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“True Heroes of the City”: Sparks of Patriotism as Firefighters Contain Chongqing Wildfire

Chinese firefighters and volunteers are praised on Weibo for going above and beyond to control the Chongqing forest fire.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese social media is flooding with posts praising the “heroes of the city”: all the firefighters, officers, soldiers, and Chinese citizens who fought ‘fire with fire’ and joined hands in combating the Chongqing wildfires under extreme weather conditions. The Chongqing wildfire containment has also fuelled patriotism among netizens.

This week, the mountain fires raging in Chongqing have become a big topic on Chinese social media. On Friday, the topic attracted at least one billion views on Weibo after professional firefighters and volunteers worked around the clock to contain the wildfire in the city’s Beibei District (#重庆山火#).

The fight to contain the fire became a collective effort, with thousands of Chinese volunteers from Chongqing and beyond coming to the scene to help in any way they could. Professional firefighters from other regions also came to the rescue, including teams from Yunnan and Gansu Province that specialize in forest fires.

Videos taken at the scene on Jinyun Mountain on Thursday evening showed countless people helping out at the mountain, some footage captured how people were shouting out “come on!” (“雄起!”) at each other for encouragement.

The southwestern regions of Chongqing and Sichuan Province have been battling forest fires since mid-August after the region has been facing scorching temperatures and severe drought.

Meanwhile, there have also been power cuts in Sichuan and Chongqing due to power shortages during the extreme summer.

At the same time, the city is also handling an emerging Covid outbreak and rolled out a mass testing campaign in order to test about 10 million residents in the city.

One image that circulated on Weibo showed a photo of Chongqing dealing with mountain fires, power cuts, and Covid test lines all at the same time.

 
Nixingzhe: The Heroes Going Against the Current
 

On the early morning of August 26, when the Beibei District fire was under control, Chinese social media flooded with posts praising the “heroes of the city”: all the firefighters, officers, soldiers, and common citizens who joined hands to combat the fires under extreme weather conditions.

Dramatic photos and digital artworks also circulated on Chinese social media, including photoshopped images produced by netizens and state media.

“Heroism of Chinese” image dedicated to Chongqing firefighters.

One photo from the scene (displayed below) served as an inspiration for other online posters and edited images, including one by state media outlet People’s Daily.

This image from the scene of the forest fires is one of the iconic photos that inspired others to edit and replicate it.

People’s Daily online poster.

People’s Daily published multiple images evoking feelings of patriotism, such as a bird’s eye view photo of the mountain fire and the rescue efforts, writing: “These are the amazing Chinese people” (“这就是了不起的中国人”).

On social media, the Chongqing firefighters are referred to as nìxíngzhě (逆行者), “the ones going against the tide.” This term, describing those who go beyond their call of duty, has been used by state media since early 2020 to refer to frontline workers and individuals who made a significant contribution or sacrifice during China’s initial battle against the novel coronavirus (see 2020 Top 10 Buzzwords in China).

An important method used to contain the spreading wildfires in Chongqing is ‘fighting fire with fire.’ With the help of all the people at the scene, Chinese specialized teams used controlled fires to prevent more forest fires by burning the fuel that could feed another fire. People’s Daily dedicated a Weibo hashtag page to this special and sometimes risky tactic of controlled burning (“以火灭火”) (#重庆北碚山火中的反向点火战术#). According to Chinese media, this fire fighting tactic played a decisive role in containing the fire.

Screenshot via Douyin showing firefighters having ice cream after their hard work.

Videos circulating on Weibo showed how drained some local firefighters were after containing the fires in the stifling heat, dealing with heat stroke and exhaustion.

“I don’t know what else to say, thank you,” some commenters wrote, with others saluting Chongqing’s heroes (“致敬英雄”).

Many people expressed pride in how the wildfires in Chongqing were handled, drawing comparisons with forest fires in Australia and other countries.

One Hunan-based Weibo user wrote:

“Compared to last year’s mountain fires in Australia which burned for nearly two months, and the July 30 fire in America’s California that saw local people fleeing and leaving, the fires in Chongqing showed us the power of the Chinese people. People spontaneously donated money and goods, and young people rushed to the frontline. It reminded me of the major flood efforts in ’98, how prepared for battle the white clothes workers were during the Covid outbreak in Wuhan, the subway rescue scene that happened in Zhengzhou last year. It makes my eyes tear up. This power comes from the love for the homeland that is rooted in the bones and blood of all Chinese people, this is the benevolent ‘all for one, one for all’ power of the Chinese people.”

On Friday afternoon and evening, firefighters and officers returning from the mountain were welcomed by groups of locals applauding them, waving flags, and offering them bottles of water and lemonade. These scenes were shared by official media channels on Weibo and beyond.

Although the narrative of the movie-like Chongqing battle against the fire is largely directed by state media propaganda on Chinese social media, many netizens join in the online celebration of this positive outcome of a difficult firefight. At a time of zero-Covid, power cuts, and scorching heat, it seems that many people are glad to see a happy ending to an otherwise devastating natural disaster.

“The fire is finally out,” one Weibo user wrote: “Front-line troops, firefighters, veterans, people of Chongqing, you are heroes, thank you for your great work!”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Brands & Marketing

Young Chinese Woman Dies at Haidilao Hotpot Restaurant

The woman allegedly choked while having beef tripe.

Manya Koetse

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On September 8, a woman from Putian in Fujian Province unexpectedly passed away while having hotpot at a Haidilao restaurant in a local mall.

The incident went trending on Chinese social media on Thursday, with the hashtags “Woman Suddenly Passes Away While Having Haidilao Hotpot” (#女孩海底捞吃火锅意外身亡#) and “Haidilao Responds to Female Customer Passing Away During Dinner” (#海底捞回应女顾客就餐时身亡#) receiving 50 million and 300 million views respectively.

According to various Chinese news reports, the 21-year-old woman had just finished eating beef tripe, the edible lining from the cow stomach, and drank some water after which she suddenly became unwell.

Footage circulating on Chinese social media shows how restaurant staff gave first aid to the woman by performing the Heimlich maneuver while emergency workers were underway.

Although it is rumored the young woman choked on the tripe, this has not yet been confirmed as an investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. The Haidilao restaurant where the incident happened is currently closed, and Haidilao responded that they are deeply saddened and will do all they can to fully cooperate with the police to investigate the case.

Haidilao (海底捞) is one of China’s most popular restaurant chains serving authentic Sichuan hotpot, a dining style where fresh meat and vegetables are dipped in simmering broth. Besides its tasty hotpot and wide selection of ingredients and drinks, Haidilao is known for its high-quality service. The staff is thoroughly trained in providing the best customer service, and Haidilao has introduced new concepts throughout the years to enhance the customer experience.

Haidilao is a very reputable company and is known to respond quickly to avert social media crises (example here and here).

As the story goes trending, many Chinese netizens point out the choking hazard of beef tripe. One lung doctor (@呼吸科大夫胡洋) also responded to the incident, suggesting that the Heimlich maneuver might not have been life-saving in this case since beef tripe is long and soft and could block the respiratory tract if the Heimlich maneuver is performed while the person is standing up, since it could potentially cause the tripe to go deeper instead of being pushed out.

The doctor recommends in these kind of emergency situations that if possible, for a chance of survival, the person could then be placed into an upside down, upper body down position for the Heimlich maneuver.

Other doctors on Weibo also use this moment to provide more information about how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Many online commenters think Haidilao is not necessarily to blame for what happened. “Judging from the video, the staff was quick and correct in their response. As for why the woman could not have been rescued, we’ll have to wait for the final reports.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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