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Weibo Night Awards: These Were The Most Influential Weibo Brands, Events & Celebrities

Weibo Night looks back on Sina Weibo’s hottest celebrities and happenings of the last year.

Manya Koetse

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The evening of January 16 was Weibo Night (#微博之夜#) – the yearly much-anticipated live-broadcasted ceremony that looks back on Sina Weibo’s hottest brands, celebrities, and happenings of the last year.

Weibo Night is an event that many netizens have been looking forward to for weeks. The night has been a recurring event since 2003, when the Sina media company first started the ceremony to look back on the hottest Weibo topics and celebrities of the previous year. The night was initially known as the ‘Sina Grand Ceremony’ (新浪网络盛典) until it turned into the ‘Weibo Night’ (微博之夜) in 2010.

During the ceremony of Weibo Night, that took place on the evening of January 16 (Beijing time) at the China National Convention Center, various prices were awarded in categories such as ‘The Hottest Weibo Person of the Year’, ‘Most Influential Weibo Musician of the Year’, ‘Weibo King & Queen’, ‘The Most Influential Companies’, or the ‘Biggest Topics of the Year.’

The award ceremony was broadcasted live on Weibo and received over 510,000 comments directly below the live broadcast on the Weibo Night account page. The hashtag ‘Weibo Night’ (#微博之夜#) was used over 28 million times.

The Biggest Events of the Year

While What’s on Weibo has compiled its own A-Z of the biggest trends on Weibo of 2016, the official Weibo Night jury picked some very different topics as the top events of the year – all of which focused on the Chinese nation.

The “retrial of Nie Shubin” (#聂树斌案再审#) was chosen as one of the biggest topics of the year. Nie was a young man who was executed in 1995 after being convicted for murder. After his family campaigned to prove his innocence for over two decades, the supreme court ruled in 2016 that there was “insufficient evidence” used in Nie’s trial, and his conviction was overturned. According to many Weibo commenters, the retrial proved that China’s legal system has made a lot of progress since the 1990s.

The topic “green channel for organ transportation” (#器官转运绿色通道#) also made it to the top events of the year according to the Weibo Night jury. The topic addresses the news that China established a “green organ channel” in 2016; a faster-prioritized transport system for human organs that will shorten the time it takes for organs to get to transplant patients, avoiding unnecessary health problems and delays. The topic made headlines in May of 2016, but actually only attracted a few thousand comments on Weibo.

According to the Weibo Night awards, the year’s biggest topic was “China Cannot Get Smaller” (#中国一点都不能少#), a slogan and image posted by state newspaper People’s Daily in July of 2016 around the time of the South China Sea trial that was brought to the tribunal in The Hague by the Philippines, which argued that Chinese activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea are illegal.

The tribunal ruled that China’s sovereignty claims over the South China Sea indeed violated international law. The verdict angered many netizens and triggered a wave of cyber-nationalism.

The biggest Weibo topic according to the Weibo Night Awards.

The topic and image emphasizes that there is only One China, and that China includes Taiwan, Hong Kong and the disputed islands – and that there is no such thing as a ‘China’ that does not include these areas.

Other topics that were mentioned in the top event list were #D-STRONG, the election of Trump, the G20 summit, and the Beijing Hotel Assault.

DSTRONG became trending this year, as netizens celebrated the life of the terminally ill boy Dorian from the USA.

The divorce of Wang Baoqiang, which actually was one of the biggest topics of 2016, was not mentioned in the Weibo Night list. Shortly after the celebrity divorce and love scandal became one of the biggest topics on Weibo of 2016, the Chinese media watchdog announced that it would restrict the hyping of private scandals of the rich and famous.

Swimmer Fu Yuanhui with her “mystical powers.”

In the Weibo Night ‘top hashtag list’, the catchphrase “mystical powers” (#洪荒之力#) came in first. The term became trending after Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui used it during an interview with the state media in Rio.

Weibo’s Most Popular Artists

This year, many of the Weibo People’s Awards went to celebrities in the music category. The Weibo celebrity that won the award for being most “Internationally Influential” was Hong Kong-born American singer-songwriter Coco Lee (李玟).

Chinese pianist Lang Lang (郎朗) was awarded the price for being Weibo’s Biggest Classical Musician, and Taiwanese pop singer Zhang Xinzhe (张信哲) a.k.a. Jeff Chang was awarded with the ‘model singer’ award. Jason Zhang (张杰) won the award for Best Concert of the Year.

The award for Most Popular Singer of the Year went to Chinese rapper Z.Tao (黄子韬), who also won the Most Influential Male Singer award at the 2016 Miaopai Awards.

Lang Lang, Coco Lee and Zhang Xinzhe on stage with their awards.

The Director of the Year award went to Feng Xiaogang (冯小刚) who produced the 2016 movie I Am Not Madame Bovary (我不是潘金莲). Feng was actually awarded twice this evening, as his film also became Weibo’s Best Movie of the Year.

I Am Not Madame Bovary by Feng Xiaogang became Weibo’s Best Movie of the Year.

Actresses Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) and Ma Sichun (马思纯) were selected as winners in the Most Popular Performer category. Both women starred in the 2016 movie Soul Mate (七月与安生).

Most Influential People on Weibo

One of the most influential persons of the year, according to the Weibo Night awards, does not come as a surprise: Papi Jiang (papi酱) is the Weibo vlogger who had her big breakthrough last year with her witty online videos in which she commented on anything from family interactions to dating etiquette. In April 2016, an ad auction showed that companies were willing to pay up to 22 million RMB (3,4 million US$) to get Papi Jiang connected to their brand.

Papi Jiang, the biggest Chinese online celebrity of 2016.

The other ‘most influential’ person was Chinese table tennis player Zhang Jike (张继科), who became the number four player in the world in 2016.

In the sports category, Chinese Olympic swimmer Sun Yang (孙杨) was awarded as Best Sportsman of the Year.

Biggest Brands of the Year

Perhaps the selection of Weibo’s biggest brands of the year during this ceremony was not completely unbiased, as many of the chosen brands were also official sponsors of the show, such as Chinese electronics manufacturer Oppo or Japanese car brand Nissan.

Nissan, official sponsor of Weibo Night.

Other selected brands were e-commerce platform Jumei (聚美优品), Alibaba (阿里), Chinese smartphone and electronic brands Huawei (华为) and Xiaomi (小米), and ride-hailing app Didi (滴滴).

Especially Didi made headlines last year when it merged with its American rival Uber. Recently, the original Uber app has closed down and was replaced by an app specially made for the Chinese market.

Weibo King & Queen

One of the most anticipated awards of the night was that of the absolute ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ of Weibo – a People’s Choice Award that netizens could vote for in the weeks preceding the event.

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (@范冰冰) was elected Weibo Queen. The actress has been among the top 10 of celebrities with the most Weibo followers for years. The 35-year-old celebrity is one of China’s most famous fashion icons and actresses. She is also the 4th highest-paid actress in the world. She currently has over 55.1 million Weibo fans, and received over 14 million votes for the title of ‘Weibo Queen’ for this year.

The Weibo ‘King’ of the year is pop group ‘TF Boys’, that received nearly 63 million votes for the ‘King’ award. The all-boy pop group has a huge fanbase in China. 2016 marked their first performance during China’s most prestigious live event – the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala, of which the 2017 Gala will be aired later this month.

– 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 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 Arts & Entertainment

Wandering Earth 2 Production Costs: Why Director Frant Gwo is Nicknamed ‘Master in Begging for Alms’

Contributing to the Wandering Earth 2 production without getting paid? It’s “powering up Chinese sci-fi with love.”

Wendy Huang

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Wandering Earth director Frant Gwo (Guo Fan) is also nicknamed the ‘Master in Begging for Alms’ (化缘大师) on social media. His efforts to convince actors and companies to contribute to the movie has kept production costs relatively low.

With the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth II, directed by Guo Fan (郭帆 aka Frant Gwo) taking center stage during this Spring Festival movie season, there have been many social media discussions about the film and how it has been reviewed (read here), as well as about the production of the film, or more particularly, about the total production costs for this film.

Based on a story written by Liu Cixin, author of the award-winning sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem, The Wandering Earth II is the prequel to the 2019 blockbuster hit The Wandering Earth, China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi film and the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

It is reported that the production investment costs for The Wandering Earth II reached approximately 600 million yuan ($88.5 million). Compared to the production budget of American sci-fi hit films such as Interstellar ($165 million) or Inception ($160 million), Chinese audiences had expected The Wandering Earth II to have much higher production costs than the reported budget, especially considering the spectacular scenes featured in the film.

The relatively lower production costs sparked discussions on Chinese social media, where the hashtag “Guo Fan – the Master in Begging for Alms” (#郭帆 化缘大师#) went trending, gaining in popularity as multiple insiders shared more stories about the production of the movie.

The hashtag, which suggests that Director Guo is a ‘Fundraising Master’ for keeping production costs low, has received over 70 million views at the time of writing. The Chinese 化缘 huàyuán means to raise funds for something or to ‘beg alms’ (like Buddhist monks or Taoist priests do).

Guo’s strict budget control already became a hot topic after the 2019 release of The Wandering Earth. One of the most famous stories is that of the movie’s main star Wu Jing (吴京), as he allegedly began as a guest celebrity and ended up as the leading actor without getting paid, while investing approximately 60 million yuan ($8.85 million) in the film’s production.

A female presenter recently also shared her story on Weibo about her free participation in the production of The Wandering Earth in 2019, which apparently showed the film’s tight production budget. In her post, she wrote: “They didn’t fool me, instead, they just told me directly that I wouldn’t get paid.” Considering the rare opportunity to act in a Chinese sci-fi production, she went to the set at her own expense and filmed scenes, including outdoor scenes in the snow and freezing cold, only to end up being featured less than a second in the finished film. Nonetheless, she said she was still proud to be a part of the landmark Chinese sci-fi film.

Perhaps the idea of taking part in a groundbreaking Chinese science fiction film has made many individuals, companies, and organizations willing to work with Guo’s team, even if no additional compensation or payment was provided.

XCMG Machinery (Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co, Ltd), China’s premier company in industrial design, is also one of these companies. The company set up a team of a total of 319 XCMG staff members to support the project and provided a wide range of operational and transformable machinery equipment for the UEG (United Earth Government) in the film. They called this “powering up Chinese Sci-fi with love.”

Chinese netizens already nicknamed Wandering Earth (流浪地球) “Little Broken Ball” (小破球) back in 2019. The “Ball” refers to the Earth – the second character (球) of Earth in Chinese (地球) literally means ball. It was the director himself who initially referred to his film this way, and this nickname was then popularized among netizens to describe how the Earth is in crisis in the film, but it also refers to how difficult it was for Guo to produce the film.

The fact that Guo managed to produce Wandering Earth II with a relatively limited budget compared to other big international sci-fi movies has instilled some pride among netizens. One popular blogger (@秦祎墨) suggested the actual production value of the movie went far beyond the quoted $88.5 million thanks to the collective spirit of Chinese companies who did all they could to turn this film into a mega hit.

Others praised Guo for being able to get so many people and companies involved, claiming that if it wasn’t for him, the movie would have ended up costing at least twice as much.

Some are already looking forward to a potential Wandering Earth III, saying that the ‘Little Broken Ball’ series has already managed to gather such a strong team of companies, technical support, post-production innovation and experts, that the ‘Wandering Earth universe’ should not stop after two films.

Reflecting on being nicknamed the ‘Master of Begging for Alms,’ director Guo himself reportedly expressed his gratitude toward everyone who worked on the film who was “tricked” by him, saying it is their generosity that eventually made the production of The Wandering Earth II possible.

By Wendy Huang, with contributions by Manya Koetse

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Social Media Reactions to The New York Times Bad Review of ‘Wandering Earth 2’

A New York Times bad review of ‘Wandering Earth II’ has triggered online discussions: “China’s gonna save the world, the US can’t stand it.”

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This Chinese Spring Festival, it’s all about going to the movies. After sluggish years for China’s movie market during the pandemic, Chinese cinemas welcomed millions of visitors back to the theaters during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday.

Much-anticipated new movies attracted Chinese moviegoers this festive season, including Full River Red by Zhang Yimou, the suspenseful Hidden Blade, or the animated Deep Sea by Tian Xiaopeng.

But the undisputed Spring Festival box office champion of 2023 is Frant Gwo’s Wandering Earth II (流浪地球II), the sequel to China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi epic Wandering Earth (2019), which also became the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

The narrative of the follow-up movie Wandering Earth II actually takes place before the events of the first film and focuses on the efforts by the United Earth Government (UEG) to propel the Earth out of the solar system to avoid planetary disaster. This so-called Moving Mountain Project – which later becomes the Wandering Earth Project – is not just met with protest (the majority of Americans don’t believe in it), it also bans the Digital Life Project, which supports the idea that the future of humanity can be saved by preserving human consciousness on computers (backed by an American majority). The film is all about hope and resilience, human destiny, and geopolitics at a time of apocalyptic chaos.

Outside of China, the sequel was also released in, among others, North American, Australian, and UK cinemas.

Although the film, featuring movie stars Wu Jing and Andy Lau, received an 8.2 on the Chinese rating & review platform Douban, a 9.4 on movie ticketing app Maoyan, dozens of positive reviews on Bilibili, and was overall very well-received among Chinese viewers, a bad review by The New York Times triggered discussions on Chinese social media this weekend.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated a Weibo hashtag about “The New York Times‘s completely sour review of Wandering Earth II” (#纽约时报酸味拉满差评流浪地球2#, 6.2 million views at time of writing).

The New York Times review of Wandering Earth II, titled “The Wandering Earth II Review: It Wanders Too Far,” was written by Brandon Yu and published in print on January 27, 2023.

Yu does not have a lot of good things to say about China’s latest blockbuster. Although he calls the 2019 The Wandering Earth “entertaining enough,” he writes that the sequel is a movie that is “audaciously messy” and has lost “all of the glee” its predecessor had:

“(..) the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted storylines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext.”

The topic was discussed on Chinese social media using various hashtags, including “The New York Times Gave Wandering Earth II a 3″ (#纽约时报给流浪地球打30分#, #纽约时报给流浪地球2打30分#).

Instead of triggering anger, the bad review actually instilled a sense of pride among many Chinese, who argued that the review showed the impact the movie has made. Some commenters pointed out that the movie is a new milestone in Chinese cinema, not just threatening America’s domination of the movie industry but also setting a narrative in which China leads the way.

“We’re gonna save the world, and America just can’t stand it,” one commenter replied.

That same view was also reiterated by other bloggers. The author and history blogger Zhang Yi’an (@张忆安-龙战于野) argued that The New York Times review was not necessarily bad; it actually shows that Americans feel threatened by the idea of China’s important role in a new international world order, and by the fact that China actually will have the capacity to lead the way when it comes to, for example, space technology innovation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Zhang argues that if a similar movie had been made by India as a Bollywood blockbuster – including exploding suns and wandering earths – The New York Times would have been more forgiving and might have even called it cute or silly.

But because this is China, the film’s success and its narrative plays into existing fears over China’s rise, and it clashes with American values about what the international community should look like.

Zhang writes: “The China in the movie doesn’t boast itself as the savior of the world, but in reality, China really is capable of saving the world. The United States is no longer able to do so (电影里的中国没有把自己吹嘘成救世主,现实中的中国真的有能力做救世主。而美国却已经不能了).”

One popular Film & TV account (@影视综艺君) also summarized the general online reaction to the bad review in the American newspaper: “Whenever the enemy gets scared, it must mean we’re doing it right. Our cultural export has succeeded.” That post received over 120,000 likes.

On Zhihu.com, some commenters also attached little value to the review and showed how the overseas reviews of Wandering Earth II widely varied in their verdict.

Meanwhile, a state media-initiated hashtag on Weibo claimed on January 28 that Wandering Earth II has actually “captured the hearts of many overseas audiences” (#流浪地球2海外上映获好评#), and that the film’s “imaginative” and “wonderful” visuals combined with its strong storyline were being praised by moviegoers outside of China.

On IMDB, the movie has received 5.9/10; it has gotten a 70% Rotten Tomatoes score. The Guardian gave it 2/5. Meanwhile, on Weibo, one reviewer after the other gives the film 5/5 stars.

Weibo blogger Lang Yanzhi (@郎言志) writes: “Recently, we’ve seen a lot of attacks and slander directed at the China-made science fiction movie Wandering Earth 2, especially coming from Western media and pro-Western forces, because the film’s “Chinese salvation” narrative made them uncomfortable. This was already the case when the first film in the series was released. It is very clear that Wandering Earth is not just a movie: it is a symbol of great influence.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Zilan Qian

 

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