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Why Zhao Wei? Vicky Zhao’s Name Removed from China’s Online Channels

Recent developments involving Chinese top actress Vicky Zhao (Zhao Wei) are part of a bigger crackdown on China’s entertainment industry.

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Another earthquake in China’s entertainment circles! This time, the name and works of one of the country’s most notable actresses, Zhao Wei (赵薇, aka Vicky Zhao) are removed from Chinese online channels.

“Sorry, no related videos found.” Searching for Zhao Wei’s name (赵薇/Vicky Zhao) on Chinese video platforms Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku comes up with zero results as of August 26 of 2021.

Zhao Wei’s sudden disappearance from the top websites to watch Chinese TV dramas has sent shockwaves over social media, where Zhao is among the top Chinese celebrities. On Weibo alone, the actress has over 85.6 million followers.

No more Vicky Zhao on Youku.

Zhao Wei (1976) is a Chinese film star, singer, entrepreneur, and director. Together with actresses Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Zhou Xun (周迅) and Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾), she belongs to China’s ‘Four Dan Actresses’ (四大花旦, the four greatest actresses of mainland China) from the early 2000s.

She starred in the highly successful Chinese costume television show My Fair Princess (还珠格格) which first aired in 1998, after which she went on to star in many TV series and big films, including Painted Skin (2008) and Lost in Hong Kong (2015).

Besides being a known ambassador for good causes, Zhao is also known for her work as a brand ambassador for various international companies, which has added to her wealth. She was named the world’s wealthiest working actress by Forbes in 2015. Zhao is married to the Chinese businessman Huang Youlong (黄有龙), with whom she has a daughter. The couple made it to a list of the world’s wealthiest young billionaires in 2016.

This week, Zhao’s name was deleted from the cast lists of various films and dramas she starred in or directed. A super-topic (fan group) dedicated to her was removed from Weibo, and now various productions involving Zhao have seemingly been removed altogether.

Zhao Wei is no longer listed as a member of the cast.

Zhao Wei reportedly also withdrew as a shareholder from several companies she was involved in.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Zhao Wei Withdraws from Companies” (#赵薇接连退出多家公司#) received over 240 million views on Friday. Another related topic, namely “Zhao Wei’s Super Topic Shut Down” (#赵薇超话被封#) received over 970 million views. Many people want to know why the actress has become the target of official scrutiny.

Chinese state media platform Global Times also wrote about how Zhao Wei’s name and works were removed from several video platforms. These online companies reportedly confirmed the removal of Zhao’s works, saying they received the request at a short notice and without a clear reason.

Among the potential reasons mentioned for Zhao’s name being censored is that it is somehow linked to the scandal involving the fallen Hangzhou Party chief Zhou Jiangyong (周江勇), who is currently being investigated by China’s top anti-graft agency. Zhao and Zhou share a social circle, including Jack Ma, an ally of Zhou and a friend of Zhao and her husband, who are major shareholders of Alibaba Pictures.

Another issue mentioned is that of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚) who recently came under fire for attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and taking pictures at Yasukuni, a shrine that is seen as representing Japanese militarism and aggression. Zhang – who is now basically banned from China’s entertainment industry – was signed under Zhao Wei’s company. Zhao herself also got caught up in history-related controversy as early as 2001, when she posed for a photo shoot wearing a dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag.

Throughout the years, Zhao has been caught up in various controversies. Back in 2016, it was rumored that the actress had financially backed Hillary Clinton when she was still running for president of the United States.

Vicky Zhao and Hilary Clinton.

But the actual reasons why Zhao is being banned from China’s online channels are still unclear. As of Friday night, Beijing time, Zhao’s Weibo page was still up. Her last social media post is from August 15, when the actress commemorated the 76th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Meanwhile, some of Zhao’s celebrity friends, including Huang Xiaoming and Yang Zi, have deleted photos they took together with Zhao Wei from their social media channels.

The developments involving Zhao come at a time when various Chinese celebrities are under scrutiny. What’s on Weibo recently reported the scandal involving Kris Wu and the calls for ‘raising the bar’ for celebrities in China. Online fan clubs (or fan circles 饭圈) have also become a target of online censors, with thousands of posts and accounts removed from Chinese social media earlier in August of 2021.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽), whose ‘surrogacy scandal’ caused a social media storm in January of this year, also became a trending topic once again. On Friday, authorities stated that she would be fined 299 million yuan ($46.1 million) for tax evasion and undeclared income between 2019 and 2020. The actress published a public apology in which she stated she would pay for all taxes and fines.

Meanwhile, many people are glued to their social media screens. Around seven o’clock at Friday night, Beijing time, the Weibo topic “What’s up with Zhao Wei?” (#赵薇怎么了#) had already been viewed over a billion times.

Some commenters think that Zhao Wei is simply caught up in this storm because she was involved in so many controversies throughout the years and that the recent crackdown on China’s celebrity and fan circles is just the right timing for authorities to take finally take measures.

“This goes beyond being canceled,” others wrote: “There is something bigger going on, we will just have to wait for an announcement to come out.”

Read more: 25 ‘Tainted Celebrities’: What Happens When Chinese Entertainers Get Canceled?

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

King of Workout Livestream: Liu Genghong Has Become an Online Hit During Shanghai Lockdown

Liu Genghong (Will Liu) is leading his best lockdown life.

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With their exercise livestreams, Liu and his wife are bringing some positive vibes to Shanghai and the rest of China in Covid times, getting thousands of social media users to jump along with them.

On Friday, April 22, the hashtag “Why Has Liu Genghong Become An Online Hit” (#为什么刘畊宏突然爆火#) was top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Liu Genghong (刘畊宏, 1972), who is also known as Will Liu, is a Taiwanese singer and actor who is known for playing in dramas (Pandamen 熊貓人), films (True Legend 苏乞儿), and releasing various music albums (Rainbow Heaven 彩虹天堂). He is a devout Christian.

Besides all of his work in the entertainment business, Liu is also a fitness expert. In 2013, Liu participated in the CCTV2 weight loss programme Super Diet King (超级减肥王, aka The Biggest Loser) as a motivational coach, and later also became a fitness instructor for the Jiangsu TV show Changing My Life (减出我人生), in which he also helped overweight people to become fit. After that, more fitness programs followed, including the 2017 Challenge the Limit (全能极限王) show.

During the Covid outbreak in Shanghai, the 50-year-old Liu Genghong has unexpectedly become an online hit for livestreaming fitness routines from his home. Together with his wife Vivi Wang, he streams exercise and dance videos five days of the week via the Xiaohongshu app and Douyin.

In his livestreams, Liu and his wife appear energetic, friendly, happy and super fit. They exercise and dance to up-beat songs while explaining and showing their moves, often encouraging those participating from their own living rooms (“Yeah, very good, you’re doing well!”). Some of their livestreams attract up to 400,000 viewers tuning in at the same time.

The couple, both in lockdown at their Shanghai home, try to motivate other Shanghai residents and social media users to stay fit. Sometimes, Liu’s 66-year-old mother in law also exercises with them, along with the children.

“I’ve been exercising watching Liu and his wife for half an hour, they’re so energetic and familiar, they’ve already become my only family in Shanghai,” one Weibo user says.

“I never expected Liu Genghong to be a ‘winner’ during this Covid epidemic in Shanghai,” another person writes.

Along with Liu’s online success, there’s also a renewed interest in the Jay Chou song Herbalist’s Manual (本草纲目), which is used as a workout tune, combined with a specific dance routine. Liu is also a good friend and fitness pal to Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

This week, various Chinese news outlets such as Fengmian News and The Paper have reported on Liu’s sudden lockdown success. Livestreaming workout classes in general have become more popular in China since the start of Covid-19, but there reportedly has been no channel as popular as that of Liu Genghong.

The channel’s success is partly because of Liu’s fame and contagious enthusiasm, but it is also because of Vivi Wang, whose comical expressions during the workouts have also become an online hit.

While many netizens are sharing their own videos of exercizing to Liu’s videos, there are also some who warn others not to strain themselves too quickly.

“I’ve been inside for over 40 days with no exercise” one person writes: “I did one of the workouts yesterday and my heart nearly exploded.” “I feel fine just watching,” others say: “I just can’t keep up.”

Watch one of Liu’s routines via Youtube here, or here, or here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Music

Weibo is Watching the DJs & Sports Presentation Team at the Winter Olympics Venues

Chinese netizens are not just closely following the athletes, they are also paying more attention to the “atmosphere enliveners” at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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Chinese netizens are not just closely watching the athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympics – the DJs who are performing at the various venues and their noteworthy song selections have also become a popular topic on social media.

On Feb 8th, the US-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu (谷爱凌, Gu Aling) became the youngest ever gold medalist in freestyle skiing, winning the big air event for China. The American-born Gu has become a superstar in China, and everything related to her is going viral these days, including the songs that were playing when Gu had won gold.

The hashtag “When Gu Ailing Won the Gold, Jay Chou’s Song Huo Yuan Jia is Played” (#谷爱凌夺冠现场放周杰伦的霍元甲#) has received more than 29 million on Weibo. Chinese netizens praised the DJs for the song selection, saying it perfectly captured the scene as the song has a strong rhythm, and is also known as ‘Fearless.’

Before the hashtag about Gu went trending, the DJ team already attracted attention on Chinese social media for the interesting and noteworthy music selection at various events.

During the Ice Hockey Women’s Preliminary Round Group A, when Team US competed against Team ROC, there was a conflict between the two teams and the DJ played a remixed version of Katyusha, a Russian song that became famous during World War II. The dramatic effect of the scene and wartime song pairing made the song’s name (#喀秋莎#) and a video of the DJ trying to ‘make some noise’ on the venue go trending on Weibo with over 53 million views. Many netizens thought the music selection was humorous, with some joking that the DJ was adding oil to a burning fire.

Xie Xiao (@篮球DJ小牛), the ice hockey stadium music director for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics who played the song that day, later clarified on Douyin that the selection of Katyusha was not a response to the conflict. Before that game, he allegedly had already planned to use it because it is a famous song in Russia, and he already played a lot of well-known American songs.

Photo via Xie Xao, @篮球DJ小牛

Another creative song choice by this DJ team that resonated with Chinese netizens occurred during another ice hockey match between Team China and Team Japan, when an American DJ performed Defending the Yellow River on a keyboard. In China, Defending the Yellow River is a famous patriotic song. It was the seventh chapter of the classic Yellow River Cantata, written in 1939 to praise the fighting spirit of the Chinese people (#美国DJ现学后现场弹奏保卫黄河#).

A list of popular hashtags on Weibo relating to which songs are played at the venue of the Winter Olympics also demonstrates that music has become a more relevant and popular part of the Olympics, and is also an attractive component of the event that is encouraging more people, especially younger generations, to watch and participate in the Games.

Xie also said that the team is only allowed to select songs from a specific Winter Olympics music library due to copyright and licensing. The library includes 16000 musical tracks divided into various (sub)categories based on music styles, language, and themes, covering many hit songs and different music from all across the world. On the first event day of speed skating, for example, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep blasted through the speakers.

The pandemic has made the role of so-called ‘atmosphere enliveners’ or ‘vibe teams’ (气氛组, 氛围组) more important. This already became clear during the Tokyo Olympics, where we saw empty stadiums due to coronavirus measures, with DJs creating playlists to motivate athletes in the absence of cheering fans. This shift has also brought more online attention for DJs and other crew members, who would usually stay behind the scenes.

On the venues, the atmosphere is raised by Olympic mascots walking, jumping, and running around the venues interacting with smaller audiences. Meanwhile, the DJs are playing energetic tracks or are creating remixes and mash-ups while producers use different elements at the venue to enhance the audience’s experience.

Li Helin, the deputy manager of the venue operations team at Beijing National Speed Skating Oval, takes care of the event presentation at the venue. He also worked as an MC at the volleyball stadium during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Li has also been in charge of some popular music selections played by the DJs during events involving the China team, including Calorie (卡路里) by the Chinese idol girl group Rocket Girls 101 and Immortal Sound Above Cloud Palace (云宫迅音), the opening theme of Journey to the West, a 1986 TV series that is still considered one of China’s most popular TV dramas. These song selections also were popular on Weibo.

Li Helin, image via Sina.

Li previously said he believed that using DJs to connect with the audiences and to enliven the atmosphere at the venues will become a bigger trend for big sports events in the future. As the standard of sports presentation and fan engagement rises, more new elements, such as spectacular lighting, drones, 3D projects, etc. will also be included: “Sports presentation serves the game, but also adds fresh elements to it.”

Meanwhile, many social media users praise the music crew: “This time, the DJs at the Olympics are really awesome and their song selection is on point.”  “If you don’t know what kind of work you want to do, becoming an Olympic DJ is a good choice,” one Weibo user writes, with others agreeing: “Seriously, if I cannot be an Olympic athlete, then I’ll strive to be an Olympic DJ.”

 

By Wendy Huang

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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