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Unexpected? Lhasa is China’s “Happiest City” of the Year (Again)

Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is China’s “happiest city” of the year, according to a national poll by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The outcome is the same as that of various years before. Although many experts think the results are biased, Weibo netizens are more concerned about something else.

Manya Koetse

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Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is China’s “happiest city” of the year, according to a national poll by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The outcome is the same as that of various years before. Although many experts think the results are biased, Weibo netizens are more concerned about something else.

According to a national large-scale survey, people in Lhasa, Tibet, were among the China’s happiest in 2016. This is the outcome of the annual “China Economic Life Survey” (中国经济生活大调查) by CCTV2.

China’s state broadcaster made a top 10 of China’s “happiest cities” based on multiple indicators, including family, marriage, health, social security, income, and more (People’s Daily).

The “China Economic Life Survey” program was broadcasted on CCTV2 on March 7.

Lhasa is among China’s happiest cities, according to the “China Economic Life Survey” program.

These were China’s happiest cities according to the list:

拉萨 1.Lhasa (Tibet Autonomous Region)
成都 2.Chengdu (Sichuan province)
长春 3.Changchun (Jilin province)
银川 4.Yinchuan (Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region)
天津 5.Tianjin (Municipality)
合肥 6.Hefei, Anhui Province
长沙 7.Changsha, Hunan province
武汉 8.Wuhan, Hubei province
海口 9.Haikou, Hainan province
石家庄 10.Shijiazhuang, Hebei province

According to the poll, 76.12% of the survey’s participants in Lhasa indicated they were overall content, with 59.18% of the participants indicating they were “happy”, and 16.94% indicating they were “very happy.”

The main factors determining happiness for the people in Lhasa were family relations (62.12%), marriage & emotional life(52.31%), and health (46.92%). With 36,15%, income was ranked less important.

 

“Are Tibetans happy? There’s no way of knowing.”

 

CCTV first started its annual ‘Happiness Index’ in 2007, and since Lhasa has come out as the happiest city over half a dozen times. This result has led to cynicism in English language media; Tibet does not exactly hold the reputation of the happiest place, and some say the survey is undoubtedly flawed in multiple ways, as there no mention of civil rights, or rights to religious freedom.

In 2009, historian Ian Buruma wrote: “The Chinese government says Tibetans are happy. But without a free press and the right to vote, there is no way of knowing this. Sporadic acts of collective violence, followed by equally violent oppression, suggest that many are not.”

Séagh Kehoe, researcher on Tibetan identity issues at University of Nottingham, takes a similar stance and told What’s on Weibo that this annual survey presenting Lhasa as the happiest city in China is “powerful propaganda, effectively erasing any notion among Han Chinese that Tibetans might be unhappy, frustrated or facing extreme oppression within their homeland.”

Kehoe says: “It reaffirms a very particular message about Han Chinese bringing both modernity and happiness to Tibet, and Tibetans being extremely grateful for ‘Big Brother Han’ guiding them out of a ‘backward’ past and into a ‘golden era.'”

 

“The so-called Lhasa people she interviewed were all Han Chinese, leaving the impression that Lhasa had already turned into a harmonious Han city.”

 

Tibet blogger and activist Woeser also responded to the survey in 2011, describing how she first reacted when she heard about Lhasa’s status as China’s happiest city: “I laughed and asked back, living under gunpoint day and night, being followed by snipers even when going to the temple to pray, how can there be any sense of happiness?”

In her column, she suggests that the outcome of the CCTV survey is not necessarily invalid, but that it is biased in that it represents the Han Chinese living in Tibet. About 2008 she writes:

“I still remember the journalist from Phoenix TV, Hong Kong, who was standing in the streets of Lhasa on the fifth day after March 14, boasting that life in the city had already returned to normal; yet the so-called Lhasa people she interviewed were in fact all Han Chinese, thus leaving the impression that Lhasa had already turned into a harmonious Han city. This journalist was obviously being very selective. She did not take notice of Tibetans living in Lhasa; instead she portrayed the Han Chinese she interviewed as indigenous Lhasa people. This is why I think that perhaps those “Lhasa people” who are the “happiest” according to the CCTV survey are not actually Tibetans.”

The number of Han Chinese, China’s dominant ethnic group, has been on the rise in Tibet since the last number of decades. Although Tibetans still account for 90% of the permanent population of the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), 22% of the inhabitant of capital Lhasa are now Han Chinese (Economist 2016).

 

“It is time for the Western politicians and media to change their way of thinking on Tibet.”

 

Chinese media, on the other hand, have a completely different view on the issue. In an article from 2009, state media outlet China Daily argues that it is time “for the Western politicians and media to change their way of thinking on Tibet.”

The author states that Western politicians and media simply “refuse to change their outlook” on Tibet, blindly sticking to the idea that China is “an oppressive and negative power” in the region. The fact that the Tibetan population has seen an enormous growth in earnings, levels of education, life expectancy, etc., seems to “mean nothing to some Western countries and people.”

On Weibo, many people seem unsurprised that Lhasa has topped China’s “happy cities” list again: “The people of Lhasa are indeed very happy,” a young woman from Sichuan (@叫我小严姐姐) says: “The government is investing a lot of money there.”

This year, the development of Tibet was again presented as a core issue when China’s premier Li Keqiang promised to intensify efforts in the region’s poverty alleviation at the National People’s Congress.

Another woman writes: “Yes, I am from Lhasa and I am indeed happy.”

Yet, many people do think the poll must be inaccurate because they are surprised that the city of Wuhan is included in the list. One commenter says: “That Wuhan is included is so weird. The prices are high and the wages are low there!”

“Is this some other Wuhan?! Because the Wuhan I know has been raising its prices while keeping the earnings low,” other commenters also say. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province. Despite the fact that many netizens express their dissatisfaction about the city, it ranked number 8 in the CCTV poll.

There are also people who take the matter about happiness in China’s cities more philosophical: “Happy people will be happy anywhere, unhappy people will still be unhappy even if they’re in a happy place,” one person says.

Another commenter writes: “If you’re happy or not is something only you know. As they say, happiness is like water, it can change temperature every day (幸福如饮水, 冷暖自知).”

– By Manya Koetse

Photos by Jessica Lia, Tibet.

Sources / Further Reading

Bo, Zhijue. 2010. China’s Elite Politics: Governance and Democratization. Singapore: World Scientific.

Buruma, Ian. 2011. “Are Tibetans happy? There’s no way of knowing” The Globe And Mail, April 9 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/are-tibetans-happy-theres-no-way-of-knowing/article4284229/ [13.3.17].

He, Rulong. 2009. “Changes some people don’t want to see in Tibet.” China Daily, Nov 4 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-04/11/content_7668187.htm [14.3.17].

Economist. 2016. “Tibet: The plateau, unpacified.” The Economist Sep 17 http://www.economist.com/news/china/21707220-tibetans-culture-changing-their-own-will-well-force-plateau-unpacified [13.3.17].

People’s Daily. 2017. “Lhasa tops China’s happiest cities in 2016: CCTV poll.” People’s Daily, March 9 http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0309/c90000-9188001.html [12.3.17].

Woeser. 2011. “CCTV Says Lhasa People Are ‘Happiest’ By Woeser.” High Peaks Pure Earth, February 2 http://highpeakspureearth.com/2011/cctv-says-lhasa-people-are-happiest-by-woeser/ [14.3.17].

©2017 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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Metock

    March 15, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Happiest? What options do the citizens have, when they know they could face jail or torture if they answered something other than happy… The Chinese government can say what they want, but the world knows that the Chinese government rules with an iron fist. It is a totalitarian dictatorship where basic human rights like freedom of speech, freedom of movement and religious freedom does not exist.

    New Freedom House Report ranks Tibet as the least free among countries and territories. Tibet came in first!! North Koreans have more freedom than Tibetans in Tibet.

  2. Avatar

    Hanna

    March 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Can’t see Xingjiang in top 10, must be some mistake 😀 😀 😀 😀 Tibet, Xinjiang, North Korea, happy places to be!

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China Media

Online Outrage over Gansu Female Medical Workers Required to Shave Their Heads

Heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of visual propaganda? A video showing female medical workers having their heads shaved has triggered controversy.

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A Chinese media post praising female nurses for having their heads shaved has sparked outrage on Weibo and WeChat. Are these women heroes of the coronavirus crisis or victims of gendered visual propaganda?

A video showing tearful female medical workers having their head shaved before going to COVID-19 epicenter city Wuhan has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

The video, originally posted by Gansu Daily (每日甘肃网) on February 15, shows how a group of female nurses is standing in line to have their hair shaved off in preparation of their mission to Hubei to assist during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

In the short segment that has since gone viral on Weibo and WeChat, some women can be seen crying while having all of their hair shaved off.

According to Gansu Daily and other Chinese media, the fifteen nurses, including one man, are part of a medical aid group that was sent out to Wuhan this weekend. Their hair was reportedly shaved off “in accordance with requirements” to make their work more efficient and reduce the risk of infection.

The original news post praises the women as “the epidemic’s heroes in harm’s way” (“疫情中最美的逆行者”) – a term also used to describe brave firefighters during the 2015 Tianjin explosions (for more background on this term in Chinese, also see Xinhua and Zhihu).

Although the story praises the female medical workers as heroes and was soon reposted and promoted by many other (state) media, it was not just met with positive reactions from Chinese netizens.

On the contrary: it triggered waves of criticism over the medical team’s supervisors requiring the women to shave off their hair, with many deeming the measures unnecessary, humiliating, and sexist.

“Why do they need to shave all of their hair, the men don’t even need to do that?!”, some Weibo commenters wonder.

Many Weibo users wonder how necessary it actually is for the women to go completely bold for medical work purposes, wondering why the male workers do not need to shave their heads and why the women could not just opt for a shorter hairstyle instead – suggesting the media circus surrounding the shaving of the heads is more about visual propaganda than actually being a necessity.

“I am a medical worker myself,” one Weibo user writes: “I consulted an infection control doctor [on this matter] and they said it is not necessary at all to have a bald head. Short hair is convenient enough, and hair has a protective function too to reduce [skin] irritation from the friction of wearing hats and masks. It furthermore also has a function of catching sweat, preventing it from dripping to your eyes. A shaven head does more harm than good.”

“Why do people need to bleed and cry in order for them to become heroes?”, others say: “This is just cruel.”

Adding to the online fury was a photo showing the group of medical workers after their heads were shaved, as the one male nurse in the group not only seemed to wear a better quality face mask, but also appeared to have much more hair left than the female nurses.

The original Gansu Daily post has since been deleted from social media.

On WeChat account Epoch Story (“epochstory2017″/Epoch故事小馆), author Chen Mashu (陈麻薯) posted a critique on February 17th titled “Please Stop Using Female Bodies as Propaganda Tools” (“请停止用女性的身体,作为宣传的工具“).

Recent online Chinese visual propaganda in times of the coronavirus crisis has seen a strong focus on Wuhan medical workers.

This kind of visual propaganda often highlights the idea of “sacrificing,” especially when it comes to women as pretty girls, loving mothers, or good wives.

In the WeChat article, author Chen argues that Chinese state media always uses women’s bodies as a tool for propaganda, and argues that it should not be necessary for women to endure extra hardship or suffering (in this case, sacrifice their hair) in order to make them admirable ‘model workers.’ The fact that they are fighting on the front line should be more than enough reason to praise them, Chen writes.

While these women’s tears were “used to try to impress the audience” and become an example of some “collectivist spirit,” Chen argues, this kind of propaganda backfired because the individual needs and wishes of these women were completely ignored during the process.

Although the original story and visuals may have meant to be empowering in times of coronacrisis, they are actually counterproductive to female empowerment at large.

This is not the first time the role of women in Chinese state media propaganda become a big topic of discussion online.

In 2016, a photo series titled “100.000 soldier-loving girls” (十万恋军女孩) posted by China’s Military Web during the Wuhan flood also caused controversy. In the online media campaign, Chinese state media paid a ‘tribute’ to rescue workers by sharing pictures of girls holding the message “I wish to wash your uniform for you”. It triggered online discussions on the submissive female image propagated by Chinese state media.

At time of writing, various posts about the shaved heads of the Gansu medical workers have been taken offline.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan) and Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr), with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China Media

“Our Cities Are Sick, But We Will Make Them Better” – Popular Online Video Promotes Chinese Unity in Times of COVID-19

Chinese state media are spreading more hopeful and positive online content in times of coronacrisis.

Jialing Xie

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From Guangzhou to Shenzhen, from Wuhan to Chengdu, bustling streets and busy markets are left empty and quiet, as China is in the midst of dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

“[People are] afraid, they are anxious, and the masks they wear widens the distance between them,” a whispered female voiceover says in a new 3-minute ‘documentary’ video that has been propagated online by Chinese state media over the past week.

The short video shows scenes from cities all across China – a deserted train station in Wuhan, a person cycling on a quiet Beijing street, a nearly empty highway in Shenzhen – while a tracker in the corner shows the number of confirmed coronavirus diseases cases in that location.

While the first half of the online ‘shortdoc’ emphasizes how COVID-19 has affected every corner of the country in negative ways, making the past Chinese New Year the most depressing one in decades, the second half shifts to a message of hope and positivity.

Instead of highlighting the grey and empty streets across China, the video focuses on the energy and courage of the medical workers, policemen, and construction workers across the country doing what they can to fight the battle against the coronavirus.

“We are looking forward to the day we will take off our masks again, leave our homes, be with our loved ones, and enjoy that tasty bite of steaming hot buns.”

The voiceover continues to say that “every city will wake up again” and that “the smiles will return to people’s faces,” concluding: “Because we are still together [in this], because we are Chinese.”

The short video ends with the slogan “Our cities are sick, but we will cure them” (“我们的城市生病了,但是我们会治好它”).

Originally posted by state-run media People’s Daily on Weibo, the three-minute film attracted more than 80 million views within two days after it was posted. By now, the hashtag “3-minute Documentary Features Chinese Cities in Times of Epidemic” (#3分钟记录疫情下的中国城市#), also hosted by People’s Daily, was viewed almost 90 million times.

The video was produced under the ‘New Studio Media Group’ (Xinpianchang / 新片场社区) with video contributions from 48 different content producers from all over the country. Xinpianchang is a Beijing-based online media group and video content platform founded in 2012.

Many online viewers express that they are touched and inspired by the short doc.

Recently, Chinese social media has seen more short videos depicting what life in times of coronacrisis is like for people living in different parts of China.

Chinese publication The Cover (封面新闻) recenty also posted a three-minute video of the scenes in Chengdu city, showing that its once bustling streets are now more like a ghost city.

Some Weibo netizens from Wuhan also post short videos of their city, repeating the slogan “Our city is sick, but we will cure it” and welcoming people to visit Wuhan once this epidemic is over.

Over the past weeks, Chinese state media have started to disseminate and propagate more hopeful online content, praising the work of those fighting COVID-19 and showing support to the people of Wuhan and emphasizing the unity of China in times of crisis.

For more about this and other COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Jialing Xie

This article has been edited for clarity.

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.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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