” one person (@江南第一妖僧) sarcastically added: “The nephew of the 7th uncle of my neighbor’s classmate is a moderate muslim! Don’t discriminate them! There’s good and bad people.”

One of Weibo’s popular imams (Ma Guangyue) writes: “Muslims who hurt other people do not qualify as Muslim. Muslims who do not hurt others qualify as Muslim. Only those who are non-violent and help others are good Muslims.”

For many netizens, the debates seem to have a happy and simple outcome: “I am just so happy to be Chinese,” many say.

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– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 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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    Lee signa

    December 24, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    With Binfer there is no need to compress videos. They can be sent in their original quality. Another nice option to send big videos.

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China Insight

“I’m One of 1.4 Billion” Goes Trending as China’s Population Now Tops the 1.4B Number

China’s total population is up, but its birth rate has fallen to the lowest level.

Manya Koetse

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According to the latest numbers, China’s birth rate has hit a new low, but state media are instead highlighting the fact that China’s population has now surpassed 1,4 billion.

This Friday, official data, released annually by the National Bureau of Statistics, shows that the total Chinese mainland’s population has surpassed 1.4 billion at the end of 2019.

In light of this news, Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily launched the hashtag “I’m One of 1.4 Billion” (#我就是14亿分之一#), propagating a sense of unity among such a massive population.

This message was also reiterated by other accounts, such as the Shenzhen Police, that said: “We’re all one big family, our name is China, we have a lot of brothers and sisters.”

China’s Birth Rate Falls to Lowest

While People’s Daily is publicizing the 1.4 billion number, the annual statistics also show that China’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Although only 14,65 million were born in mainland China in 2019, the death rate of the country was also lower than before – meaning that the total population number still went up from 1,39 billion to 1,4 billion in the last year.

One thread started by People’s Daily on Weibo received nearly 530,000 likes by Friday afternoon, with thousands of Weibo users posting a response to the latest numbers.

Many netizens responded to the news in a similar fashion, saying: “There are already enough people [in China] now, I don’t need to have children anymore,” or: “Good, there’s so many people, I don’t have to worry about having kids.”

China’s marriage rates hit a new low in 2019 after dropping year by year.

Over recent years, various trends in Chinese (online) media have highlighted the existing social issues behind China’s dropping marriage and birth rates.

The rising costs of living and the fact that many among Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” are often mentioned as an explanation for China’s decline in marriage rates and the interrelated lowering birth rates.

But China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men have also been pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy and general preference for baby boys.

Although Chinese couples are allowed to have two children since 2015, the new regulations have not had the desired effect, with many couples simply not wanting a second child or not being able to afford it.

For some years, ‘leftover women’ were mentioned as a reason for China’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were sometimes singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This has increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Today’s responses on Weibo seem to indicate that many young people are still not very eager to have children. “Let’s not add to the population, it’s enough burden for the planet,” some say.

Others say the number of 1,4 billion make them or their action seem “irrelevant” and “tiny.”

There are also those with entirely different concerns about the number: “There are 1,4 billion in China now, and yet I’m still not able to find a boyfriend!”

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

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China Insight

Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Media

From blockchain to hardcore, this is an overview of China’s media top buzzwords over the past year.

Jialing Xie

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Some of the expressions and idioms that have been buzzing in Chinese media the past year. What’s on Weibo’s Jialing Xie explains. 

Last year, we listed China’s “top ten buzzwords” for you (link), giving an overview of some noteworthy expressions on Chinese social media and in the media in 2018. Recently, the chief editor of the magazine Yǎowén Jiáozì (咬文嚼字) has again announced the “top ten buzzwords” in China of the past year.

Yǎowén Jiáozì, which literally means “to pay excessive attention to wording,” is a monthly publication focused on the Chinese language. Chinese (state) media have been widely propagating the magazine’s selection of the top words and terms of the past year in newspapers and on Chinese online media. The ten terms have also become a topic of discussion on Weibo over the past month, with the topic receiving 290 million views.

We’ve listed them for you here:

 

1. 文明互鉴 (wénmíng hùjiàn): “Mutual Learning”

  • Literal Meaning: “Mutual learning,” “Exchanges and mutual learning among different cultures and civilizations.”
  • Original context: This expression can be traced back to the era around and during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), a time of division, bloody battles, and political chaos. The demands for solutions brought forth a broad range of philosophies and schools. During this time, Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism and many others were developed leading to the phenomenon known as the “Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought.”
  • What does it mean now? In 2014, at the 4th summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a major initiative to convene a conference on dialogue between Asian countries followed by an introduction emphasizing how “diversity spurs interaction among civilizations, which promotes mutual learning.” This sentence and expression were later repeated in speeches during various major events. In May 2019, President Xi once again emphasized the idea during the CICA, making the term pop up across Chinese state media again. 

 

2. 区块链 (qū kuài liàn): “Blockchain”

  • Literal Meaning: Blockchain Technology
  • Context: “Blockchain” is no longer a new concept since it was first introduced to the public around a decade ago. Development of the malleable blockchain technology has become an important trend in China’s tech market through the years. 
  • What does it mean now?  Blockchain was all the buzz in China over the past year. In early 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China released the Provisions on the Administration of Blockchain Information Services. In October, President Xi singled out blockchain technology as an important breaking point in developing China’s core innovative technology and emphasized the importance of investing and stepping up research on the standardization of blockchain to increase China’s influence and power in the global arena. 

 

3. 硬核 (yìng hé): “Hardcore”

  • Literal Meaning: “Hardcore” – 硬 = hard, 核 = core. 
  • Context: “Hardcore” is known as the abbreviation for Hardcore Punk, a punk rock music genre originated in Southern California during the late 1970s. The term was later used to reference things of a certain level of complexity, such as “hardcore games” (versus casual games). The term started to mean something along the lines of “terrific” (厉害) or “strict”/”rigid” (刚硬)  and in Chinese, started being used in expressions such as “Tiger mom” (硬核妈妈) or “Hardcore game players” (硬核玩家).
  • What does it mean now?  As the Chinese science fiction blockbuster The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) was categorized as ‘hardcore science fiction’ (硬核科幻), the term ‘hardcore’ resurfaced as a popular word often popping up in (online) conversations.

 

 4. 融梗 (róng gěng): “Mixing up ideas”

  • Literal Meaning: “Integrating other people’s ideas into one’s own work” or “integrating punchlines,” “mixing up plots.”
  • Context: Over the past two decades, many literary works, including a few by prestigious Chinese writers, have been suspected of plagiarism and triggered heated discussions online — when it comes to drawing inspiration from other art and literary creations, where is the boundary between artistic freedom and plagiarism?
  • What does it mean now?  Soon after the Chinese movie Better Days (少年的你) came out in October (read more here), the writer of the original novel was accused of plagiarizing parts of Japanese mystery writer Keigo Higashino’s work. Many netizens argued that in the field of online literature, borrowing ideas from others (融梗) is ubiquitous and does not necessarily equate plagiarism because the act (融梗) itself requires original work and creativity. From October to now, the term has become a recurring topic in Chinese media. 

 

 5. “XX 千万条,XX 第一条” (XX qiān wàn tiáo, XX dì yī tiáo): “Out of millions of things,..is the first one”

  • Literal Meaning: “Out of ten million things,.. xxx comes first as the rule of thumb.” 
  • Context: List thinking is prevailing in China; from codes and regulations enacted by the government and laid down by companies, to the way teachers outline their lectures, the usage of “articles” (sometimes used as ‘rules’)  or “items” (条) to organize ideas and outline objectives is commonly seen in daily life.
  • What does it mean now? This phrase caught people’s attention after appearing in the aforementioned science fiction film The Wandering Earth, where a robot voice reminds a driver of traffic safety in a noteworthy way, saying something along the lines of: “There are thousands of road rules, but safety rules always come first. If you disregard safety, your loved ones will end up in tears.” Despite sounding like a sketch that rhymes poorly in Chinese, the lines stuck around and were later also used by Chinese traffic police across the country. The sentence structure is now also more often applied in various other contexts, for example: “There are thousands of things good for health, but sleep is the most important.”

 

6. 柠檬精 (níngméng jīng): “Lemon monster”

  • Literal Meaning: “Lemon mythical spirit” or “Sour lemon goblin”
  • Context: In ancient Chinese superstitions, it’s believed that animals and non-living objects may have the potential to grow into something with spiritual and immortal characteristics if meeting certain criteria. One of the criteria is to be around long enough, usually hundreds of years – if not thousands. For instance, in the classical work Journey to the West (西游记), the four main characters except Tang Sanzang are all spiritual beings derived from animal prototypes. 
  • What does it mean now? Lemon tastes sour (酸), which is often used to describe the feeling of envy or jealousy. When lemon becomes a spiritual being, it basically means the lemon has reached the ultimate stage of being a lemon and maximized its characteristics such as being terribly sour. The phrase is used to deride those who feel envious of others’ possession and achievement. Lately, the word is more often seen in a self deprecating humoristic context. For instance, when someone says “I’m a lemon jing now/I feel sour now( 我柠檬精了/我酸了)”, instead of expressing envy towards others, it’s more about acknowledging others more advantageous position compared to one’s own. 

 

7. The 996 work schedule 

  • Literal Meaning: 996 working hour system
  • Context: 996 is a work schedule commonly practiced by many companies in the internet and tech industry in China. With the 996 schedule, employees are required to work from 9 am to 9  pm, 6 days per week. 
  • What does it mean now? In April 2019, Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, commented on 996 during an internal meeting with Alibaba employees. Ma’s comments seemed to justify how companies and employees can both benefit from the work schedule, however, the comments quickly triggered criticism after widely circulating online for allegedly violating of the Labour Law of the People’s Republic of China. 

 

8. “我太难(南)了” (wǒ tài nán le): “Life is so hard for me” 

  • Literal Meaning: “I’m feeling uneasy” or “life is so hard for me” 
  • Context: The phrase originated from a 10-second video self-posted by a user on video-sharing site Kuaishou earlier in 2019. As the video begins, the user – an older Chinese guy –  says to the camera: “I’m feeling uneasy…” followed by sad music. He then continues to say “Lao tie [bro/guys], (I) have been under a lot of stress lately.” The video, in which the man dramatically drops his head in his hands and seems to cry without tears, quickly went viral. The phrase “I’m feeling uneasy” was quickly adopted and applied in daily conversations.  
  • What does it mean now? The broad circulation of this phrase on the internet reflects that the uneasy feeling about life is relatable to many people. Acknowledging the stress in a self-deprecating humorous tone is in itself a way of relieving stress. To add a sense of humor to this phrase, many replace the initial character “难” (nán, adj. difficult) with “南” (nán, adj.& n. south), which is believed to be taken from the mahjong tile “南风”(south wind).  

 

9. “我不要你觉得,我要我觉得” (wǒ bùyào nǐ juédé, wǒ yào wǒ juédé): “I don’t want to know what you think, I only care about what I think”

  • Literal Meaning: “I don’t want to know what you think, I only care about what I think.”
  • Context: The line was taken from Xiaoming Huang, one of the guests in the third season of the entertainment TV show “Chinese Restaurant”, which was broadcasted in the summer of 2019. In the show, Huang, who took the role as the manager of the restaurant, is self-centered, and often disregards the opinions of others in matters such as menu ideas or pricing, showing his blind self-confidence and arrogance. In addition to this line, Huang’s frequently used language includes “There is no need to discuss this matter”, “Listen to me, I have the final say” and so on, and it spread quickly on the internet.  
  • What does it mean now? The popularity of this line reflects people’s ridicule and resentment against arrogant and dominant personalities.

 

10. 霸凌主义 (bàlíng zhǔyì): “Bully-ism”

  • Literal Meaning: “Bully-ism”
  • Context: The word 霸凌 (bàlíng) comes from the English word “bully.” Here, it refers to bullying other countries in the face of conflicts between nations. 
  • What does it mean now? As the trade conflict between the US and China was ongoing in 2019, many believed that the current government administration of the United States has been handling international affairs in almost a bullying manner. The slogan “America First” is also often perceived as a declaration in front of the entire world that the interests of the United States come first. As a buzzword, “bullyism” has come to be used by Chinese media in the context of international affairs. 

 

By Jialing Xie
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

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