Connect with us

China Media

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Insight

“Support Xinjiang MianHua!” – China’s Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

The hashtag “Wo Zhichi Xinjiang Mianhua” – “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” – received over 6 billion views on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

Western brands faced heavy criticism in China this week when a social media storm erupted over the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its brand members for no longer sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region. The ‘Xinjiang cotton ban’ led to a major ‘Xinjiang cotton support’ campaign on Weibo, and a boycott for those brands siding with BCI.

In 2019, an extensive brand ‘witch hunt’ took place on Weibo and other Chinese social media networks in light of the protests in Hong Kong, with international fashion and luxury brands, from Versace to Swarovski, getting caught in the crossfire for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or brand T-shirts.

Now, another brand ‘witch hunt’ is taking place on Chinese social media. This time, it is not about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang and its cotton industry.

H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and other international brands have caused public outrage for the stand they’ve taken against the alleged use of forced labor involving the Muslim Uyghur minority to produce cotton in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

The social media storm started earlier this week on Wednesday, March 24, and is linked to H&M and the ‘BCI’ (Better Cotton Initiative), a Swiss NGO that aims to promote better standards in cotton farming.

In October 2020, H&M shared a statement on its site in which the Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

H&M stated that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, following the BCI decision to suspend licensing of BCI cotton in the region.

 

BCI and its Suspension of Activities in Xinjiang

 

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. It practices across 23 countries and accounts for 22% of global cotton production. The governance group was established in 2005 in cooperation with WWF and leading retailers, with the aim of promoting the widespread use of improved farm practices.

While H&M is a ‘top member’ of the Better Cotton Initiative (link), many others brands such as IKEA, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, and C&A are also brand members.

January 2020
In January of 2020, the BCI was slammed by Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, for its refusal to pull out of the Xinjiang region. At the time, 20 percent of its ‘better cotton’ was sourced from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

According to a 2020 report by EcoTextile, the BCI maintained that its implicated council member, the yarn producer Huafu, denied the allegations and that an independent audit of the company’s Aksu facility in Xinjiang had failed to identify any instances of forced labor. An earlier report by Adidas from 2019 also stated that their independent investigations found no evidence of forced labor.

March 2020
In late March of 2020, the BCI reportedly did suspend activities with licensed farmers in the Xinjiang region for the 2020/21 cotton season while also contracting a global expert to conduct an external review of the Xinjiang situation. Chinese state media Global Times later reported that despite suspending its licensing activities, the BCI would remain committed to cotton farming communities in Xinjiang and would continue to engage in activities in the region.

July 2020
The pressure on BCI and other brands to stop sourcing from Xinjiang was heightened when a coalition of civil society groups raised concerns over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China and the “grave risk of forced labor.” Reuters reported that more than 180 organizations urged brands from Adidas to Amazon to end sourcing of cotton and clothing from the region and cut ties with any suppliers in China that would benefit from the alleged forced labour of Uyghur other Muslim groups.

October 2020
In October of 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative announced it would cease all field-level activities in Xinjiang with immediate effect because the region had reportedly become “an increasingly untenable operating environment.” The aforementioned statement by H&M came out in the same month.

March 2021
By late March 2021, various Chinese state media reported on the BCI suspension. These reports came days after a coordinated effort by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over China’s alleged human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, something which was called a “concerted effort to slander China’s policies in its Xinjiang region” by Global Times. The news outlet linked these “anti-China forces’ efforts” to the BCI decision to suspend its Xinjiang activities.

 

A Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton

 

The news developments were followed by a wave of social media boycott movements and Chinese brand ambassadors cutting ties with international brands, with H&M being the main target over its Xinjiang statement.

Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Suning.com, and Meituan’s Dianping on Thursday all removed H&M from their platforms, with Chinese Android app stores also removing H&M. On Thursday, a search for “H&M” came up with no results on these sites (see images below).

Two of China’s largest online maps also removed H&M from its systems.

No H&M on these maps.

On Thursday, virtually all topics in Weibo’s top trending lists related to the Xinjiang cotton ban (see image below), with Chinese famous influencers and celebrities one by one announcing they would terminate their contracts with international brands related to the Xinjiang cotton ban.

The storm became so big this week that some people on social media even commented that “if you’re a Chinese celebrity and you don’t have any contracts to terminate now, you’re not doing so well.”

After H&M, an entire list of brands was targeted, including Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Converse, Puma, Burberry, and Lacoste.

In light of the heated discussions and calls for boycotts, there was also another hashtag that popped up on Weibo, namely that of “don’t make it hard for the workers” (不要为难打工人). The hashtag came up after some Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded on a live stream, with netizens calling on people to stay rational and not let the boycott turn into personal attacks on people. But another popular video showed a man in Chongqing calling customers out in an H&M store for buying their “trash.”

Another hashtag gaining many views, 520 million in total, was that of two ‘girls from Xinjiang dancing outside H&M’ (#新疆小姐姐在HM门店外跳新疆舞#) – it was linked to a video that showed two women performing outside of a H&M store in Chongqing.

Meanwhile, some brands, including Chinese company Anta Sports and the Japanese Asics, reportedly announced they would leave the Better Cotton Initiative in order to continue sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

The discussions on Xinjiang as Weibo saw this week are unprecedented, as ‘Xinjiang’ was previously a sensitive topic on Chinese social media and was barely discussed in political contexts. The last time Xinjiang became a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media was in 2018, when CCTV aired a program on the region’s “vocational education programs” in Xinjiang. That media moment triggered mixed reactions on Weibo, with some commenters wondering what the difference between a ‘re-education center’ and a ‘prison’ is.

 

Chinese State Media and the ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’

 

While Chinese netizens and celebrities play a major role in the storm that erupted over BCI, H&M, and Xinjiang cotton, the role of Chinese state media is pivotal.

Over the past week, various state media outlets posted strong messages regarding the ban in various ways, the most noteworthy one being People’s Daily‘s “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” (#我支持新疆棉花#) hashtag, which had garnered six billion views by the weekend. “The H&M Group released a statement that sparked outrage among netizens. Let’s pass it on together: Support Xinjiang Cotton,” the tagline of the hashtag page said.

The message came with an image saying “Xinjiang Mianhua” (Xinjiang cotton) in a similar font to the H&M logo, the “H” and “M” within ‘mianhua‘ being identical to the H&M letters.

The image and post by People’s Daily was shared over 36 million times.

A message by People’s Daily: those who slander China are not welcome.

Another image by People’s Daily published on March 25 said that the Chinese market does not welcome those who slander China.

The Communist Youth League also contributed to the online storm by posting about H&M, writing: “On the one hand they are starting rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand they want to make money in China. Dream on, H&M!” That post received around 430,000 likes.

Various official media, including Global Times and China Daily, posted about cotton production in Xinjiang. Besides refuting the forced labor accusations and accusing Western players of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, a recurring issue stressed is how 42 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton is harvested by machines. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying that “the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is nonexistent and entirely imaginary. The spotless white Xinjiang cotton brooks no slander.”

This image was posted by China Daily USA.

On March 27, People’s Daily posted a rap video by ‘Xinjiang Youth’ (新疆青年) on its official Weibo channel (video below) that included some tough lines attacking Western powers, companies, and media.

Also noteworthy in this propaganda campaign is how the Canadian YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill got caught up, as what he said in one of his videos was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) on March 27 during a press conference, with his video being screened before the conference.

In this video, that was part of a larger panel on Xinjiang, Dumbrill responded to the decision-making process on how China’s treatment of Uyghurs is called a “genocide.”

Recently, a number of countries and parliaments including the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have declared that China’s crackdown on the Muslim minorities amounts to “genocide” in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. Dumbrill talks about why the Xinjiang narratives matter to both the foreign and domestic politics of the US and other Western countries, with Dumbril claiming it “isn’t really about human rights and a care for overseas Muslims” but about other political goals. Dumbrill’s video was praised by authorities, state media, and by Chinese netizens.

“We have to push for the truth to come out,” some netizens commented. Others wrote: “But we’re only allowed to discuss it from within [the country].”

Meanwhile, while many companies are seeing sales falling, there are also many who are benefiting from the current developments. Some sellers on Taobao have found another way to attract customers, promoting their products as being made with “100% Xinjiang Cotton!”

As this is an ongoing topic, we will report more later. Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China Media

About Yang Jiechi’s Instant Noodle Lunch at the US-China Talks in Alaska

Chinese state media want to make sure that you know that top diplomat Yang Jiechi had instant noodles for lunch during the top-level US-China talks in Alaska.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

A 12-second video in which top diplomat Yang Jiechi said he had an instant noodle lunch became a topic of discussion in China, where one hashtag on the issue attracted over 270 million views. It’s about more than noodles alone.

The high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska concluded on Friday. While international media describe the talks as “tough” and exposing the “depth of tensions” between the United States and China, many netizens also focus on the smaller events that occurred during the talks.

Besides the cool and collected way in which Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) went about her job, the fact that Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) had remarked he had instant noodles for lunch also triggered discussions on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlet CGTN published a short video showing how Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Yang walk to enter a session of the high-level talks, with Wang asking Yang “Have you had lunch?” Yang then answers: “Yes, instant noodles.”

The topic was discussed on Weibo in multiple threads and under the hashtags “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃泡面#) and “The Instant Noodles Yang Jiechi Had for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃的泡面#). The latter received had 270 million views on Weibo by Sunday evening.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag page “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” was initiated by Party newspaper People’s Daily. Together with the video published by CGTN, this shows that state media are purposely bringing ‘noodle gate’ to the attention of readers – both inside and outside of China.

Some Chinese news outlets reported that no formal dinner was arranged for the Chinese diplomats at the strategic dialogue due to COVID19, and that their lunch apparently consisted of simple noodles.

On Twitter, Christian Goebbels (@Chri5tianGoebel), Professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Vienna, commented: “My first thought when seeing this was: this is a complaint that the hosts didn’t even serve their guests a proper lunch, which Chinese viewers (and the guests!) would consider incredibly rude. If they wanted to create a good atmosphere, they should’ve served up a banquet.”

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham, called the noodle incident a “meaningful detail” on Twitter (@jonlsullivan), writing: “It fits the narrative that the US is inhospitable & disrespectful, incapable of treating China as a power of equal standing.”

Many netizens on Weibo take a similar stance, writing: “The American etiquette is unsatisfactory,” and: “Let’s not pay attention to food, they completely lack etiquette.”

“Jeez, these Americans don’t even care about food,” others wrote.

“It’s extremely insulting,” one blogger wrote: “This is a superpower, their strategy is despicable, to send our diplomatic staff off with a bucket of noodles!”

On Twitter, George Washington University Law Professor Donald Clarke called ‘noodle-gate’ a “non-story,” saying: “A reliable source tells me that China agreed on no joint meals for Covid reasons. Thus, no big banquet. If someone wants to order noodles instead of a proper meal from room service, they can do that, but it’s their choice, not something forced on them.”

But meanwhile, on Weibo, commenters are adding that plenty of restaurants in Alaska are still operating, suggesting that there would have been options to socialize safely.

In Chinese culture, it is a custom to hold a banquet for business, diplomatic, or even trivial events, with meal gatherings being used as a social lubricant; a way to build and maintain relations.

With food and meal gatherings being such an important part of communicative practices in relationship-building in China, Yang Jiechi having instant noodles by himself for lunch is much more than just that. From the perspective of many Chinese, it shows little consideration for the Chinese cultural background and not a lot of hospitality from the Americans towards their Chinese guests.

The fact that the US-China talks were icy does not help. State media outlet Global Times said that American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “unjustifiably attacked and accused China’s domestic and foreign policies” and “seriously prolonged its opening remarks.”

The Chinese delegation blamed the Americans, who invited the Chinese to Anchorage to have the strategic dialogue, for lacking “hospitable [and] good diplomatic etiquette.”

The noodle incident already led to one Guancha blogger coining the term ‘noodle diplomacy’ (“泡面外交”).

“The decline of the US starts with a bowl of instant noodles,” some said on Weibo.

“Let’s at least hope it was a ‘unifying’ beef noodle that he had,” some on Weibo jokingly commented.

Although many see the noodle lunch as a symbol of American inhospitality, there are also many commenters who see it as a practical and safe way to have lunch: “It’s good this way – at least nobody can poison him.”

“I want to know which brand [of instant noodles] he’s having, I want it too!”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by Miguel Andrade.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Support What’s on Weibo

If you enjoy What’s on Weibo and support the way we report the latest trends in China, you could consider becoming a What's on Weibo patron:
Donate

Facebook

Advertisement

Contribute

Got any tips? Or want to become a contributor or intern at What's on Weibo? Email us as at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Popular Reads