SubscribeLog in
Connect with us

Newsletter

Weibo Watch: From A to BMW

Weibo Watch Weekly: From the tragic death of a Chinese acrobat to the major controversy surrounding BMW MINI.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

PREMIUM NEWSLETTER | ISSUE #1 | READING TIME: 6 MIN | SUBSCRIBE

 

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the debut pilot issue of Weibo Watch, the exclusive premium newsletter by What’s on Weibo that keeps you up-to-date on the latest stories and trends in Chinese social media and digital culture.

Accountability was a recurring theme in Chinese online discussions recently. A spectacular show turned into a tragedy when a female performer fell to her death in a village in Anhui. The woman was doing a high-altitude acrobatic performance together with her husband, with whom she had been performing for years. Hoisted up high into the air by a rope in front of a large audience, she suddenly lost grip and fell on the stage. A video of the incident soon spread on social media and triggered many questions: why were there no safety measures in place, which organization arranged the performance, and who should be held accountable?

The question of accountability again came up later in April when a big fire broke out at a private hospital in Beijing. Videos of the incident showed smoke coming out of the hospital building on different floors. Some patients had to hang on to air conditioning units outside the windows. The fire ended up killing 29 people, mostly vulnerable patients. A day later, 12 individuals were arrested by police for their criminal liability in the fire. However, questions remained about the unregulated construction work that caused the fire, and why there was a lack of proper fire prevention and evacuation measures. A Chinese blog that highlighted the unanswered questions surrounding the fire was later censored.

And then there suddenly was that one incident that broke the Chinese internet. At the Shanghai Auto Show, two female staff members working at the BMW MINI booth were filmed while doing a free ice cream promotional campaign, and it seemed like they gave out free ice cream to foreigners while ignoring Chinese visitors or just telling them no. An online firestorm broke out, and the memes just kept coming (see this Twitter thread). People accused the BMW brand of discriminating against Chinese visitors and criticized the ‘blind worship of everything foreign’ (chóng yáng mèi wài 崇洋媚外).

Although BMW soon apologized, stating that they had given out 600 tubs of ice cream already (and that the video only showed reserved ice cream given to foreign colleagues), the genie was already out of the bottle. At a time when some serious incidents had open ends and unanswered questions, the collective anger over something as trivial as ice cream almost seemed cathartic. In our latest article, we explore more reasons why the BMW MINI incident became such a major story.

See our list of featured articles in this newsletter to dive deeper into the major trends that have recently attracted attention on Chinese social media. This week’s newsletter also wraps up some of last week’s trends.

Got questions or suggestions? I always like to hear more about the China topics you’d like to know more about. Contact me via email or DM, or follow me on Twitter for the latest news and trends.

Best,

Manya Koetse

 

What to Know

Quick take: Weibo & the world

 

  • ▶︎ May Day holiday madness. This Labour Day holiday, domestic travel is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels. Trending on Weibo is the remarkable hashtag #人人人人人你人人人人人# (lit: “people people people….YOU…. people people people..”) to convey just how crowded it is in China’s scenic areas.
  • ▶︎Panda Yaya is back in China. Panda Yaya (丫丫), who has been living in America’s Memphis Zoo for two decades, returned to China this week. Yaya’s name has been all over Weibo, where netizens celebrated her return. Her homecoming was extra meaningful because netizens have been concerned about Yaya’s skinny and seemingly unhealthy appearance and how she was treated in the U.S. (the heightening political tensions between the US and China have not exactly eased these concerns).
  • ▶︎ Chinese Ambassador to France sparks outrage. Comments made by the Chinese ambassador to France, Lu Shaye (卢沙野), caused controversy outside of China last week. Lu suggested that former Soviet countries have no “effective status” in international law. In China, scholars and commentators argued that Lu Shaye’s words were purposely taken out of context and were the effect of Western media strategies.
  • ▶︎ Xi-Zelensky phone call. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone Wednesday, marking their first conversation since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • ▶︎ Noteworthy Biden & Yoon Suk Yeol moment. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol grabbed a mic and sang “American Pie” at the White House state dinner. The incident was criticized on Weibo by political commentator Hu Xijin, who referred to it as “shameful” and “a modern-day Meeting at Mianchi” (short explainer here).

 

What’s Trending

A closer look at the top stories

1: More Than Ice Cream Alone | The Shanghai Auto Show’s BMW MINI booth and its employees found themselves at the center of a social media storm after a video of their free ice cream promotional campaign made it seem like foreigners got free ice cream while Chinese visitors were told no. The incident has had a major impact, both online and offline. What caused a seemingly minor event to escalate into a significant controversy?

Read more
 

2: “The Most Significant International News of the Entire Week” | The phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was called the “most significant international news of the entire week” by one Chinese media outlet on Weibo. The momentous conversation came after a number of noteworthy international developments, including Xi’s visit to Moscow in late March, French President Macron’s China visit in April, and that of Von der Leyen. It also took place shortly after comments made by Lu Shaye (卢沙野), the Chinese ambassador to France, caused controversy.

Read more
 

3: “4.18 Beijing Changfeng Hospital Fire Incident” (4•18北京长峰医院火灾事故) | The deadly blaze at a private hospital in Fengtai District which killed 29 people is now known as the “4.18 Beijing Changfeng Hospital Fire Incident” (4•18北京长峰医院活在事故). Here is a timeline of the incident, as well as the 5 main things to know:

Read more
 

4: The Vlogger Was Member of a QQ ‘Cat Abuse’ Group | A shocking and extremely cruel video in which a Chinese wanghong (online influencer) tortures a stolen cat has sparked outrage on Chinese social media.The person involved is the Anhui-based food blogger/vlogger Xu Zhihui (徐志辉), who has over 400,000 fans on his Bilibili channel. In light of the incident, voices calling for better and stricter laws on animal abuse in China have grown louder.

Read more
 

What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

 

“The Boy from Xiangtan” | There have been many headlines and views on former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s recent visit to mainland China. One aspect of his trip has received relatively little attention, even though it generated some buzz among Chinese netizens: Ma’s way of speaking Chinese. What’s on Weibo’s Jin Luo explains more about the Xiang dialect and why Ma triggered online discussions by speaking it so well.

Read more

 

What’s Popular

The latest buzz in brands & pop culture

Chinese Doctors in Africa | There has been some online buzz surrounding a new TV drama series called Welcome to Milele (欢迎来到麦乐村), which started filming this week. The drama follows the trials and challenges faced by a group of Chinese medical workers stationed in Africa. Over the past three decades, Chinese TV dramas featuring foreign locations as a crucial element of their plot have emerged as a distinctive genre. The genre’s origins can be traced back to the 1993 hit TV drama Beijingers in New York, directed by Zheng Xiaolong, who is also the artistic director for Welcome to Milele. The timing of the production of this TV drama is noteworthy as it coincides with China celebrating the 10th anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s proposal guiding China-Africa cooperation and the 60th anniversary of China dispatching its first Medical Aid Teams abroad.

 

What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

Holiday Travel Madness | For this week’s pick from the archives, we’ve selected an article from 2017, when so many people went out to travel during the national holiday travel season that various scenic areas became dangerously overcrowded. During this first weekend of the five-day-long May Day holiday, Chinese social media is again flooding with photos and videos showing huge crowds at China’s scenic spots and tourist attractions. By railway alone, about 120 million domestic trips are expected to be made this holiday. See some images and videos of the 2023 May holiday madness here.

Read more

 

Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

A video showing a woman attacking a service robot in a local hospital has recently gone viral on Chinese social media and beyond. The incident reportedly took place at a Xuzhou Medical University hospital in Jiangsu, where an angry woman got so frustrated that she started swinging at the robot with a bat. Yīnào (医闹) refers to the social problem of patient-doctor violence and other outbursts of anger against medical staff. In the comment sections underneath this video, some netizens called this a form of ‘Cyber Yinao’ (赛博医闹 Sàibó Yīnào). With robots becoming a more important part of Chinese medical services, it might not be the last time to see such a video go viral. Read more about the Yinao Phenomenon in one of our older articles here.

 

This is an on-site version of the Weibo Watch newsletter by What’s on Weibo. If you are already subscribed to What’s on Weibo but are not yet receiving this newsletter in your inbox, please contact us directly to let us know.

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.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

Featured

Weibo Watch: “Bloglator in the Era of Social Media”

By examining the influence of the “tragically ugly” schoolbook case, Bai demonstrates that WoW reporting had considerable impact on overall international media coverage.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

PREMIUM NEWSLETTER | ISSUE #28

Dear Reader,

 

It’s been a little while since the last Weibo Watch newsletter. Those of you who follow me on X might already know that some personal circumstances have made it difficult for me to get a lot of work done this month following the unfortunate loss of two close family members and all the arrangements surrounding it. When it rains, it sometimes really does pour. However, life goes on, and I’m now ready to return to doing what I love most at What’s on Weibo. Thank you for your understanding as we dive back into the swing of things.

On that note, I am very happy to share some exciting news: my work at What’s on Weibo is the focus of a new study by Prof. Bai Liping (白立平) from the Department of Translation at Lingnan University (Hong Kong). The study, titled “Bloglator in the Era of Social Media: A Case Study of the Reports about the ‘Tragically Ugly’ Math Textbooks on What’s on Weibo,” has been published in Perspectives journal (2024, 1–16). You can find a link to the study here (limited free online copies available).

The study examines the role played by bloggers in the present-day news ecosystem, where social media has become increasingly important in various ways, making both news consumption and news production more multi-dimensional. In doing so, Bai zooms in on What’s on Weibo (WoW) as a prominent example of what he calls a ‘bloglator’: a blend of ‘blog’ and ‘translator’ to refer to someone who “translates, adapts, and recreates content from articles or posts on blogs, or does any translation on blogs” (3).

The research suggests that WoW’s work, reporting on trending topics on Chinese social media since 2013, constitutes a special form of news-related blog translation as well as blog-related news translation, carving out a special niche within journalistic translation and the broader news ecosystem.

Serving as a case study is an article published on the site in May 2022 about illustrations in a Chinese schoolbook series for children that triggered controversy on Weibo for their peculiar design and for being perceived as ‘aesthetically displeasing.’

The controversy began when concerned parents noted that the quality of the design in their kids’ math textbooks was ugly, unrefined, and overall weird.

The controversial schoolbook.

Children depicted in the math book illustrations had small, droopy eyes and big foreheads. Besides the poor design quality, many people found some illustrations inappropriate: a girl sticking out her tongue, recurring depictions of American flag colors, an incorrect depiction of the Chinese flag, a bulge in the pants of depicted boys, and boys grabbing girls. These elements led many to believe the books had “evil intentions,” with parents expressing concern that these “tragically ugly” books could negatively impact children’s aesthetic appreciation.

The explosive online discussions about the textbooks sparked a chain of events, covered in various articles here. Ultimately, it led to an official investigation by China’s Ministry of Education, holding 27 staff members accountable for their poor performance.

Among them were the Party Committee Secretary of the People’s Education Press, President Huang Qiang, who received a “serious warning” from the Party. Chief Editor Guo Ge was removed from office, along with others, including the head of the editorial office for elementary school mathematics textbooks. Illustrator Wu Yong and two other designers involved in the mathbooks reportedly will never work on national school textbooks or related projects again. The entire event was significant in various ways, also drawing increased attention to the quality of illustrations in teaching materials and shedding light on the dynamics behind Chinese schoolbook publications.

Bai’s study notes that WoW was among the first English websites to report on this topic, subsequently picked up by numerous other media outlets. While some sources, such as Australian news site news.com.au and The Guardian, included links or references to WoW, other news sites did not explicitly mention WoW but still used my translations, most notably the “tragically ugly” comment.

This non-literal translation of a Chinese phrase (most probably derived from 惨不忍睹 cǎn bù rěn dǔ “so horrible that one cannot bear to look at it”) exemplifies “translingual quoting,” a process where the original discourse is translated during quoting (6). You could consider it a ‘creative translation’ to convey meaning rather than exact words. As other reports also reproduced these exact words, it was evident what their source was. These two words ultimately became pivotal in the English coverage of the event; even today, a Google search directs you to this textbook controversy.

By examining the influence of the “tragically ugly” schoolbook case, Bai demonstrates that WoW reporting had considerable impact on the overall international media coverage of the event. It was cited by various English media outlets from Australia to the UK, from India to Hong Kong, including in traditional newspapers like The Independent, Sunday Times, and South China Morning Post.

He concludes:

“In the era of social media, just as Weibo has supplemented traditional media in the Chinese news ecosystem, WoW has filled a niche left by traditional media in the English news media ecosystem. Through WoW, readers can stay informed about the trending topics on Weibo, learn the views of the netizens and foster a deeper understanding of Chinese social and cultural life. The case study demonstrates that WoW’s reports about the tragically ugly math textbooks are consistent with its founder’s objectives of explaining the stories behind the hashtag and facilitating a better understanding of contemporary China, and that a ‘bloglator’ may play an important role in the evolving news ecosystem in this era of social media.”

Of course, I’m thrilled to see this finalized study on WoW’s impact in the news ecosystem. Beyond that, I value the term ‘bloglator,’ which aptly describes my role, and is different from the work done by journalists who translate news. It involves various strategies such as translingual quoting, providing explanations and background contexts, omitting irrelevant information, summarizing source texts, and most importantly, complete independence in choosing what to write about & the best way to cover it.

This independence enables WoW to spotlight interesting, noteworthy topics that help you stay connected to the Chinese social media sphere and its dynamics. As a subscriber, your support makes What’s on Weibo’s continuity possible. I look forward to working on many more topics in the future. Even the “tragically ugly” ones can sometimes turn out beautifully.

Best,

– Your ‘bloglator,’
Manya Koetse
(@manyapan)

 
References:

Bai, Liping. “Bloglator in the Era of Social Media: A Case Study of the Reports about the ‘Tragically Ugly’ Math Textbooks on What’s on Weibo.” Perspectives, (2024), 1–16. doi:10.1080/0907676X.2024.2343047.

 

A closer look at some featured stories

1: “Fat Cat Jumping Into the River Incident” (胖猫跳江事件) | The tragic story behind the recent suicide of a 21-year-old Chinese gamer nicknamed ‘Fat Cat’ has become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media, touching upon broader societal issues from unfair gender dynamics to businesses taking advantage of grieving internet users. We explain the trend here👇🏼

Read more
 

2: TV show Triggers Nationalistic Sentiments | Forget about previous song competitions. Hunan TV’s ‘Singer 2024’ is all the talk these days. Besides memes and jokes, the show – which now invited notable foreign talent to compete against Chinese established performers – has set off a new wave of national pride in China’s music and performers on Chinese social media.

Read more
 

3: Storm over a Smoky Cup of Tea | Chinese tea brand LELECHA faced backlash for using the iconic literary figure Lu Xun to promote their “Smoky Oolong” milk tea, sparking controversy over the exploitation of his legacy. “Such blatant commercialization of Lu Xun, is there no bottom limit anymore?”, one Weibo user wrote. Another person commented: “If Lu Xun were still alive and knew he had become a tool for capitalists to make money, he’d probably scold you.”

Read more
 

 
This is an on-site version of the Weibo Watch newsletter by What’s on Weibo. Missed the last edition of our newsletter? Find it here. If you are already subscribed to What’s on Weibo but are not yet receiving this newsletter in your inbox, please contact us directly to let us know.

Continue Reading

Featured

Weibo Watch: The Battle for the Bottom Bed

“The battle for the lower bunk beds” (“下铺之争”) is a reflection of society and generational difference in China, touching upon expectations regarding the respect younger individuals should show the elderly.

Avatar

Published

on

PREMIUM NEWSLETTER | ISSUE #27

 

This week’s newsletter:

◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – Battle for the Bottom Bed
◼︎ 2. What’s Been Trending – A closer look at the featured stories
◼︎ 3. What More to Know – Five bit-sized trends
◼︎ 4. What’s the Drama – Top TV to watch
◼︎ 5. What’s Noteworthy – Zara x Haidilao
◼︎ 6. What’s Popular – Martin Garrix x Huang Zitao
◼︎ 7. What’s Memorable – Social media in times of flood
◼︎ 8. Weibo Word of the Week – Coffin rooms

 

Dear Reader,

 

Sometime around last summer, a significant debate about train etiquette began trending on Chinese social media. Central to the discussion was a question that attracted over 190 million views on Weibo: Can passengers bring their own “bed curtains”?

The curtains in question (床帘 chuánglián, also 火车遮挡帘 huǒchē zhēdǎnglián) are often used in the cheapest class of sleeper cabins on Chinese trains, known as hard sleepers (硬卧 yìngwò). In these cabins, each compartment features six bunk beds, with three beds on each side separated by a small table. Only the bottom bunk offers sufficient space for seating and is also the most expensive among the three.

Example of Chinese hard sleeper train compartment, image via Sohu.

Train carriages usually comprise 11 semi-open compartments, each featuring a corridor and two foldable seats per cubicle. With so many people in one carriage, noise can become an issue, and privacy can be hard to come by.

“Bed curtains” have emerged as a popular strategy to combat these nuisances, creating a somewhat private and quiet space on trains without disturbance from fellow travelers. Essentially, they are pieces of fabric that can be easily secured above or on the sides of the bunk bed using clips or ropes. These days, Taobao sells them in various colors and patterns.

Bunk bed curtains, sold on e-commerce sites likes Taobao, turn lower bunk beds in a more private space.

Recently, the debate over these curtains reignited on Chinese social media, particularly focusing on how their use creates an additional barrier for other passengers, especially the elderly, to sit on the lower beds. This sparked discussions about whether younger passengers should consider swapping their lower bunk beds with senior passengers, who may find it difficult to access the middle and upper berths, where it’s often impossible for them to sit up straight.

The catalyst for these discussions was a viral video featuring an elderly lady confronting two young people who had hung covers on their bottom bunk beds. She accused them of selfishness for not allowing older passengers with upper bunk tickets to sit on their beds.

Many commenters expressed support for the young passengers in the video, emphasizing that they are not obliged to let other passengers sit on their bed. The topic unleashed a flood of stories of train annoyances about strangers sitting on people’s bottom beds, depriving them of privacy.

The topic further popularized the use of bed curtains, with commenters writing: “I dislike others sitting on my bed but find it difficult to confront them; this is such a clever solution!”

There are currently no explicit regulations prohibiting or allowing these bed curtains, as long as they do not cause inconvenience or block access to other bunks, but many people view them as “uncivilized” and “impolite.”

The online critics of bed curtains often fondly recall their experiences traveling on China’s sleeper trains in past decades. They reminisce about meeting strangers, sharing snacks, playing cards, and forming friendships—experiences characterized by less privacy, but more camaraderie.

As this discussion has been dubbed “the battle for the lower bunk beds” (“下铺之争”), it’s evident that it encompasses more than just seating arrangements. Some say it is a reflection of the current society. It touches upon societal shifts, traditional/cultural expectations regarding the respect younger individuals should show the elderly, and mostly, generational differences.

Unlike the older generations preceding them, Chinese younger generations, products of the one-child policy and growing up amid increasing prosperity, have undergone a significant transformation in their familial roles over the past decades. Not only were they both pampered and pressured to succeed, they also often enjoyed having their own rooms from a young age. Their upbringing has fostered a more individualistic perspective, a heightened emphasis on personal happiness, and a greater value placed on privacy.

Additionally, while previous generations typically ‘served’ their parents, you see that parents often prioritize ‘serving’ their children of younger generations, treating them as equals within the household. This has also led to different views on the interaction between younger and older members of society. Many younger people won’t accept Chinese seniors acting rude or entitled simply because of their age.

The “battle for the bottom bed” essentially symbolizes clashes between different generations. While older generations value communal experiences and respect for elders, younger generations assert their individual rights and prioritize personal space. Given the insufficient seating for all six passengers in current hard sleepers, they argue that it’s China Railways’ responsibility to adapt the layout to better cater to passengers’ needs.

Meanwhile, some Chinese ‘experts’ are cited by media, encouraging young people who have bought lower berths to be understanding and swap with the elderly for their convenience. A related hashtag on the matter was viewed more than 400 million times on Weibo, and the most popular replies basically told the experts to shove their suggestion up theirs. “I have the right to what I pay for,” some said: “If they need a lower bed, let them pay for a lower bed.”

Some bloggers comment that the very fact that this seemingly trivial topic has become such a major topic of debate on Chinese social media is a sign of a “regression in morality.” Some propaganda accounts raise the example of the humble PLA soldier Lei Feng, who would help out other passengers and train staff while traveling, instead of occupying a seat. While most do not expect the same of modern-day travelers, they do think that people, young and old, should show a little more understanding for each other.

In this light, another video garnered attention. It showed an elderly woman on a train politely requesting to swap a top bunk with a young passenger occupying a bottom bunk. The request was made on behalf of her 83-year-old travel companion, and they were happy to compensate for the price difference. That video received praise from netizens, who expressed that it’s the attitude that matters. The young passenger swapped beds with the older lady and did not accept payment for it.

In the end, it’s clear that kindness and empathy are cross-generational, and that communication always helps bridging differences.

In case you don’t feel like bridging differences on your next hard sleeper train, however, here’s the link to the bed curtains.

Warm regards,

– Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

 

A closer look at the featured stories

1: Chengdu Disneyland | Chengdu Disney is the latest viral hotspot on Chinese social media, and it’s probably unlike anything you’d imagine. How did an ordinary outdoor senior gym in a local Chengdu neighborhood become nationally known as ‘Chengdu Disney’? By mixing online trends with real-life fun, blending foreign styles with local charm, and adding a dash of humor and absurdity, Chengdu now boasts its very own ‘Chengdu Disney.’ We explain the trend here👇🏼

Read more
 

2: Unleashing Flood of Stories | The recent marriage announcement of the renowned Chinese calligrapher/painter Fan Zeng and Xu Meng, a Beijing TV presenter 50 years his junior, has sparked online discussions about the life and work of the esteemed Chinese artist. Some netizens think Fan lacks the integrity expected of a Chinese scholar-artist.

Read more
 

3: Yellen’s Favorites | Earlier in April, Yellen concluded her second trip to Beijing within a year, and once again, it’s not her official talks but rather her choices in food and drink venues that are sparking discussion on social media. From Yunnan classics to fusion cuisine, these are Janet Yellen’s picks for dining and drinking in Beijing.

Read more
 

 

What More to Know

Five Bite-Sized Trends

◼︎ 🌧️ Guangdong Floods | Flooding, landslides, power outages. It’s been a rough few days in Guangdong. From the provincial capital Guangzhou to smaller cities like Shaoguan, Zhaoqing, and Qingyuan, exceptionally heavy rainfall since April 18 has brought significant problems to various areas. At least 4 deaths have been reported, with 10 people still missing. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated. The regions hardest hit are along the Beijiang River, which flooded on April 21. This marks the second flood of the river this year, with the first occurring on April 7, marking the earliest date in the season since floods in major Chinese rivers began being numbered in 1998. As with previous floods, social media is used as a channel to warn people about the ongoing situation, with further rainfall expected. Meanwhile, state media are honoring rescue workers as local heroes, or ‘those going against the tide’ (nìxíngzhě 逆行者).

◼︎ 🌋 Ijen Crater Death | A 31-year-old Chinese tourist tragically lost her life after falling from the edge of Indonesia’s Ijen volcano while attempting to take a photo. She tripped over her own long skirt, plummeting from a height of 75 meters early on the morning of April 20, while the tourists were there to witness the sunrise. With the May 1st holiday approaching, Chinese authorities, through social media, are using this incident as a cautionary tale to warn tourists of the hazards of prioritizing that ‘perfect social media photo’ over personal safety.

◼︎ 💀 Another University Poisoning Case | One recurring case that surfaces on Weibo is that of Zhu Ling, the female victim in the notorious 1995 thallium poisoning incident at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Although Zhu Ling survived, she was left paralyzed and reliant on her parents for care for the rest of her life. The case remains unsolved, with many pointing to her roommate as the primary suspect. Now, a new suspected poisoning incident at a university has gained attention, following the death of a 25-year-old male student at Xiangtan University due to organ failure after seeking medical treatment. His 27-year-old roommate is currently under suspicion and has been detained. This is a case that is likely to draw further scrutiny in the time to come.

◼︎ 🏃‍♂️ Marathon Controversy | There was something fishy about the conclusion of the Beijing Half Marathon and the four runners at the finish line. In a video clip that went viral on Chinese social media (see here), viewers observed that three African runners seemed to intentionally slow down to allow Chinese competitor He Jie (何杰) to win the gold medal. Now, the Beijing Half Marathon Organizing Committee has announced the disqualification of all four runners for “breaching the rules of the competition,” nullifying their results, and reclaiming their trophies and medals. The Chinese Athletics Association has also introduced new regulations for discipline management in national events. It appears that the three African runners were “pace setters” who were not intended to be competing athletes, and sponsor/partner Xtep (特步), a sports equipment company, was responsible for not properly identifying them. Consequently, the company has been terminated as a partner. Marathon fraud and the importance of properly regulating major sports events has become a recurring topic on Chinese social media. Last October, the Chinese Athletics Association issued an emergency notice to standardize and regulate China’s national marathon and running events more effectively after Chinese marathon runner Yin Shunjin appeared to be intentionally obstructed by a support vehicle, forcing him to navigate around it and costing him valuable time in the crucial final two minutes of the marathon.

◼︎ 🎲 Little Tuan Tuan Goes to Jail | Popular Chinese influencer “Little Tuan Tuan” (一条小团团), who has millions of followers on the Douyu livestreaming app, became a top trending topic on Chinese social media on April 23 after news came out that she had been arrested. The famous game livestreamer had already stopped airing since last month, but it only now became known that she is suspected of engaging in large-scale illegal gambling activities. In late 2023, Douyu’s chairman and CEO Chen Shaojie was also arrested for allegedly hosting online gambling, which is illegal in mainland China. At the time, state media already reported that the arrest of Chen may lead to a group of top game anchors being implicated due to their involvement in gambling and money laundering. After the earlier arrest of four other anchors, Tuan Tuan is the latest livestream host to be arrested, signaling a zero tolerance approach towards gambling activities in China’s game-focused livestreaming world. Little Tuan Tuan could face up to five years in prison.

 

What’s the Drama

Top TV to Watch

Best Choice Ever (Chéng Huān Jì 承欢记) is the latest Chinese TV drama hit. Produced by CCTV and simultaneously broadcasted on CCTV-8 and Tencent, it premiered on April 9, and some are already calling it the best romcom drama of the year. This urban family/romance drama centers around the story of Mai Chenghuan (麦承欢), a post-95 young woman living in Shanghai, who is preparing to marry her boyfriend Xin Jialiang (辛家亮), who comes from a wealthy family. However, when Chenghuan’s mum is doing all she can to meddle in their relationship, Mai Chenghuan must break free from her mother’s overbearing influence and focus on her own personal growth.

Noteworthy:

▶️ This drama is based on a book by the same name by Hong Kong writer Yi Shu or Isabel Nee Yeh-su, who is known for the strong, intelligent female characters in her stories.
▶️ The main protagonist is played by the super popular Chinese actress Yang Zi (杨紫), who previously starred in hit series such as Ode to Joy (欢乐颂) and The Oath of Love (余生).
▶️ This series is also airing in Thailand starting from April 29, but you won’t hear Yang Zi speaking Chinese there; the entire show will be dubbed in Thai.
▶️ The Shanghai Culture and Tourism office has also been involved in this production, that features some pretty scenes from around Shanghai, which is drawing in young visitors wanting to visit film locations like the Zhapu Road Bridge and Huaihuai Mansion.

You can watch Best Choice Ever online here (with English subtitles) via YouTube.

 

What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

A short dress sold by Zara has gone viral in China for looking like the aprons used by the popular Chinese hotpot chain Haidilao. “I really thought it was a Zara x Haidialo collab,” some customers commented. Others also agree that the first thing they thought about when seeing the Zara dress was the Haidilao apron.

Read more
 

 

The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix found himself embroiled in controversy following the first F1 China Grand Prix Music Festival in Shanghai, which took place from Friday to Sunday. Garrix was allegedly supposed to perform together with Chinese singer Huang Zitao (黄子韬), who initially complained via livestream that the DJ did not show up to their joint rehearsal, and then claimed the DJ showed disrespect by performing his song without him being present on stage. On Weibo, one hashtag about the incident attracted over 160 million views.

Both Huang and Garrix are popular on Weibo, where the Chinese singer has over 66 million fans while the Dutch DJ has more than 360,000 followers.

In response, Garrix promptly posted a video on Weibo refuting what he called “misinformation and lies,” asserting that he and Huang Zitao were never scheduled to perform together. Hearing about Huang’s complaints, he still invited him up on stage, but he never showed up (Garrix claimed he was hiding in the bathroom). Following this, the event organizers issued an apology for the confusion.

Online, opinions remain divided, with some defending Garrix and labeling Huang a “crybaby,” while others support Huang, arguing that Garrix was rude for not wanting to share the stage with the Chinese singer. Either way, it seems the two performers won’t be sharing a beer, nor a stage, anytime soon.

 

What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

This pick from our archive – in light of the current floods – revisits the flood of three years ago. The social media trends during China’s heavy rainfall and floods in Henan in July of 2021 show the multidimensionality of online communication in times of disaster. Facing the devastating downpours, Weibo became a site for participation, propaganda, and some controversial profiting.👇

Read more

 

Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

“Coffin Room” | Our Weibo Word of the Week is “Coffin Room” (guāncái fáng 棺材房), or even “Mini Coffin Room” (mínǐ guāncái fáng 迷你棺材房), referring to extremely tiny spaces being rented out at rooms.

The term “coffin room” isn’t new; it previously appeared in mainstream media to describe small cubicles rented out in Hong Kong to people who couldn’t afford larger spaces in the exorbitantly expensive housing market. However, it has recently resurfaced on Chinese social media to describe similarly cramped spaces in Shanghai.

One viral video showcased a rental room of about 5m² (approximately 53.82 square feet) with a makeshift sleeping space right behind a toilet, measuring about two meters long and one meter wide (approximately 6.56 feet long and 3.28 feet wide), all for a monthly rent of 300 yuan ($41). This so-called “coffin room” sparked controversy, with many deeming it absurd and a testament to Shanghai’s overheated housing market. However, the landlord mentioned that the room was already rented out to a Didi driver the day it was posted. See video here.

 
This is an on-site version of the Weibo Watch newsletter by What’s on Weibo. Missed last week’s newsletter? Find it here. If you are already subscribed to What’s on Weibo but are not yet receiving this newsletter in your inbox, please contact us directly to let us know.

Continue Reading

Popular Reads