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Weibo Watch: Shared Roots

The ‘shared roots’ stressed by Wang Yi during the China-Japan-ROK forum are not the kind of roots that matter; it’s the shared memories that connect people.





This week’s newsletter:
◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – Shared roots
◼︎ 2. What’s Trending – A closer look at the top stories
◼︎ 3. What to Know – Highlighting 8 hot topics
◼︎ 4. What Lies Behind – Collective shock over Coco Lee’s death
◼︎ 5. What’s Noteworthy – Taiwanese man decapitates mother
◼︎ 6. What’s Popular – Jackie Chan’s Weibo page
◼︎ 7. What’s Memorable – One year since Abe’s assassination
◼︎ 8. Weibo Word of the Week – “Chunyuan of China’s Entertainment Industry”


Dear Reader,


“No matter how blonde you dye your hair, how sharp you shape your nose, you can never become a European or American, you can never become a Westerner. We must know where our roots lie.”

These words, spoken by Chinese top official Wang Yi during the first China-Japan-ROK forum since the outbreak of COVID-19, were intended to emphasize the power of trilateral relations and the shared Chinese, Japanese, and Korean roots. The remark attracted significant attention this week, both on Chinese social media and in English-language social media spheres, albeit for different reasons.

While many on Twitter criticized Wang’s remarks for emphasizing ethnoracial ideas of the nation, Chinese social media users actually supported his comments, stating that he had “hit the nail on the head.”

However, despite agreeing with him, they interpreted his remarks not as a call for unity among China, Japan, and South Korea to “revitalize Asia,” but rather as a critique. Some suggested that Wang’s words were a form of “high diplomacy,” where it appeared that he was praising the relations between the three countries while subtly criticizing the other two for becoming too Westernized and for deviating from their cultural roots.

The online response to Wang Yi’s remarks demonstrates that stressing these kinds of “shared roots” may not hold much significance in a time where “shared memories” are what truly matters. It is not perceived shared race that counts, but rather perceived shared history.

Two other prominent trends this week revealed that netizens were most united when collectively remembering a shared past. The first trend centered around popular culture, as millions mourned the loss of pop icon Coco Lee, who tragically passed away after an attempted suicide. Netizens shared their personal and collective memories of Coco Lee and what she meant to them, bonding through nostalgia and the vibrant pop culture era that brought them together.

The second trend centered around the memory of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which occurred on July 7th, 1937, and led to the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Although today’s netizens did not personally experience this incident, patriotic education campaigns in China during the 1990s and 2000s have stressed the importance of these historical events to such an extent that many feel emotionally connected to this history. This echoes official calls to never forget this incident and how it has shaped the Chinese people. The intensity of the state media campaign surrounding the 86th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident highlights the significance of social media platforms as “patriotic education bases.”

In the end, feelings of connection, unity, and belonging are not about the shape of one’s nose or the color of one’s hair. It is about the stories that we grow up with, passed down by our families and reinforced through education, museums, and media. Particularly in the social media age, where a sense of rootedness may not be immediately apparent, it is these kinds of ‘shared roots’ that become most visible through online discourse.

This week’s newsletter includes valuable insights from What’s on Weibo news editor Miranda Barnes and Zilan Qian, who is interning with us this summer.

On a more personal note..,

I’ll be out traveling through China in the coming few weeks. For me, it will be the first occasion to get back to traveling around the country since the outbreak of Covid-19. Since I want to spend as much time as possible exploring new places and seeing the changes around me, you might temporarily see a bit less content on the site. I will share more about my travels on social media (you can follow me on Twitter or on Instagram). We will get back to our usual work flow and newsletters in August.

Having said that, I would also like to take a moment to express my gratitude to you as a subscriber. It has been eight months since we introduced the ‘soft paywall’ and two months since the inception of the Weibo Watch newsletter. As many of you may know, I have been managing What’s on Weibo single-handedly for the past decade, and these changes were necessary to ensure the sustainability of my work. While we still need more subscribers to ensure the long-term viability of our platform, I am immensely grateful to all of you who have reached out with words of encouragement and support over the past few months. Whether it’s a quick heads-up about a typo, sharing ideas, engaging in discussions, spreading the word, or even generously supporting the site through donations, please know that all of your gestures are very much appreciated.

We are dedicated to staying in tune with everyday China, keeping our finger on the pulse of the latest trends, and uncovering the stories behind the hashtags. By doing so, we aim to build a bridge between Western and Chinese online media spheres, fostering a deeper understanding of China’s ever-evolving digital media landscape. I am excited to continue on this journey and further build this community in the times ahead – and I’m happy you’re part of it.

Keep cool in the summer heat!



A closer look at the top stories

1: July 7, 1937 | This week, Chinese social media platforms saw active commemoration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. On significant historical occasions like this, Chinese state media accounts proactively share patriotic and nationalistic content, emphasizing the importance of remembering the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War and China’s ‘century of humiliation.’ These efforts highlight the role of Chinese social media as a prominent platform for patriotic education, reinforcing national consciousness and collective memory among the population.

Read more

2: Stressing Shared Roots | During the inaugural China-Japan-ROK forum since the outbreak of COVID-19, Chinese top official Wang Yi emphasized the deep cultural ties between the countries by highlighting their race-based similarities. While there was criticism in English-language social media circles for Wang Yi’s remarks being seen as “playing the race card,” many Chinese social media users supported his comments, stating that he “hit the nail on the head.” Despite agreeing with him, they interpreted his remarks not as a call for unity among Japan, South Korea, and China but rather as a critique of these countries for deviating from their cultural origins.

Read more

3: Cai Xukun Responds | The 24-year-old Chinese celebrity Cai Xukun recently became entangled in a scandal when allegations surfaced that he had been involved in a one-night encounter with a young woman who later revealed she was pregnant. It was claimed that Cai had encouraged her to undergo an abortion, which she ultimately did. This week, Cai finally came out and responded, asserting that there was no coercion involved in the decision and that no illegal activities took place. Nevertheless, this revelation has left many of his fans feeling disheartened and disappointed with their idol.

Read more

4: Worries over Mpox | This week, reports of several monkeypox (mpox) cases in China have gained significant attention. While the number of reported cases remains limited, and mpox is very different from Covid, netizens have expressed concerns about the possibility of another outbreak and have taken precautions by readying their disinfectant supplies.

Read more


What to Know

Highlighting 8 hot topics

Showing batch to avoid a drunk driving check? This incident sparked anger on social media this week. Image via China Digital Times.

◼︎ 1. Coco Lee Death. The passing of Coco Lee (李玟, b. 1975), the Hong Kong pop diva and Chinese-American singer, has deeply saddened Chinese social media this week. Coco Lee was an iconic figure in the Asian pop music scene during the 1990s and 2000s. She made history as the first Chinese artist to perform at the Oscars and lent her voice to Disney’s Mulan, as well as singing the movie’s theme song. Her performances at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala were highly anticipated, and she also sang the theme song “Light Up the Dream” (点亮梦) for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Coco Lee battled with depression for many years and tragically took her own life at the age of 48 (Hashtag: “Coco Lee Passed Away” #李玟去世#, 4.37 billion views on Weibo).

◼︎ 2. Yellen in China. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Beijing this week for two days of meetings with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and other officials, resuming talks with China amid tensions not long after Blinken’s initial visit. While Yellen expressed concerns over China’s recently announced export control on two strategic raw materials, social media users seemed more interested in the Yunnan restaurant in Beijing where she had dinner on her first night. The restaurant, somewhat comically called ‘In and Out’ in English (Chinese name: Yi Zuo Yi Wang 一坐一忘), is a local favorite in Sanlitun. Among other things, Yellen was served spicy potatoes with mint and stir-fried mushrooms, leading to jokes about how the food would affect her and about American budgets being so low that they had to pick such an economical local restaurant. Yellen repeatedly bowing when meeting with China’s He Lifeng also triggered some discussions about American weakness. (Hashtags: “U.S. treasury Secretary First Meal in Beijing” #美财政部长抵京第一餐#; “Yellen Arrives in Beijing” #耶伦抵达北京#)

◼︎ 3. Avoiding DUI with Police Batch. A video went viral on Chinese social media this week showing a driver being let off the hook for a drunk driving check in Pingdingshan, Henan, after a passenger in the back seat presented his police officer’s identification card, demanding special treatment. The man was later identified as Xu, the former head of the Communication Department of the Jia County Public Security Bureau. Xu has reportedly since been dismissed from his position. The traffic police who led him off the hook received “disciplinary punishment.” The incident ignited public outcry, highlighting concerns about privilege and corruption. (Hashtag: “Strict Investigation Into the Privilege Corruption Behind Incident of Policeman Showing Batch to Avoid DUI Police Stop #严查民警亮证逃查酒驾事件中的特权腐败#)

◼︎ 4. Alibaba’s Ant Group Gets 7.1 Billion Yuan Fine. On Friday, Chinese authorities announced a fine of 7.12 billion yuan ($984 million) for Chinese fintech giant Ant Group and its subsidiaries, concluding a 2 year probe into the company. The fine is a result of past violations in areas such as corporate governance, financial consumer protection, and involvement in banking and insurance activities. The penalty marks one of the largest fines ever imposed on an internet company in China. (Hashtag: “Ant Group and Subsidiaries Fined 7.123 Billion Yuan” #蚂蚁集团及旗下机构被罚款71.23亿元#)

◼︎ 5. Cheating Official’s ‘Holding Hand Gate’. You might remember the Chinese official and PetroChina subsidiary executive Hu Jiyong (胡继勇) who was caught walking hand in hand with his mistress and co-worker Ms. Dong during a recent business trip in Chengdu (read here in our previous newsletter). This week, the results of the investigation into the incident were announced by the company’s disciplinary committee. It was found that Hu Jiyong violated Rules of Personal Conduct as well as the Code of Conduct on Integrity by having an extramarital affair with a co-worker and using official travel arrangements for personal purposes. Hu Jiyong has been expelled from the Party, dismissed from public office, and Ms. Dong’s employment contract has also been terminated. (Hashtag “Official Announcement on Results of ‘Holding Hands Gate'” #官方公布牵手门处理结果)

◼︎ 6. Zhihu No Longer Allows Anonymous Function. China’s largest Q&A discussion site, Zhihu, made an announcement this week regarding the removal of the anonymous function from its latest app version. The decision aims to promote “constructive discussions” by disallowing users from posting anonymously, whether it be asking or answering questions. However, for existing content, users still have the option to use their nicknames instead of their real names. Real name authentication (实名制) was already implemented by Zhihu as part of Chinese internet governance back in 2017, but users were still able to post under pseudonyms. While some people support this change, appreciating the transparency it brings and its potential to prevent online bullying, others feel that anonymity is an integral part of the platform’s essence. (Hashtag “Zhihu Announces It Will Take Anonymous Function Offline” #知乎宣布将下线匿名功能#).

◼︎ 7. HK Police Offer Rewards for Arrests of Exiled Dissidents. This week, Hong Kong authorities made an announcement stating that they have offered cash rewards for eight overseas pro-independence activists who have been accused of violating the national security law in the Chinese territory. A bounty of HK$1 million ($127,650) has been offered for information that could lead to the arrests of these individuals. Among the targeted activists are three former lawmakers living in exile and five individuals who have been accused of promoting separatism. (Hashtag: “Hong Kong Police Issue Reward of HKD 1 million Arrest of Ted Hui Chi-Fung and Seven Others” #香港警方悬红100万港元通缉许智峰等8人#).

◼︎ 8. Red Alert Heat Wave. On July 6, Beijing issued a red alert for extremely high temperatures as temperatures in most areas of the city were expected to rise above 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit). It was the second “red level” warning for heat issued this summer. The city government advised outdoor work to be suspended when temperatures run high, and ordered authorities to take emergency measures to prevent heatstroke. Northern China has seen exceptionally high temperatures this summer. Hebei also issued a red warning for most areas in the province, as some parts saw temperatures between 41 and 43 degrees (105.8 and 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit). (Hashtag: Highest Temperature In Some Hebei Area to Reach 43℃. #河北局地最高气温可达43℃#)


What’s Behind the Headlines

Note from the news editor, by Miranda

Image of Coco Lee by Neonqeelin / Wikicommons.

The Collective Shock over Coco Lee’s Death

The sudden tragedy of pop star Coco Lee’s death in the past week has left fans shocked and deeply saddened. The Hong Kong-born singer’s passing occurred after she was discovered in an attempt to take her own life. Many fans found it difficult to believe, as Coco Lee had always exuded energetic inspiration. This news particularly resonated with Chinese millennials, who felt a strong emotional impact. A blogger named LaoChai (老柴) attempted to capture this sentiment and express what Coco represented to them:

The younger generation may struggle to comprehend how special it was for us millennials to experience the turn of the millennium. Regardless of the circumstances within our own small families, everything seemed to be heading towards a bright, open, and prosperous future. People were filled with hope, and it felt as though the joyous ride would never cease. Information was limited, and we relied on DVDs for films and cassette tapes for music. It was a golden era for Chinese music, featuring the best singers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. We were soft, young, and impressionable, eager to explore the world. The melodies and film clips from that era effortlessly evoke our collective memories.”.

Many individuals resonated with this interpretation, especially considering the challenges faced during the COVID-19 era and China’s current economic environment.

Coco’s tragic death also sparked a broad discussion about mental health, as she had previously revealed her own battle with depression. State media and experts joined forces to raise awareness about mental health — an issue that the country had long overlooked and stigmatized.

However, some people suddenly found their Weibo pages flooded with promoted ads appearing as “quizzes to determine if you have depression.” One person remarked, “While it is good to raise awareness, it is important to seek proper help and diagnosis instead of relying on random online quizzes. It seems like everyone is suddenly depressed when sometimes you just have a bad day like the rest of us!”


What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

Image on right side via Up Media.

84-Year-Old Mother Decapitated in Taiwan | A 59-year-old man by the name of Lian from Taiwan was arrested on suspicion of murder in New Taipei’s Xindian District on Tuesday. Local police discovered a horrific scene inside the man’s elderly mother’s apartment. They were alerted by a friend of the victim who discovered Lian covered in blood next to his mother’s lifeless body.

According to media reports, the man is believed to have attacked his mother from behind with a knife while she was eating. After realizing that she was still alive, he grabbed another knife and continued his assault until his mother’s neck was completely severed. The two kitchen knives were found at the scene along with the severed body and head.

The police are currently investigating the case and looking into the motives behind the crime. It is reported that the mother and son had a “good relationship” and often spent time together. The incident has gained significant attention on social media, with a related hashtag (#台湾一男子持刀砍下84岁母亲头颅#) receiving over 160 million clicks.


The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

Jackie Chan’s ‘Memoriam’ Weibo Page | “Somebody once said that aging doesn’t happen all at once; it consists of many small farewells.” While the recent passing of Coco Lee has been a prominent topic on Chinese social media, the loss of such an influential figure has evoked sadness and nostalgia among many.

Amidst these discussions, a Weibo blogger (@马达的加斯加) pointed out an observation about the Weibo activity of Jackie Chan, the renowned Hong Kong actor and martial artist (b. 1954). The blogger noted that Jackie Chan’s recent posts on Weibo have primarily been farewells to friends who have passed away over the past year. He paid tribute to Coco Lee, honored Chinese artist Huang Yongyu, Hong Kong film director Alex Law, actor Kenneth Tsang, and bid farewell to Taiwanese martial artist Jimmy Wang Yu.

“One by one, old friends fade away like leaves in the wind. On Jackie Chan’s Weibo page, I witnessed an autumn scene,” wrote the blogger. The post quickly gained traction, resonating with many users who shared similar sentiments and expressed their mourning for Coco Lee and other iconic figures lost in recent years.


What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

Abe’s portrait via Wikicommons.

Chinese Responses to Abe’s Death | It has been a whole year since the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Nara on July 8, 2022. In this week’s pick from the archive, we reflect on an incident that unfolded in the aftermath of this event. A Chinese reporter based in Japan appeared on air to discuss the attack on Abe but faced severe backlash when she visibly struggled to hold back tears. Her emotional display led to accusations of being unpatriotic, and she even received threats for “crying over a Japanese right-winger who has no respect for the history of the invasion of China.”

Disturbingly, the situation took a further distressing turn when the reporter later attempted to take her own life. Presently, she continues to work in Japan, but even after the passage of one year, she continues to be subjected to cyber-bullying and harassment, due to that tearful moment captured during the live broadcast.

Read more


Weibo Word of the Week, by Zilan

The catchword to know

Background image source via

Staying Pure in Times of Scandal | Our Weibo Word of the Week is 内娱纯元 (nèiyú chúnyuán), “Chunyuan of the Mainland entertainment industry.”

“Chunyuan of the Mainland entertainment industry” refers to idols in Mainland China who are regarded as flawless and worthy of admiration. The term “内娱” (nèiyú) is a shortened form of “内地娱乐圈” (nèidì yúlèquān), which means the Mainland entertainment industry. It encompasses the diverse group of celebrities actively involved in China’s showbiz (sometimes also including Hong Kong or Taiwan artists who are popular in the Mainland). Meanwhile, “纯元” (chúnyuán), meaning ‘pure essence,’ symbolizes individuals seen as unblemished by reality.

In the popular TV drama “Empresses in the Palace” (甄嬛传), Chunyuan refers to the deceased first wife of the emperor, who is frequently mentioned as a paragon of perfection, surpassing all other women in the palace, although she never appears on screen.

In light of the numerous scandals involving idols in mainland China in recent years, including prominent stars like Fan Bingbing (范冰冰), Kris Wu (吴亦凡), and more recently, Cai Xukun (蔡徐坤), discussions have emerged around identifying figures who remain untainted by controversy and are deserving of being cherished as flawless role models.

Some netizens have suggested former EXO members Lu Han (鹿晗) and Zhang Yixing (张艺兴), who were part of the same group as Kris Wu but have managed to maintain a clean reputation. Others nostalgically mention influential celebrities who have passed away and are fondly remembered, like Leslie Cheung (张国荣) or Anita Mui (梅艳芳).


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.

Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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Weibo Watch: Walking on Eggshells

In today’s Chinese social media environment, both foreign brands and local influencers must tread carefully, as even minor missteps can trigger significant consequences.

Manya Koetse




This week’s newsletter:
◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – Walking on eggshells
◼︎ 2. What’s Trending – A closer look at the featured stories
◼︎ 3. What More to Know – Highlighting 8 hot topics
◼︎ 4. What Lies Behind – Dr. Pieke on China’s influence and interference
◼︎ 5. What’s Noteworthy – No consent to marry
◼︎ 6. What’s Popular – ‘Secret Agent Missions’
◼︎ 7. What’s Memorable – Meng Wanzhou back to the Motherland
◼︎ 8. Weibo Word of the Week – “Floracash”


Dear Reader,


Tears and apologies don’t seem to mean much in today’s social media era.

Not too long ago, a well-known Chinese female university professor known as ‘Xiangyi’ (相宜) posted an emotional video addressing an issue that happened some time ago. The professor, who previously became an internet celebrity with millions of followers, vanished from the public eye in 2022 due to criticism for her use of the phrase “our Japan” (“我们日本”) during a livestream when discussing Japanese authors and their works.

Xiangyi said “our Japan” three times and it sparked backlash, as viewers interpreted it as a sign of her loyalty to Japan over China. In her tearful video, she explained that it was merely a figure of speech (“口头语”), akin to saying, “This is our Teacher Zhang,” when introducing someone; “He is one of our Japanese authors.” While her choice of words did reflect her affection for the authors, it wasn’t necessarily an indicator of her greater commitment to Japan over China.

However, the consequences for Xiangyi were severe. She felt compelled to resign from her university position due to ongoing online harassment and “malicious reports.”

Xiangyi’s tearful video failed to garner sympathy from netizens, mirroring the response to ‘Lipstick King’ Li Jiaqi’s recent apology video for controversial comments made during a live stream. Both were dismissed as insincere and too little, too late.

In their recent videos, ‘teacher influencer’ and ‘beauty influencer’ Xiangyi and Li Jiaqi both cried and showed remorse over the controversy triggered by their livestreams.

Another recent social media controversy revolved around a photo on Apple’s Chinese-language webpage. It featured an Asian-looking individual with braided hair, leading some Chinese netizens to claim it insulted China. They believed the hairstyle resembled a queue, worn by male subjects during the Qing dynasty, and that Apple had deliberately and inappropriately used such an image to show Chinese individuals as being backward and unattractive.

It has since become evident that many assumptions about the image were unfounded. Contrary to the initial belief that the photo was exclusive to the Chinese page, the image appeared on Apple’s websites in multiple countries and featured a California-based Native American female employee, not of Chinese descent.

Nevertheless, many internet users and bloggers insisted that brands operating in China should pay more attention to the cultural context they operate in to avoid offending consumers. Although some also acknowledged the controversy was “excessive” or “overly sensitive,” a seeming majority still stood by their initial reaction to the photo.

This Weibo poll shows the image that caused controversy recently, with a majority of respondents suggesting this photo is “inappropriate.”

In recent years, many incidents that unfolded on Chinese social media, either in livestreams, online advertisements, or Weibo posts, have demonstrated that minor missteps can cause social media storms. One wrongly chosen word, image, or outfit can start an almost unstoppable wave of criticism that can end careers, close doors, and terminate accounts.

But what happens once livestreamers, celebrities, and brands have to watch their every single move? How does constant scrutiny affect creativity, humor, and authenticity? When the fear of causing offense becomes a threat to one’s reputation and livelihood, can open discussions still thrive? Are there still any images, advertisements, livestream channels or websites immune to controversy?

This discussion echoes debates seen on Western social media, where so-called ‘wokeness’ has become so divisive that it is harming support for the very issues it aims to be highlighting while ‘cancel culture’ can have detrimental impact on anyone whose opinions stir controversy.

In the Chinese context, social media has become an even greater pressure cooker for brands, influencers, and celebrities. Besides taking into account the legal limits of what they can say or do online, they must also navigate a labyrinth of unwritten rules, including those promoting moral and cultural values, projecting positivity and patriotism, all while delicately considering geopolitical and economic sensitivities.

Lately, some people have speculated that Li Jiaqi’s outburst during his livestream might have been a result of burnout and mental health issues stemming from years of striving to please various stakeholders, including audiences, companies, sponsors, platforms, and the media. It might be one of the most plausible observations about the situation. Regardless of the allure of money and fame, being an online influencer under constant public scrutiny on Chinese social media seems like an utterly exhausting job to have.

Manya (@manyapan)


A closer look at the top stories

1: Cross-Generational Living | Chinese nursing homes are changing their image in the social media age. While Chinese vloggers experiment with living in old people’s homes, and nursing homes are modernizing their facilities, some senior care centers are offering young people the chance to reside in their communities for free – as long as they spend some time with their elderly residents.

Read more

2: Bad Apples? | There is a lot of Apple anger on Chinese social media this week. Two separate trending topics have ignited discussions. One revolves around Chinese actor Liu Jin, who smashed his iPhone 13 Pro Max in front of the Apple flagship store, while another one centers on an image of an Apple employee deemed inappropriate by Chinese netizens. But both viral trends have unfolded with surprisingly ‘juicy’ twists.

Read more

3: The Lipstick King Controversy | Li Jiaqi, also known as Austin Li the ‘Lipstick King,’ has become the focus of intense media attention in China over the two weeks. The controversy began when the popular beauty influencer responded with apparent annoyance to a viewer’s comment about the high price of an eyebrow pencil. As a result, his fans began unfollowing him, netizens started scolding him, Chinese state criticized him, and the memes started flooding in. Why did this case blow up? We explore three reasons.

Read more


What More to Know

Highlighting 8 hot topics

Background photo: Lining up for Apple’s Pro Series in Beijing while the Huawei vs iPhone rivalry is flaring up. Image via Sina News.

◼︎ 1. Panic over Prefab Meals. As the new school season has started, the word “yùzhìcài” (预制菜), ‘pre-fabricated meal,’ is all over Chinese social media this week. This is partly because of angry parents discovering that their children’s school cafeterias have transitioned from freshly prepared meals to ready-made ones. This is part of a broader trend in China that has risen over recent years, but there is significant resistance to this change due to concerns over the meals lacking nutrition, containing too many additives, and not being safe enough. The Chinese Ministry of Education has responded to the controversy by stating that they do not encourage the widespread adoption of pre-made meals in schools; there is currently no nationally established unified standard for ready-made meals, and the top priority should be the “nutrition and healthy development of children.” (Various hashtags on Weibo, such as “CNR Discusses How Ready-Made Meals Are entering the Campus” #央广网评预制菜进校园#, 110 million views).

◼︎ 2. PhD Student Suicide. The death of a PhD student at Northwestern Polytechnical University (西北工业大学) in Xi’an became a major topic on Chinese social media this week. The male student, who majored in material science, faced challenges in both his studies and mental well-being. In the period before he jumped to his death, the man had exhibited unusual behavior and voiced concerns about others accessing his phone and computer. His death sparked conversations about the pressures faced by PhD students in China, particularly in STEM fields, and the concerning rate of depression among them. (Hashtag “31-Year-Old PhD Student Dies after Jumping Off Dorm Building” #31岁博士生宿舍楼坠楼身亡#, 160 million views).

◼︎ 3. Body Parts Found in Shijiazhuang. In a residential community in the Qiaoxi District of Shijiazhuang, neighbors were shocked when human body parts were found scattered around a residential building. Initially, fears of a homicide case spread across Chinese social media. However, the official investigation into the incident has since determined that it was not a homicide but a possible suicide. The victim has been identified as a 28-year-old woman who collided with a second-floor balcony during her fall from the building, resulting in the separation of her limbs. Foul play has now been ruled out. (Hashtag “Shijiazhuang Neighborhood: Remains of Human Body Suspected to Be Female” #石家庄某小区尸体残肢疑为女性#, 100 million views).

◼︎ 4. Uniqlo Incident. An incident that happened at a Uniqlo store in Xining on September 18 became a big topic of discussion. A female customer who was suspected of not paying for her purchases was physically restrained by two staff members who grabbed her by the neck and dragged her to the checkout counter. The incident quickly gained the attention of netizens after an eye-witness shared a video of the female customer breaking down in tears at the store. It later turned out that the customer had actually paid for all of her items, and the store staff was condemned for their violent behavior. The Uniqlo store in question was temporarily closed in light of the incident. (Hashtag: Female Customer Grabbed by Uniqlo Staff, Dragged Back to Checkout Counter” #女顾客被优衣库工作人员掐脖子拖回收银台#, 220 million views).

◼︎ 5. Bao’an Dies after Working in Hot Room The recent death of a 48-year-old security guard (commonly called ‘bao’an‘ 保安 in Chinese) has stirred significant online discussions after details surrounding the man’s death were exposed by his relatives. The man. Mr. Zhao, died a sudden death in his dormitory at night after another day working in the very hot security room where he spent most of his days. His wife later claimed the man worked 12-hour long shifts and had not had a day off for 190 days straight. On average, he worked 360 hours per month at the company, where he had worked for 14 years. His workplace, a cramped 10-square-meter room, was exposed to direct sunlight. During July and August, when the indoor temperature at his workplace exceeded 40°C (104°F), the man’s employer provided nothing but an electric fan to cool the security room. The family believes that the company seriously violated national laws, neglected the lives of its employees, and eventually led to Mr. Zhao’s “death by overwork” while being exposed to extreme temperatures. (Hashtag: “Bao’an Who Died in Hot Dorm Previously Complained about Heat in Room on Wechat Moments Four Times” #保安宿舍猝死曾4次发朋友圈称执勤室好热#, 260 million views).

◼︎ 6. iPhone 15 versus Huawei Mate 60. The rivalry between Apple and Huawei has been a trending topic lately, especially with Apple’s recent launch of the iPhone 15 shortly after Huawei introduced its latest flagship, the Mate 60 Pro 5G. While it’s evident which smartphone brand holds more favor in terms of nationalistic sentiments, criticism of Apple and its iPhone often appears to be more about words than actions. Thousands of Chinese consumers lined up for the latest iPhone model’s launch on Friday morning, and online sales saw a significant surge. (Hashtag “Do You Want the iPhone 15 or Huawei Mate 60?” #你要iphone15还是华为mate60#, 140 million views; “iPhone 15” #iphone15#, 710 million views).

◼︎ 7. Chinese Tourists: No Visa Needed for Thailand As of September 25, Chinese nationals can enter Thailand without a visa for a temporary stay of up to thirty days. This visa exemption, which will be in effect until February 29, was initiated by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin as a measure to boost local tourism. It is expected to attract an additional 5 million tourists to Thailand. Many netizens on Weibo expressed their excitement and welcomed this news. Earlier this year, Thailand gained popularity for its warm reception of Chinese tourists in the post-pandemic travel era. Thai authorities not only waived the requirement for Covid tests or vaccination proof but also went the extra mile by having Cabinet ministers personally greet Chinese tourists at Bangkok’s airport with flowers and gifts. (Hashtag: “Thailand Implements 5-Month Visa-Free Policy for China” #泰国对中国实施5个月免签政策#, 110 million clicks).

◼︎ 8. Putin is Coming to China. Over the past two weeks, while social and societal topics have taken the spotlight on Weibo and Douyin trending lists, there have also been trending discussions related to geopolitical affairs, with a particular focus on Vladimir Putin. Firstly, this was due to Putin’s significant meeting with Kim Jong-un. Secondly, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, had a meeting with the Russian president in St. Petersburg this week. During their discussions, Putin confirmed his upcoming visit to Beijing in October for the Belt and Road Summit. This topic garnered significant attention, making headlines in multiple news outlets and ranking high in top trends on Baidu News. (Hashtags “Putin Meets Wang Yi #普京会见王毅#, 64 million views; “China Responds to Putin’s October Beijing Visit” #中方回应普京10月将访华#, 300k views).


What Lies Behind

Observations beyond the headlines

Dr. Pieke on China’s Influence and Interference

From suspicious balloons to new counter-espionage laws, there has been extensive discourse surrounding possible foreign interference in China over the past year. However, discussions about Chinese influence in foreign countries are equally lively, if not more intense.

Earlier this week, Amsterdam’s De Balie discussion center hosted an event dedicated to Chinese influence in Europe, with a particular focus on the Netherlands. At the core of this discussion was Professor Frank Pieke’s research (formerly of the University of Oxford and MERICS Berlin, now at Leiden University) on the influence and interference of the People’s Republic of China among the Chinese population in the Netherlands. This research was conducted on behalf of the Ministries of Justice and Security, Foreign Affairs, and Defense.

During the event, Pieke offered valuable insights and urged the audience to approach discussions about China’s political influence on other countries with greater nuance. Pieke argued that, both in the Dutch context and elsewhere, reactions to China are increasingly based on stereotypes or preconceived notions rather than the actual situation. Over the years, political institutions in the West and journalism have become more biased toward China, a trend that Pieke finds concerning.

This bias and preconception have a twofold impact. Firstly, it hampers relations with China, which are mutually beneficial in many ways. Secondly, it blinds us to the real concerns that Europe and other Western countries should have.

Pieke pointed out, “Nowadays, there is a tendency in ongoing debates to lump together all forms of contact with China and categorize it as ‘Chinese interference,’ whether it’s a friendly conversation over a cup of coffee, a briefing by the Chinese embassy, espionage activities by Chinese companies, or the way the Chinese government tries to influence people. This is something I continually caution against.”

Pieke emphasized the need to encourage extensive contact with China, as there are numerous forms of Sino-Dutch and Sino-foreign relations that are not only harmless but also desirable and fruitful. However, Pieke cautioned that certain trends and developments have the potential to be harmful, and Dutch authorities should pay special attention to these.

As long as we maintain bias and categorize all forms of contact with China together, the process of addressing these specific issues becomes nearly impossible. This simplistic portrayal of everything related to China or the Party as bad, evil, or unwanted hinders constructive dialogue and effective policy-making.

Meanwhile, Pieke found that while the Communist Party does indeed exert influence over Chinese organizations and media abroad, this influence is used sparingly in practice. In essence, there is relatively little direct interference; they have the potential for it but do not extensively employ it in Dutch society.

A significant finding from Pieke’s research is that Chinese individuals living in Holland either do not perceive this influence or hold limited opinions about it. What can be observed though, is that Chinese in the Netherlands adjust their behavior based on what they believe may be viewed as ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’ by both the Chinese government and other Chinese individuals in their overseas communities. Pieke labels this as a form of “soft power” or “soft threat,” distinct from self-censorship. The primary control of this ‘influence’ predominantly rests with overseas Chinese themselves.


What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

No Consent Given | A man from Gongyi, Zhengzhou, Henan, recently became a trending topic on Chinese social media due to the denial of his marriage license application with his girlfriend, who is deaf and mute. According to Chinese media reports, both sets of parents had consented to the marriage, and the couple had already taken their wedding photos. However, the local Bureau of Civil Affairs rejected their application, citing the requirement for both parties to independently declare their intention to marry. The woman, who had never attended a school for the Deaf, lacked the ability to use sign language, write, or communicate effectively. The Bureau advised the couple to return once she had completed her education and could express her desire to marry.

As news of this incident circulated on Chinese social media, many people praised the “responsible decision” of the local Bureau of Civil Affairs. Last year, one human trafficking case gained national prominence after a TikTok vlogger exposed the horrific living conditions of a woman in Xuzhou who appeared to be unable to communicate. She was married with eight children and kept in a shed next to the house, tied to a chain. It later turned out that local officials made errors in properly checking and verifying when approving the marriage certificate. Read more about the Xuzhou woman case here.


The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

Secret Agent Missions | While espionage and foreign influence is a popular topic in Chinese media and foreign policy, they are also recurring themes in popular culture. Throughout the years, China has produced numerous TV series centered around espionage. The latest Chinese sensation in this genre is Spy Game (特工任务), which delves into the challenging work of Chinese national security in countering foreign spy activities and safeguarding the nation’s security.

One of the main characters in the series is Huang Zicheng (黄子诚), portrayed by Chinese actor Wei Daxun (魏大勋). Huang inadvertently becomes entangled in spy-related affairs and ultimately becomes an informant for the National Security Bureau. However, as he operates within a web of conspiracies and foreign influence, he struggles to see who he can trust or what is real.

With millions of viewers tuning in to this hit series since its premiere on September 20, the hashtag #Huang Zicheng Admits Involvement in Spy Activities” (#黄子诚涉及间谍行为提出自首#) went trending on Chinese social media this week, attracting a staggering 430 million views.

If you’d like to tune into this series, it’s available on iQiyi and also on YouTube with English subtitles. You can start with the first episode here. (They just released the fifth episode last night).


What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

Huawei’s Daughter | In this time of Apple-Huawei rivalry, it is clear that the ongoing tech giant competition in China is about much more than smartphones alone and has come to symbolize geopolitical rivalry, encompassing themes of nationalism, anti-Western sentiments, and a growing sense of pride in products made in China. In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that Huawei decided to let its launch ceremony coincide with the second anniversary of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s return to China from house arrest in Canada back in 2023 (September 25).

In this throwback from our archives, you can read more about Meng Wanzhou’s (孟晚舟) homecoming to China. It had been almost three years since the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Huawei and the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei was initially detained in Canada during a layover at Vancouver airport at the request of U.S. officials. In 2019, we reported on how the Meng Wanzhou case sparked anti-American and pro-Huawei sentiments on Weibo (link). By linking its highly-anticipated launch ceremony to Meng’s return, Huawei is further emphasizing its role as a major player in the geopolitical rivalry landscape.

Read more


Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

“Huaxi Coins” | Our Weibo Word of the Week is “花西币” (Huāxī bì), which translates to “Huaxi coins” or “Floracash.”

By now, you’re probably aware of all the controversy surrounding China’s most famous beauty influencer Li Jiaqi that followed a livestream he did to promote the Chinese make-up brand Florasis, which is known as Huāxīzǐ (花西子) in China.

After some viewers questioned whether a single eyebrow pencil costing 79 yuan ($11) was too expensive, Li lashed out and suggested viewers should instead ask themselves if they worked hard enough to deserve a raise.

The incident sparked a series of memes and discussions, and among them the question of what one can buy with 79 yuan in China today was a big one. While some suggested they could feed an entire family for one day with that money, others said that it would buy their office lunches for a week.

This humorous situation gave rise to the term ‘Huaxi Coins’ or ‘Floracash,’ with netizens playfully using the eyebrow pencil’s price as a new currency unit, where one Huaxi Coin equals 79 yuan. People have even started jokingly expressing their earnings in Huaxi Coins, and some proudly mention the cost of snacks or meals, saying things like ‘it only cost me a quarter in Floracash for three’ or ‘tonight’s dinner was just half a Huaxi Coin!'”

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.

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Weibo Watch: The “Subway Judge”

From Subway Judge to Diving Grandpas, these were the main topics that mattered on Chinese social media recently.





This week’s newsletter:
◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – The Subway Judge
◼︎ 2. What’s Trending – A closer look at the featured stories
◼︎ 3. What More to Know – Highlighting 8 hot topics
◼︎ 4. What Lies Behind – Beyond Huawei’s latest release
◼︎ 5. What’s Noteworthy – Digging through the Great Wall
◼︎ 6. What’s Popular – Oppenheimer, censored
◼︎ 7. What’s Memorable – Kimono problems
◼︎ 8. Weibo Word of the Week – “Anti-Radiation”

Featured header contains a meme that has spread online, posted by account @肉肉杀手zz


Dear Reader,


A new character was added to China’s memeverse this week. He is called the ‘Subway Judge’ (Dìtiě Pànguān, 地铁判官), a young man who gained notoriety for an incident that occurred on a Qingdao subway this week.

In a video of the incident that went completely viral on Chinese social media, an elderly man and a woman got into an argument with another female passenger over seating arrangements. The woman was accused of taking up two seats, which infuriated the man, prompting him to shout, “So I can take ten seats if I want!”

In this moment, the young man, wearing a Vans t-shirt, approached the scene upon hearing the commotion and he seemingly intervened in the name of justice: he looked at the elderly man in disbelief upon hearing him yell about taking ten seats. Without hesitation, he slapped the elderly man on the cheek and then walked away, leaving everyone bewildered.

The Subway Judge meme: within that brief moment, he transitioned from confusion, assessing the situation, to decisively making up his mind, and taking action when seeing ‘injustice.’

It is this moment, just a mere few seconds, that made the young man instantly famous, and he was hailed as a hero for daring to step up when witnessing injustice, for confronting an elderly, for daring to handing out a slap when people are behaving uncivilized in public spaces -especially on public transport. The incident sparked a series of memes, and the T-shirt worn by the young man soon sold out on Taobao.

In some memes, the ‘Subway Judge’ was depicted with a crescent moon on his forehead, like Bao Zheng (包拯), a Chinese historical figure who is known as one of China’s most celebrated upright and just officials who even dared to contradict the emperor.

The praise for the “Subway Judge” mirrors the exasperation and powerlessness many feel in the face of uncivilized conduct in public places. It’s precisely because his actions are so unusual – who among the younger generation would dare to deliver a slap to an elderly individual’s face?! – that they resonate with younger people, who find it refreshing to witness such a bold and unconventional response.

One account pretending to be the “Subway Judge” wrote down the basics of his character: “First! Never act on impulse. Second! Never let any wrongdoing slip through. Third! Ensure the absolute fairness of judgment. The Subway Righteous Judge (地铁正义判官) is here to make a righteous appearance!” Some vloggers have even gone out in public pretending to be the ‘Subway Judge.’

Various Subway Judge memes.

As usually happens when small incidents go viral so fast, the real circumstances behind the meme are overlooked. The elderly man had not meant his words to be taken so literally; the younger man had misunderstood the situation; and physical violence should not be praised. The incident’s aftermath involved the elderly man filing a police report. Local authorities have stated that the man who slapped him has mental health issues, and that both parties have now reached an agreement, resolving the issue.

Meanwhile, the legacy of the Subway Judge lives on in China’s online meme culture.

Isn’t it ironic that in this time when people are desperately searching for common sense, boldness, and a fresh perspective, the individual hailed as a hero turns out to be struggling with ‘mental illness’? Perhaps it’s indicative of the times we live in, prompting us to question who the ‘sick’ ones actually are. Maybe we all need a slap of reality.

Miranda Barnes and Ruixin Zhang have contributed to this week’s newsletter.

Manya (@manyapan)

PS In case you missed it, some of the viral videos I tweeted about this week:

➡️ The viral moment in the Qingdao subway.

➡️ It seems that Jay Chou’s concerts in Tianjin were quite spectacular. The Tianjin Olympic Center, with a capacity of 54,696 seats, provided an impressive venue. According to a previous report by GT, a whopping 5.2 million people had expressed their interest in attending one of Jay’s four Tianjin concerts, with the final one happening today. Remarkably, around 130,000 tickets were sold within just 30 seconds after becoming available for purchase.

➡️ Amid discussions over draft law banning clothes harmful to the “spirit, feelings of the Chinese nation,” this incident sparked discussions: Chinese wearing Tang clothes were denied entry at Panlongcheng Park, Wuhan, after local guard mistook their clothes for Japanese attire. Watch video here.

➡️ Shinjuku restaurant puts up a sign saying all their food comes from Fukushima. This Chinese vlogger feels wronged and calls the police. Video with subtitles.

➡️ And some viral pictures showed that not everyone is appreciating the latest collaboration hype between Luckin coffee and Maotai liquor.


A closer look at the top stories

1: From Baijiu Latte to DIY Liquor Coffee | Would you like a shot with that? China’s coffee culture is brewing up something new as it embraces the fusion of coffee and alcohol. This blossoming trend, such a hot topic online this week thanks to the hyped Luckin x Maotai collaboration, is sparking curiosity and discussions about its lasting impact on coffee culture in China.

Read more

2: A Different Eco-anxiety Discourse | This year, as China faced extreme heat and severe floods, various English-language media outlets noticed a lack of public discourse on climate change in China. Unlike the West, where discussions on extreme weather link to human-caused climate change, China doesn’t often connect global warming to its carbon emissions or manufacturing practices. Instead, concerns about ecological challenges and the future are directed toward different topics. In our recent article, we explore how climate change, global warming, and environmental activism may not be as prominent in daily life and online media in China as in the West, but certain ecological topics, often promoted by state media and amplified by the public, gain all the more attention.

3: Cultural Sensitivities vs. Personal Freedom: | China’s recent proposal to ban clothing that “hurts national feelings” has triggered social media debates about freedom of dress and cultural sensitivities. The controversial amendment has raised questions about who decides what’s offensive for which reason. While some argue for the significance of protecting national pride, others emphasize the value of personal expression. Amid these discussions, an incident sparked discussions: Chinese wearing Tang clothes were denied entry at Panlongcheng Park, Wuhan, after local guard mistook their clothes for Japanese attire (see video).

Read more


What More to Know

Highlighting 8 hot topics

Tianjin’s diving grandpas had to stop their diving activities after rising to internet fame, causing too many people to dive into the river.

◼︎ 1. G20 without Xi. While the BRICS Summit was one of the hot topics mentioned in our previous Weibo Watch newsletter, the G20 (二十国集团) in India is the big international event that is receiving the most attention this week. The most noteworthy issue about it is that Xi Jinping is not attending the summit, held between 9–10 September, even though he has never missed a G20 summit before. Instead, Premier of the State Council Li Qiang (李强) is attending the meetings, and he called for solidarity and cooperation, and a strengthened coordination of macroeconomic policies on Saturday. (Hashtag “G20 summit” #g20峰会#, 310 million views).

◼︎ 2. Morocco Earthquake. The major earthquake in Morocco has been dominating headlines all over the world, and is also a big topic on Weibo. At least 2,012 people have been killed and 2,059 injured in Friday’s devastating earthquake. Xi Jinping extended China’s condolences to the King of Morocco. After the devastating earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria in February of this year, various rescue groups from all over China came to assist in the quake-hit areas. (Weibo hashtag: “Morocco 6.9-Magnitude Earthquake” #摩洛哥6.9级地震#, 120 million views.)

◼︎ 3. Extreme Rain & Floods. Over the past week, Hong Kong and Shenzhen experienced the most severe rainfall on record, causing traffic problems, school and office closures, and ongoing flood concerns. This heavy rain was a result of the lingering impact of Typhoon Haikui, which had struck Taiwan, Fujian, and Guangdong earlier in the week. With a red alert (the highest warning level) in place on Friday, local authorities urged residents to stay home and reach out to official channels for assistance if needed. (Weibo hashtags “Shenzhen Rainstorms” #深圳暴雨#, 2 billion views; “Hong Kong Torrential Rains” #香港暴雨#, 280 million views).

◼︎ 4. Girl Hospitalized with Skull Fracture Following Teacher’s Attack. A disturbing incident has captured the attention of Chinese social media this week as a 9-year-old girl in Changsha city was admitted to the hospital after being assaulted by her teacher. The incident transpired during an after-school activity when the 40-year-old teacher reportedly used a glass ruler to strike the student in an attempt to ‘maintain order.’ The girl, who sustained a fractured skull, has regained consciousness following surgery. The teacher has been detained pending an investigation into the incident. (Hashtag “Teacher under Public Security Investigation for Fracturing Student’s Skull #公安介入调查老师打碎学生头骨#, 130 million views; Female Student Whose Skull was Fractured by Teacher has Awaken #被老师打破头骨女生已清醒#, 180 million views).

◼︎ 5. Tianjin’s Diving Grandpas Tell People To Stop Diving. Recently, Tianjin’s “diving grandpas” have gained significant attention for their daring dives into the river from the Stone Lion Forest Bridge (狮子林桥), becoming an internet sensation. The elderly men, who have ample experience, have now called on the public to stop coming to Tianjin to imitate their actions, as it is leading to social media influencers flocking to the bridge to dive, causing dangerous situations. While the city authorities are now investigating the safety of the site, the grandpas also have stopped their diving activities after thirty years. It’s the downside of internet fame! (Hashtag: “Tianjin ‘Uncles’ Announce Withdrawal from Lion Forest Bridge Diving” #天津大爷们宣布退出狮子林桥跳水#, 180 million views)

◼︎ 6. CNKI Fined. China’s Cyberspace Administration has taken legal action against the private-owned publishing company CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) for unlawfully collecting personal data. CNKI allegedly collected personal information without obtaining consent, failed to provide clear disclosure of its data collection policies, and neglected to delete user personal data upon account cancellation. As a result, CNKI has been instructed to halt its illegal handling of personal information and has been fined 50 million RMB (approximately $6 million USD). (Weibo hasthag #知网被罚款5000万元#, 160 million views)

◼︎ 7. Weibo Bans Crypto Influencers. This week, China’s tightening grip on cryptocurrency activities became more evident as Weibo removed the accounts of 80 cryptocurrency influencers, each with over 8 million followers, as reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP). This move follows a broader crackdown initiated in August 2022 when the Cyberspace Administration of China removed thousands of crypto-related accounts and posts promoting virtual assets. Weibo had previously banned prominent figures like Binance co-founder Yi He and cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun as part of the government’s efforts to regulate the virtual asset industry, which began in 2019. In September 2021, ten Chinese government agencies collectively declared numerous cryptocurrency-related activities as illegal financial practices. (Read the SCMP report here).

◼︎ 8. Controversial “Drink Milk” Plan for Students. A school in Suiping County, Henan, sparked controversy recently when a teacher required parents to provide medical documentation proving their child’s inability to consume milk if they chose not to subscribe to the school’s milk program. China introduced the National School Milk Programme (学生饮用奶计划) in 2000 to encourage dairy consumption for students’ healthy growth, but participation is meant to be voluntary. This incident brought attention to the issue of “hidden costs” within China’s education system and the pressure placed on parents to cover various expenses, some of which may involve commissions for the school. The school later clarified that the requirement regarding the milk was an individual initiative by one of their teachers, and that appropriate action had been taken, including reprimanding the teacher for their actions. (Weibo hashtag “Students Who Don’t Subscribe to Milk Need Proof of Hospital Diagnosis” #学生不订奶要开县级医院以上诊断证明#, 160 million views).


What’s Behind the Headlines

Observations by Miranda

Beyond Huawei’s Mate60 Release

The early release of the latest Huawei smartphone Mate60 Pro on August 28th sparked a wide range of online discussions this week. As the phone is believed to be armed with homegrown cutting-edge technology, Chinese tech bloggers rushed to get their hands on the Mate60 Pro to present their followers with their detailed analysis of the piece. Some videos on this topic garnered over 100 million views within a single day.

While many Chinese consumers are excited about the technological aspects, Huawei’s actions are also scrutinized in the context of China-US geopolitical tensions. The surprising release without a traditional press conference coincided with the visit of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to China. The Mate60 Pro, equipped with the Kirin 9000s chip, a domestic 7 nanometer (nm) innovation, is seen by some as a response to US tech sanctions. People analyzed details to ascertain if the timing was intentional. Some noted that Chinese Premier Li Qiang had visited several tech firms in Shenzhen, including Huawei, just a week before Raimondo’s scheduled visit. Others observed that a Weibo post from an account widely believed to represent China’s state media (央视新闻) featured a watermark of the Huawei Mate60 Pro on the same day as Raimondo’s press conference in Shanghai, which was the day after the new phone’s launch. Many view this as a display of China’s confidence in its tech capabilities despite US sanctions, and they humorously portrayed Raimondo as the best ambassador for the Huawei Mate60 Pro through memes.

Simultaneously, some expressed frustration that the West appeared relatively quiet as China is making strides in chip development. They were eager to see how the West would react. However, after the initial week, some Western reactions did come to the forefront. During the same week, news emerged that China was prohibiting certain civil service and government officials from using iPhones. The hashtag “Will you switch from iPhone to Huawei this year?” (“今年你会从iPhone转华为吗”) ranked second on the hot search lists and received nearly 180 million views. People appear to be rooting for more than just the latest Huawei smartphone; it’s become a symbol of technological independence.


What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

Digging through Historical Heritage | Two construction workers from Inner Mongolia were working at a construction site near the Great Wall when they decided to use their excavator to dig through the Ming Wall in order to create a 5-meter wide shortcut and save some time on their construction work. In doing so, they caused irreversible damage to the cultural heritage site. Commenters on Weibo suggest the two construction workers deserve an “ancient punishment” for ruining such ancient heritage.

Read more


The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

My Censorship is Better than Yours | Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster has finally hit the screens in China, five weeks after it was first released in the United States and several other countries. While the movie was a hot topic online, Chinese cinemagoers noticed that a nude Florence Pugh, who plays Jean Tatlock, is wearing a computer-generated black dress in China’s version of Oppenheimer. Instead of criticizing the censorship, many people praised the little black dress, suggesting China’s editing is better than India’s.

Read more


What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

Fashion Police This week, there has been significant discussion surrounding a proposed amendment to China’s Public Security Law, which includes provisions for banning clothing deemed “harmful” to “the spirit and sentiments of the Chinese nation.” This controversial topic (read) has ignited debates about the implications of having actual ‘fashion police’ in China, raising questions about what attire would be permissible and what would not.

This situation harks back to a noteworthy incident from last summer when a young Chinese female cosplayer, dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking photos in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area, was detained by local police for allegedly ‘provoking trouble.’ While some argued that wearing Japanese clothing near a sensitive date like August 15 (Victory over Japan) might not be appropriate, many voices defended the woman’s right to wear whatever she chose, including a Japanese summer yukata.

Read more


Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

“Anti Radiation” | Our Weibo Word of the Week is “防辐射” (fáng fúshè), which translates to “protect against radiation” or “anti-radiation.”

Since Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima power plant into the ocean, various related discussions have surged across Chinese social media platforms. Concerned netizens are actively seeking ways to safeguard themselves against potential radiation risks. Some are sharing advice on foods believed to offer protection against radiation exposure.

The term “anti-radiation” has gained significant popularity on the Baidu search engine, experiencing a 3083% surge in searches compared to the previous month.

Simultaneously, certain businesses have attempted to profit from these radiation concerns. One Japanese-style restaurant in Shanghai’s Hongqiao area recently stirred controversy by offering an “anti-radiation” set meal (“防辐射”套餐). This meal, initially introduced on the online platform Dianping, featured ingredients like tomatoes, edamame, tofu, and spinach. Read more about this in our article here.

Read more

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.


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