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Wang Huidi: Stop Referring to Singapore as a Chinese ‘County’ (坡县)

The author suggests that comparing Singapore a small county in contrast to the giant nation that is China not only reflects negatively on Singapore but also on the Chinese individuals who use this term.

Manya Koetse

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In Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper, author Wang Huidi (汪惠迪) recently wrote a column in which he argued that Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, should no longer be referred to as “坡县” (trad. 坡縣, Pōxiàn) in the Chinese-language online media sphere.

The topic received quite some attention on Chinese social media, where Singapore is often nicknamed “坡县”/Pōxiàn, “Po County.”

The names of many foreign countries are transliterated in Chinese, which means Chinese characters are used to create a word that sounds similar to the original name of the country. The characters may or may not actually mean something, and some characters may even have multiple meanings.

Singapore in Chinese is 新加坡, Xīnjiāpō, which also sounds like ‘Singapore.’ The character for ‘Po’ 坡 () in Xīn Jiā Pō means ‘slope.’ In Chinese, this part of the name is sometimes combined with the word for ‘county,’ 县 (xiàn), which is an administrative division unit in China.

Referring to Singapore as ‘Slope County’ or ‘Little Po County’ may give the impression that it’s merely a small part of China, as some Chinese netizens or Chinese immigrants living in Singapore might see it as a place no bigger than a county-level city in mainland China. China is approximately 13,344 times bigger than Singapore.

In his latest column, Wang Huidi, a renowned Chinese editor, writer, and language researcher, argues that it is derogatory to refer to Singapore that way, especially when ‘Po County’ is used by Chinese who are living and working in the country.

The article by Wang in Lianhe Zaobao.

Wang referred to the famous ‘little red dot’ incident, in which third Indonesian President Habibie had allegedly made an unfriendly remark about Singapore and had pointed to a map, saying: “(..) there are 211 million people in Indonesia, [just] look at this map: all the green areas are Indonesia. Singapore is only that little red dot.”

While the derogatory term “little red dot” eventually gained popularity and was embraced by Singaporeans as a self-defining moniker, Wang argues that it still carries a deeper significance, highlighting the country’s diminutive size and vulnerability.

Wang suggests that those who refer to Singapore as ‘Little Po County’ in the Chinese language should consider how they would feel if others referred to China in a similar fashion. He emphasizes that words carry weight and convey a specific perspective on the part of the speaker.

The author goes on to suggest that comparing Singapore to a “little dwarf” in contrast to the giant that is China not only reflects negatively on Singapore but also on the Chinese individuals who use this term. As a result, Wang concludes that this expression should not be used casually, and people who use it should recognize the significant impact it holds.

By now, a hashtag related to this story has garnered over 100 million views on Weibo (#中国网民叫新加坡坡县引发争议#). Although the column has triggered quite some discussion, it also was a reason for banter.

Some joked that Australia must feel bad for its Chinese nickname ranks even lower in administrative level; it is sometimes referred to as “澳村” (Ào Cūn), or “Aussie Village.” This nickname isn’t related to Australia’s size but reflects how some Chinese see the country’s urban environment and way of life as more akin to a ‘village.’

“You should be happy we don’t say Po village (坡镇), and still call it a county!”

“Would you like us to call you ‘Po prefecture’ (坡州区) instead?”, others write.

Some commenters argue that it’s simply a sweet term of endearment and that people shouldn’t overanalyze it. They write: “You are too sensitive.” Or: “Even my friends in Singapore use this term themselves!”

A few commenters do agree with Wang, writing: “I do feel that calling [Singapore] this isn’t appropriate, especially after it has been pointed out. If there’s no good reason to do so, it’s better not to use this name anymore.”

Other Weibo users mention that they hadn’t used the term ‘Little Po County’ before, but Wang’s article has introduced them to it: “Thanks for that, I’ll start using that now!”

Most netizens appear to agree that Wang is making a big deal out of nothing. However, Wang does have a point in noting that the same online population tends to get easily upset when foreigners refer to China in ways that are considered offensive or derogatory. One Weibo commenter wrote: “A lot of web users in China do seem to have double standards.”

By Manya Koetse

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

Featured photo by Jay Ang (link).

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.

©2023 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 Media

Wilders’ Win on Weibo: Hu Xijin and Others Discuss the “Dutch Trump”

Chinese netizens on Weibo have placed Wilders’ victory in a broader geopolitical context.

Manya Koetse

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The Dutch general elections on Tuesday, 22 November 2022, resulted in a victory for the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV). The party, established in 2006, is led by the 60-year-old Dutch politician Geert Wilders who is known for his outspoken populist rhetoric and anti-establishment sentiments.

On Chinese social media, the Dutch election outcome became a topic discussed by some well-known bloggers.

The PVV secured 37 of the 150 seats in the Second Chamber, making it the largest party by a significant margin, followed by the left-wing Groen Links-PvdA (25 seats), center-right liberal VVD (24), and the brand-new centrist party NSC (20). The remaining seats were distributed among eleven other parties, each claiming between 9 and 1 seat in the Second Chamber.

Wilders’ triumph garnered international attention. As reported in 2017, the PVV’s popularity had been steadily increasing for years, drawing particular notice in Chinese media and other international publications in the wake of Trump’s victory and Brexit.

Dutch politician Wilders, referred to as Wéi’ěrdésī (维尔德斯 or 威尔德斯) in Chinese, became a recurring subject in Chinese media, with his success viewed as a harbinger for other elections across Continental Europe.

Wilders and his PVV are known for their strong anti-Islam stance, Euroskepticism, aspirations to significantly limit immigration, and populist commitment to “put the Dutch first.”

On Weibo, the well-known Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) wrote a column about Wilders’ win on November 23. Here’s a translation of Hu’s post:

“It shocked Europe, it shocked the West! The Freedom Party led by Wilders, the ‘Dutch version of Trump,’ received the most votes on Wednesday. His slogans and labels are anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-Islam. The leader of the French extreme right-wing political party Le Pen immediately extended his congratulations through social media.”

“The results of the Dutch elections again show that xenophobic and intolerant political retrogressions are like cancer cells spreading across Europe and the West. However, the far-right line will not become the overwhelming new political choice in the West, as many Western societies are painfully going from side to side. Wilders also proposes that the Netherlands should stop providing weapons to the Ukraine, which goes against the mainstream European line. This is something that should be quite popular among Chinese.”

“It’s not clear yet if Wilders will actually become the premier of the Netherlands. Although his party received the most votes he only took about 37 seats of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives and will need to form a coalition government. Because it’s an extreme rightwing party, whether or not he will be able to pull allies in is hard to say. If Wilders fails, the Netherlands will not rule out a minority government.”

“Regardless, the victory of the Freedom Party is a heavy blow to Europe. There are concerns that it will become a model, that it will boost the rise of other extreme right-wing parties on the stage. In short, the West is becoming more and more chaotic and is becoming more lost.”

On Weibo, Hu Xijin’s post about Wilders received hundreds of replies, but many netizens did not agree with his stance on the victory of the Dutch right-wing party.

“You don’t represent the Chinese people,” one commenter wrote: “You just represent yourself. Don’t overstep your boundaries.”

“You’re actually so leftist underneath,” another reply said.

 

“Why did we witness a UK ‘Trump,’ a Brazilian ‘Trump,’ an Argentinian ‘Trump,’ a Dutch ‘Trump’?”

 

Among the numerous comments below Hu’s post, quite a few expressed sympathy for the populist stance advocated by PVV and Wilders. One popular comment reads, “Anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-Islamic—sounds about right?” “Europe is waking up.”

Another person commented: “Over the past couple of years, the population of Muslim immigrants in Europe and the United States has been rapidly expanding, bringing about serious social problems when it comes to public security, employment, fertility rates, and religious beliefs etc., which has since long been a source of distress for the local population.”

Apart from Hu’s post, Chinese netizens elsewhere on Weibo have also placed Wilders’ victory in a broader geopolitical context. Blogger Xiaosunchu (@小笋初) writes, “Why did America have Trump? Why did we witness a UK ‘Trump,’ a Brazilian ‘Trump,’ an Argentinian ‘Trump,’ a Dutch ‘Trump,’ and so on – all these non-traditional, anti-establishment ‘crazy’ candidates?”

According to Xiaochunchu, the election of these kinds of political figures is a result of a so-called ‘democratic illusion’ (“民主幻觉”) in the West, in which voters are perpetually disappointed in politicians as they end up getting “a different broth but the same old medicine” (“换汤不换药”): the names may change, but the system does not, leading voters to blame themselves for picking the wrong candidates when, in reality, it’s actually deep-rooted political structures that prevent actual change from happening.

Regardless of whether others agree with Xiaochunchu’s idea that voters’ preference for unconventional political figures is linked to a ‘democratic illusion,’ many do acknowledge that ‘Trump-style’ politics represents a broader political trend that began with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Other bloggers called the election of different ‘Trumps’ a “new change in global democratic politics” and even labeled the current international political arena the “Trump era” (“特朗普时代”). “Who’s next?” one Weibo user wonders.

“Let’s wait and see,” other people write, “It might not be easy for him to form a cabinet.”

While the Dutch formation has begun, the world will be watching to see which parties will govern together and whether Wilders might become the next Dutch Prime Minister, and the so-called ‘next Trump.’

Also read: Chinese Reactions on Wilders and “The Rise of the Right”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our 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.

©2023 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 & Consumers

Tick, Tock, Time to Pay Up? Douyin Is Testing Out Paywalled Short Videos

Is content payment a new beginning for the popular short video app Douyin (China’s TikTok) or would it be the end?

Manya Koetse

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The introduction of a Douyin novel feature, that would enable content creators to impose a fee for accessing their short video content, has sparked discussions across Chinese social media. Although the feature would benefit creators, many Douyin users are skeptical.

News that Chinese social media app Douyin is rolling out a new feature which allows creators to introduce a paywall for their short video content has triggered online discussions in China this week.

The feature, which made headlines on November 16, is presently in the testing phase. A number of influential content creators are now allowed to ‘paywall’ part of their video content.

Douyin is the hugely popular app by Chinese tech giant Bytedance. TikTok is the international version of the Chinese successful short video app, and although they’re often presented as being the same product, Douyin and Tiktok are actually two separate entities.

In addition to variations in content management and general usage, Douyin differs from TikTok in terms of features. Douyin previously experimented with functionalities such as charging users for accessing mini-dramas on the platform or the ability to tip content creators.

The pay-to-view feature on Douyin would require users to pay a certain fee in Douyin coins (抖币) in order to view paywalled content. One Douyin coin is equivalent to 0.1 yuan ($0,014). The platform itself takes 30% of the income as a service charge.

According to China Securities Times or STCN (证券时报网), Douyin insiders said that any short video content meeting Douyin’s requirements could be set as “pay-per-view.”

Creators, who can set their own paywall prices, should reportedly meet three criteria to qualify for the pay-to-view feature: their account cannot have any violation records for a period of 90 days, they should have at least 100,000 followers, and they have to have completed the real-name authentication process.

On Douyin and Weibo, Chinese netizens express various views on the feature. Many people do not think it would be a good idea to charge money for short videos. One video blogger (@小片片说大片) pointed out the existing challenge of persuading netizens to pay for longer videos, let alone expecting them to pay for shorter ones.

“The moment I’d need to pay money for it, I’ll delete the app,” some commenters write.

This statement appears to capture the prevailing sentiment among most internet users regarding a subscription-based Douyin environment. According to a survey conducted by the media platform Pear Video, more than 93% of respondents expressed they would not be willing to pay for short videos.

An online poll by Pear Video showed that the majority of respondents would not be willing to pay for short videos on Douyin.

“This could be a breaking point for Douyin,” one person predicts: “Other platforms could replace it.” There are more people who think it would be the end of Douyin and that other (free) short video platforms might take its place.

Some commenters, however, had their own reasons for supporting a pay-per-view function on the platform, suggesting it would help them solve their Douyin addiction. One commenter remarked, “Fantastic, this might finally help me break free from watching short videos!” Another individual responded, “Perhaps this could serve as a remedy for my procrastination.”

As discussions about the new feature trended, Douyin’s customer service responded, stating that it would eventually be up to content creators whether or not they want to activate the paid feature for their videos, and that it would be up to users whether or not they would be interested in such content – otherwise they can just swipe away.

Another social media user wrote: “There’s only one kind of video I’m willing to pay for, and it’s not on Douyin.”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our 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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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