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CX Tech is Caixin Global's real-time tech news portal, featuring 24-hour news, short-form analysis, and roundups from business and tech media in China.

92-Year Old Li Ka-Shing Receives First Dose of BioNTech Vaccine
China Becomes World’s Biggest Buyer of Chip Equipment in 2020, Says SEMI
Geely-Controlled Swedish Electric Carmaker Polestar Raises $550 Million in First External Funding
Xpeng Looks to Cut Reliance on Foreign Made Chips Amid Global Shortage
Trending in China: The Fake Writing Competition That Conned Beijing Parents for Years
ByteDance Powers Up Gaming Investment with C4games Acquisition
Didi Given Greenlight to Test Autonomous Vehicles in Beijing Pilot Zone
Xpeng Debuts New Car As China’s NEV Market Heats Up
Lenovo Still Top Dog in Global PC Market in First Quarter of 2021
Tesla Says Any Data It Collects in China Is Stored in the Nation
Medtech Startup StoneWise Raises $100 Million to Promote Use of AI in Drug Development
Plus Accelerates Uptake of its Autonomous Truck Tech with Italian IVECO Deal
Trending in China: Farmer Given Suspended Jail Time For Felling Own Trees – Social Media Chimes In
‘Tickets Please!’ Baidu Allowed to Charge for Robobus Service in Chongqing
Didi Reportedly Looking to List in U.S. as Soon as July
China’s NEV Sales Balloon in First Quarter on Strong Demand from Individual Consumers
Honor of Kings Beats PUBG Mobile as World’s Highest-Earning Mobile Game in March
Didi to Expand New Logistics Service From 8 to 19 Cities in China
China’s Li Auto Raises $750 Million Through Bond Sale to Fund Electric Car Development
Plant-Based Food Firm Beyond Meat to Open Plant Based in China

Heather Mowbray / Apr 15, 2021 07:22 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?



Parents and teenagers in Beijing have become victims of a phony literary prize that preys on a need to boost kids’ college applications with extra-curricular activities. Parents recently discovered that the Beijing division of the “Ye Shengtao Cup” was not affiliated with the prestigious national competition, but was organized by a local company.

This came as a particular disappointment as parents had been forking out cash to ensure their kids would win a prize, with the ersatz competition charging 15,000 yuan ($2,300) for first prize and 12,000 yuan for second prize

What’s the story?

Students who were introduced to the fake Ye Shengtao Cup by several training schools were made to believe they were participating in a national middle school composition competition authorized by the Ministry of Education.

An investigation by state broadcaster CCTV found that the parents of participants had been given the chance to pay for prizes or better scores by the training schools in which their children were enrolled or registered.

However, the after-school centers were working not with the national competition, but with Beijing Shengtao Wenrun Education and Culture Co. Ltd. The award-giver appears to have been in cahoots with the training schools since 2016. The investigation found that other training schools were also in the business of guaranteeing awards for cash (保奖), suggesting that demand for resume-enhancing prizes was strong.

The organizers of the official prize, currently in its 18th annual edition, have published a statement on their website saying that “the Ye Shengtao Cup has no participation fee, nor does it conduct paid training classes or marketing activities.”

Chinese intellectual Ye Shengtao, after whom the prize was named, founded the Association for Literary Studies in 1921, later serving as a vice minister of culture.

What are people saying online?

Corroborating the notion that demand remains high for manufactured awards, one popular comment read, “It’s not just literature. English and other subjects also have these competitions, and they are all over the country too.”

Although the con of the “money prize” was called out, there was also general ridicule of the investigation on Weibo. Many people joked that they had received the prize, dragging their parents and themselves into socially mediated disrepute. “I suddenly realized that in middle school I took part in the official cup and was given national first prize.” Another wrote, “I took part, and I think my whole class got an award.”

Seeking sympathy, a former student used their prize-winning writing skills to reveal that, “The only prize I received in middle school was third prize in the Ye Shengtao Cup, and now they say it’s fake.”

Related: China Tightens Supervision of After-School Tutoring Sector 


Heather Mowbray / Apr 13, 2021 07:00 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


On April 6, a farmer in Shandong’s Zaozhuang township was given a two year suspended jail sentence for chopping down 700 trees he had planted. By April 12, the related hashtag had been viewed 73 million times, and commented on by two thousand readers.

What’s the story?

In May 2020, the farmer surnamed Li chopped down 700 poplars trees he had planted on land he farmed despite not having a logging license. The authorities determined that without prior authorization, the tree felling operation was illegal, prosecuting him for illegal deforestation. Li has been sentenced to 2 years in jail, suspended for two years, and fined 10,000 yuan. Four fellow defendants were given suspended terms of between 6 months and a year.

China has a tree felling quota system which was initiated in the 1960s and progressively tightened since the 1980s, in which commercial and non-commercial forests are treated separately according to the law. Overlogging has become a massive problem and has led to desertification in certain parts of the country along with more sandstorms of greater intensity frequently reaching urban areas.

As China targets net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, tree planting has gained added significance as one way of achieving this.

What are people saying online?

Many people on social media felt the punishment was too extreme, with one person posting, “A fine of ten thousand? If you had that much, you wouldn’t plant trees. Families without money are just getting poorer like this.” And wondered what the fine was for exactly, “When he planted the trees no one cared. Was he fined for felling the trees or because he felled too many?”

Others thought the story was part of a far larger issue in China with regards to the price of agricultural land versus non-agricultural land saying the punishment was justified because all the farmer needed to have done was follow the rules. “There’s no reason trees can’t be planted. Once the contracted period is over, farmers can apply for a license and cut down whatever is approved. But if you can fell what you want, then the price of a mountain [non-agricultural land] would not be so cheap, and cost as much as a house or farmland.”

One commenter felt ignorance had a part to play in the affair. “Alas, many older people don’t know the law, thinking they can plant trees if they live here and the worst thing that might happen is their timber is confiscated.” Touching on the same issue, another reader said, “If he knew, I’m sure he wouldn’t have gone to all the effort.”

One reader put the responsibility firmly with the authorities. “The prerequisite for requiring citizens to know the law and abide by the law is for the state to do a good job of popularizing the law.”

Related: Opinion: How Can China Cut its Emissions from 10 Billion Tons to Zero?



Heather Mowbray / Apr 08, 2021 05:11 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

Since an investigation by China’s national broadcaster CCTV into of airline stimulus packages on April 5, purchasers of airline related deals have come forward on social media with details of how their itineraries deviated from what they thought they were buying.


The hashtag #Woman-buys-China-Southern-“happy-flying”-coupons-and-flights-changed-14-times# has been viewed 190 million times, and discussed in over five thousand comments.

What’s the story?

On April 5, CCTV exposed issues with multiple airlines’ “Happy Flyer” schemes, which led one social media user to respond with a post regarding her experience with China Southern “Happy Flyer” scheme. The flyer surnamed Dao bought the airline’s second round deal but had her flights changed 14 times, with the latest two flight bookings from Urumqi to Beijing cancelled this month.

In March, Caixin reported (link in Chinese) that China Southern was allocating little over half its promised allotted seats on weekend and holidays to Happy Flyer subscribers. Based on screenshots taken by a purchaser of the pre-paid flight package, on March 14th, a Sunday, China Southern allocated only 11,700 seats of the 20,000 seats promised.

In the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic in China, domestic airlines launched frequent flyer deals in an attempt to stabilize their cash flows, which “lost money but earned praise” from the authorities. For a prepaid sum, flyers could secure as many flights as they wanted on certain routes and dates, costing much less than normal. “The more subscribers fly, the greater the airlines’ losses” one industry insider told Caixin (link in Chinese), and as coronavirus outbreaks dwindled after Lunar Festival 2021, restrictions on movement was dropped, and the aviation market began to recover. As a result airlines made increasingly little money from the schemes. Airlines have become reluctant to open up seats, and it is now unlikely follow-up products will be launched any time soon.

What are people saying online?

“Consumers have the right to know the true status of the goods they buy and services they receive. In this incident, merchants repeatedly emphasized systemic problems, but consumers are doubtful,” wrote one lawyer in a blog published on Weibo.

Happy Flyer schemes are “easy to buy, but hard to redeem,” said another blogger. Selling products at the expense of user experience will eventually outweigh the gains…Only user experience-centric innovation and design can truly win the market.”

Commenters accused airlines of a lack of transparency, saying that “All-you-can-fly” deals have benefited airlines over passengers. As one social media user wrote, “Public enthusiasm for flight packages solved a temporary problem for Chinese airlines reeling from the impact of Covid-19 but now the solution is seen as a burden.”

“If airlines forget their promises, they will be punished by the market,” said a traveller. Another commenter disagreed, saying people should have known the deal was “too good to be true.”

Related: Trending in China: Social Media Cautiously Celebrates Travel Being Back on the Agenda for Qingming Festival

China Launches Digital ‘Vaccine Passport’ for International Travel



Heather Mowbray / Apr 06, 2021 06:55 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


The hashtag #Lawyers-say-sneaker-speculating-may-break-law has been viewed 200 million times and commented on 5,000 times, and another hashtag about sneaker enthusiasts turning to secondhand trading #National-shoe-brands-originally-worth-1500-sold-for-48000-yuan has 3 million views. Deliberately limiting production runs of their top of the range items, domestic sport shoe brands including Li Ning and Anta have made recent gains from rising Chinese national pride.

What’s the story?

An investigation posted on social media platform Weibo traced the trajectory of sneaker prices in China and found Chinese sneaker brands have become hot commodities subject to rampant speculation, with the price tag of one particular pair of Li Ning shoes rising from 1,499 yuan ($230) to 48,899 yuan in a just a matter of days.

Many sales take place on Dewu, an app for the buying and selling of genuine sports products, especially sneakers. Since 2017, Dewu has honed its process of trying to identify fakes which has reassured users, many of whom are experts in trading in expensive sports commodities.

According to the investigation it is common for people to post comments about shoes on their WeChat Moments saying that the shoes they have their eyes on are either out of stock or its price has rocketed. “The prices are just too crazy. A pair of shoes is going for 3,000 yuan,” the report quoted one fan as saying. Thinking about speculating herself, one reader wrote, “I gave my boyfriend a pair of shoes, and they’ve doubled in value in a fortnight. Should I trade them in for more money?”

One lawyer called Yue Dishan said that if people blindly entered the market thinking they would make a lot of money from the trade, they were in for a shock, as manipulating market prices was illegal in China. He urged regulatory agencies to strengthen monitoring of the industry and intervene where necessary.

What are people saying online?

A lot of people on social media queried why people would pay so much for a pair of sneakers.

One social media post queried price difference between online stores and platforms. “Official website prices haven’t risen, so why do prices automatically rise elsewhere? I really don’t get it.”

Another offered advice on trading. “Limited release status is the entire point of limiting sales. Most regular shoes haven’t risen in price, and some have even fallen.”

For some, the culprit is the trading platform itself, saying “Dewu app needs to be regulated,” and “sneaker speculating on Dewu is a massive deal.”

Related: Fisher: Rise or Fall, There’s No Reason to Fear the Yuan

Trending in China: Why Are Chinese Netizens Saying Kanye West Could be ‘China’s First’ U.S. President?


Heather Mowbray / Apr 02, 2021 03:55 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


On the evening of March 30, at Xiaomi's Spring product conference, Xiaomi Technology’s founder Lei Jun was excited to reveal a new Xiaomi logo and logotype made by Japanese designer Kenya Hara, saying the new logo was more suitable for a Chinese smart appliance giant in its mature second decade. The redesign is rumored to have taken three years and cost 2 million yuan (around $300,000).

What’s the story?

Chairman of the Nippon Design Center and professor at Musashino Art University Kenya Hara's presentation of the redesign was posted on social media soon after Lei Jun's announcement. In it, he explained how he incorporated Eastern philosophy and the beauty of the “super ellipse”, a term meaning halfway between a circle and a square, in the updated icon.

Hara said, “In three years, we communicated with Xiaomi designers and professionals in various fields” before coming up with the final design plan. Saying that it is “not just a simple redesign of the [Xiaomi logo’s] shape, but an encapsulation of Xiaomi’s inner spirit,” the designer explained how his “Alive” concept complemented Xiaomi by “bridging humanity and technology.”

Hara also introduced the new font Xiaomi will roll out for use on products including its smartphones, and said the eleven-year-old company will retain the brand color orange.

What are people saying online?

After the new logo launch, ridicule of the design abounded on social media. One commentor wrote under the introductory video, “Did the designer use a Samsung phone, crop a screenshot and just use that?”. Another post joked, “Three years? This must have been made on the very last day after a lot of procrastination.” While another dryly wrote, “No one understands just now hard it is to polish four corners down into smooth curves! Or how very expensive the process is.”

The more cynical commentors saw the logo redesign as an opportunity to keep Xiaomi in the national conversation. “Stirring up a topic, using design as your tool, is nothing new. It works in all circles” said one person with no pun intended.

Some people said they liked the classy simplicity of the new design. “A Japanese designer will make your product feel prestigious, whereas if you use a Chinese team, the design will undoubtedly disappear in a puff of smoke.” Another commented on how easy it is to ridicule a lengthy design process after the fact. “It’s funny that everyone looks at the new logo and says it’s so simple they could make it themselves. Once you’ve seen it, it’s easy to think that…Knowing which screw to change is worth everything.”

One social media user noted that “Now Xiaomi has achieved this level of popularity, its original brand recognition cannot be done away with. And judging from the discussion generated [by this change], this has indeed been a successful branding campaign.”

Related: Opinion: Will Xiaomi’s $10 Billion Car-Building Project Be a Winning Bet?

Colgate to Overhaul Racist Chinese Toothpaste Brand



Heather Mowbray / Apr 01, 2021 03:17 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


The hashtag #Douban-user-reported-to-school-after-bad-book-review had been viewed 53 million times and garnered 4000 comments by Wednesday.

A graduate student at Beijing Language and Culture University was forced to apologize after criticising a Chinese translator on Douban, a popular Chinese review site, for “heavy traces of machine translation” in her translation of the 1960’s Uruguayan classic “The Truce”.

A graduate student at Beijing Language and Culture University was forced to apologize after criticising a Chinese translator on Douban, a popular Chinese review site, for “heavy traces of machine translation” in her translation of the 1960’s Uruguayan classic “The Truce”. The student reviewer gave the translation two stars, adding that it had “spoiled the (original) author’s work.”

What’s the story?

Since its publication in 1960, the Spanish novel “The Truce” by Mario Benedetti has been reprinted more than 150 times, made into a movie, and translated into over twenty different languages. The Chinese edition, translated by Han Ye, was published in October 2020.

Han said she felt the term “machine translation” was a personal attack, after which a friend reported the “bad reviewer” to the university he attended, saying the review amounted to defamation of Han’s work, alleging that any accusation of “machine translation” was a complete “fabrication”. The friend also demanded a full apology on the Douban homepage.

On March 16, Douban duly issued an apology from the student reviewer addressed to the translator and the publisher, in which “he took responsibility for the adverse effects [his review] had.” One well known literary commentator named Shi Shusi, said that treating criticism in this way was a tragedy for literature, but noted that “translating foreign texts is hard, so translators should be given the benefit of the doubt, and not attacked on every detail”.

What are people saying online?

Commenters on Weibo mostly supported the reviewer of the book. “In this matter, the least principled party is the university that accepted the report. It helped the villain bully its own student. It makes me sick.” Another echoed this sentiment with, “Shouldn't the school protect its own students? It’s ironic that the book is called, “The Truce.”

Many were dismayed that writers of bad reviews were forced to take them down, with one blog writer remarking, “Oftentimes, being criticized is not [taken as] a chance to improve, but [as] a moment to “eliminate” critics. For example, it is not uncommon on online shopping and food delivery platforms to be harassed or threatened to delete the negative review.” Another wrote, “If criticism is not free, praise is meaningless.”

At least one reader saw the debacle as a more extensive review of the book in question, saying “Doesn’t saying it’s a machine translation euphemistically suggest poor translation skills. Well, I don’t need to read the translation of this book.”

On the other hand, reflecting how good machine translation has become, one social media user wrote, “It is an insult to AI technology. [The review] should say: it doesn’t look like a human translator.”

Related: China Was the Source of 370 Retracted Scientific Papers, Nature Reports



Heather Mowbray / Mar 30, 2021 05:12 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


On Thursday, Tesla China posted a new product on its website — empty glass bottles in the shape of lightning bolts that were designed to hold tequila. These empty bottles were priced at 779 yuan ($118). By Monday morning, less than four days after they went on sale, Tesla’s customer services stated that the bottles had already sold out.

What’s the story?

The story behind the carmaker’s detour into selling empty bottles that originally would have contained alcohol began on April 1, 2018, when Elon Musk posted an April Fool’s joke saying that he had been found “passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by ‘Teslaquilla’ bottles, the tracks of dried tears still visible on his cheeks.”

Just over two years later, in November 2020, Tesla then started selling tequila in lightning bolt shaped bottles describing the drink as a “premium 100% de agave tequila añejo aged in French oak barrels, featuring a dry fruit and light vanilla nose with a balanced cinnamon pepper finish.” The bottles and alcohol quickly became collector’s items and sold out within hours. The next day, a secondary market in “empty bottles” took off in earnest, with bottles selling for as much as $1,000 each. There is some suspicion as to whether they were really empty or they were only described as such to conform to eBay regulations, which do not allow for the resale of alcohol on its platform.

Possibly learning from the American experience that the bottles didn’t even need to have alcohol in them to be sought-after collectors’ items, Tesla has now taken to selling empty 750-milliliter lightning bolt-shaped liquor bottles in China. Despite the fact they were empty and cost over $100, the bottles sold out in days. The electric car company assured eshop customers that stocks would be replenished and promised that other non-car products would hit the shelves soon.

What are people saying online?

On Chinese social media, readers saw in the story the coming of a new era of “high-end consumption, in which the pursuit of quality is everything.” Some said that selling out so fast showed how rich China had become.

However others were less positive. One Weibo reader made reference to an old Chinese saying, with “you know what they say about ‘sniffing foreigners’ farts and calling them sweet.”

Another wondered if the booze had evaporated on its journey across the Pacific from California. “When it launched in the U.S., even empty bottles sold secondhand for $1,000. When it gets to China, they do away with the alcohol altogether. Do they think that really captures the essence of the market?”

Many viewers recognized that the story showed, “The power of belief among spiritual shareholders,” referring to Tesla’s seemingly unassailable hold on China’s electric car aspirations.

And one Weibo user felt left out, “On first glance, 779 yuan for a tequila bottle is a lot; on second glance, I can’t even get a look in.”

Related: Opinion: What the U.S. Needs to Do to Compete With China

Tesla Challenger Xpeng Drives off with $77 Million from Government-Backed Investment Firm



Heather Mowbray / Mar 26, 2021 06:41 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?



What’s the story?

Chinese internet company Bilibili Inc., which is set to launch a Hong Kong IPO next Monday, got Weibo talking about the listing on Friday for all the wrong reasons. The video platform, which hopes to raise up to $3.2 billion, appeared to have copied parts of the stock exchange-required information table directly from search giant Baidu Inc., which listed in a similar but somewhat underwhelming Hong Kong IPO on March 23. Both companies used the same legal firm for their Hong Kong offerings, which will complement existing listings in New York. A fintech insider said companies tend to use a template to complete listing documents, and some mistakes in copying information are inevitable. One underwriter said that as long as the financials are accurate, such an error is not very significant.

The listings of Baidu Inc. and Bilibili Inc. are being closely watched to see if Hong Kong’s IPO market still has steam, given their size and high profile as tech companies.

What are people saying online?

Commenters on the story on Weibo feel the error does not paint Bilibili in the best light. “‘B station’ is such a diminutive station,” wrote one, calling Bilibili by its common nickname. It reminds people of school exams and “cheating by writing your name on someone else’s answer sheet.” Social media users speculate that the relationship between the two tech companies may be closer than simply clients of the same law firm. “It suggests Bilibili belongs to Baidu,” and “Uncle, the truth is out. Baidu is also mine” are two representative comments. Another comment focused on the big money passing through Hong Kong on the backs of these tech firms, “This is nothing short of a flood at the convergence of two dragons.”

Related: Bilibili Wins Approval for Hong Kong Secondary Listing



Heather Mowbray / Mar 25, 2021 05:56 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#英特尔回应杨笠代言争议# Intel responds to Yang Li ad controversy#

What’s the story?

After a social media backlash, global semiconductor giant Intel’s Chinese unit has taken down an advertisement from its Weibo and Taobao sites that featured a female standup comedian known for her jokes about men.

The video, promoting the company’s Evo laptops, featured Yang Li saying “Intel’s taste in laptops is even better than my standards in picking a boyfriend.” A rare female voice in Chinese comedy circles, Yang Li’s sarcastic jokes directed at men have often been met with annoyance by some segments of the country’s male population.

The squabbling began as soon as the ad hit the internet, with the semiconductor giant accused by men of instigating confrontation between the sexes for traffic. On Wednesday Intel responded, stating, “It has been noticed that the Yang Li video caused widespread controversy, which is not what we expected …We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace and social environment with partners from all walks of life.”

Intel has now pulled the ad, and its Taobao flagship store has replaced all promotional posters featuring Yang Li. However, #Intel Yang Li# continues to be a hot search on Weibo, and the debate rages on.

What are people saying online?

Many male social media users felt Yang Li was not qualified to promote a so-called “male user-oriented” product, with one writing that “Intel is mainly for male users, and women don’t understand electronic products.” Female Weibo users pointing out that such comments are sexist. “Intel: does that mean women can’t use it? Or does it mean that female clients can be humiliated? Or does it mean you don’t care about losing your female customers?”

Other netizens expressed support for the comedian, saying she was free to express herself as she wished. “I will not use any brand that removes Yang Li to please the haters and oppressors, or violates people’s rights.”

Related: Intel Challenges Taiwan’s TSMC in Contract Chipmaking Business



Summer Li / Mar 25, 2021 03:42 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

A fitness campaign called the “manga waist challenge” has burst onto China’s social media platforms, with millions posting photographs of themselves lying stretched at a 90-degree-angle.

Related hashtags have been read more than 400 million times by Weibo users, and have led to heated discussion on body shaming and health issues.

What is the story?

The “challenge” is to prove one’s thinness and litheness through a yoga pose that requires a person to lie with their chest to the floor and place their knees and legs on a chair behind them.

Many female social media users, including Chinese movie star Yang Mi, have participated by posting photos of themselves performing the pose. However, soon after the trend went viral, yoga professionals began issuing warnings that the intimidatingly difficult position was “a dangerous act.”

The “manga waist” position will lead to hyperextension of the back and increase the risk of acute muscle and tendon injury,” according to a post on, an anti-misinformation platform run by medical professionals in China.

There have also been comments from psychologists suggesting that the challenge may promote an “unhealthy portrait” of beauty. According to their analysis, the trend will reinforce the seeming importance of shape and weight and lead to eating disorders and other mental struggles.

On Monday, Yang removed the waist challenge post and apologized amid criticism from professionals and netizens, saying she participated in the challenge on a whim. “I had been so inconsiderate in posting the photo,” she wrote on Weibo, “I was just informed that, without professional guidance, stretching in such posture may trigger injury.”

What are people saying online?

The campaign has spawned 15 million active discussions. With a few participants showing off their success at completing the challenge, some reported getting injured after attempting the pose. “I was almost dying,” said one Weibo user, adding that she felt dizzy and in pain after several failed tries.

One user wrote a long page stressing complaints about the challenge. “These kinds of challenges will help nothing but increase anxiety and self-abasement of many people whose body conditions do not allow them to complete the poses,” he said. “We should advocate a healthy lifestyle and body image.” So far, his words have received over 30,000 nods of “agreement” on Weibo.

Related: Xiaomi Bulks up Investment in Fitness Industry with Startup I-Fitness

In Over 35 Years of Economic Growth, China’s Youth Have Grown Taller, and Fatter



Han Xu / Mar 24, 2021 04:24 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

Over half of China’s delivery workers make less than 5,000 yuan per month ($766), with only 1.3% making more than 10,000 yuan, according to a survey from China’s State Post Bureau quoted in Beijing Youth Daily on March 22.

The hashtag #Over-half-of-delivery-workers-earn-less-than-5000-yuan-per-month# has been viewed over 260 million times on Weibo.

What’s the story?

China has one of the biggest e-commerce and food delivery markets in the world, and the industry’s demand for labor was a tantalizing prospect for many who would previously have toiled in factories and on farms. State media helped to perpetuate the belief that couriers could make a decent living, reporting that average monthly salaries in the sector could reach 8000 to 9000 yuan.

But a new survey from China’s national post authority suggests more than half of China’s delivery people make less than 5,000 yuan per month, and only a sliver make more than 10,000, quantifying the suggestion they are poorly compensated for their well-documented hardships.

At China’s internet giants, fresh graduates can often expect an annual salary of at least 150,000 yuan, which can easily reach 500,000 yuan in three to five years. In 2019, China’s average annual urban wage for non-private sector workers was about 90,000 yuan.

In January, Liu Jin, a 47-year-old food delivery worker, set himself on fire because his employer delayed issuing him with a 5,000-yuan pay check. Two bystanders put out the fire, but Liu, who delivered food for’s Fengniao service, initially refused to be taken to the hospital, insisting he first wanted to discuss the issue of the money he was owed for his “blood and sweat.”

What are people saying online?

Many on Weibo expressed their anger at the news. One popular comment read, “We should challenge the big delivery companies! They are feeding on the blood and flesh of grassroots delivery workers.”

But some said the delivery workers should appreciate what they had. “5,000 yuan is already a decent pay compared to a lot of other professions. I think the media should stop exaggerating how miserable the deliver workers are,” said one Weibo user.

Related: In Depth: ‘Blood and Sweat’ Don’t Pay Off for China’s Army of Delivery Workers

The Brutal Human Cost of Pinduoduo’s Breakneck Expansion



Heather Mowbray / Mar 24, 2021 03:17 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?


#Official response to floor plan model incident# has been growing in views online, as consumers maintain focus on bad-taste marketing campaigns and the objectification of women, this time in China’s booming housing sector.

What’s the story?

A property developer’s open day in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, has caused uproar online for recruiting female models to get the new development’s design plan drawn on their backs.

Two models were temporarily tattooed with outlines of two small commercial spaces (27m2 and 43m2) during the introductory presentation on 18 March at which prospective buyers, local officials, and of course bloggers, were present.

According to Xiaoxiang Morning News, on March 21, a spokesperson for Shaanxi Aerospace Economic and Technological Development Zone said that the developer had been suspended from selling houses pending an investigation, and that punishment would be meted out by the local Bureau of Housing and Urban-Rural Development in conjunction with the market supervision department.

In a game of cat and mouse, property prices across China have boomed in 2021, while the government has imposed increasing restrictions on purchases to put the brakes on market speculation. Cooling measures have made developers seek increasingly diverse methods of selling properties, and seen customers even resort to fake divorces to obtain permission to purchase more than one apartment.

China’s Consumer Day on 15 March highlighted advertising fails as well as consumer rights infringements, increasing social media attention on unethical sales techniques such as this housing promotion which might be considered rather desperate.

What are people saying online?

A video of the promotion posted on Weibo offended many users of the social media platform, with one saying “Regardless of gender, the marketing method alone is inexplicable and vulgar. What is the connection with customers who may want to buy property?”

Expounding on its ineffectiveness as a sales method, another wrote, “It would turn me off from buying. If the company has time to engage with such a gimmick, it had better make a [3D] model of the space.”

“Such a beautiful girl with her back exposed in the cold, I feel distressed when I see it,” wrote one Weibo user, and at least one other tackled the ethics of the campaign head-on. “I hope that the key issue that everyone will pay attention to is objectifying women and regarding women's bodies as a commodity to attract attention. We have to not only combat vulgarity, but also reduce this phenomenon.”

“There is no limit to hype when you have something you want people to see,” said one social media regular.

Related: Chinese Developers’ Stocks Soar on Land Rules Seen to Favor Big Players

China Caps Bank Loans for Real Estate, Homebuyers to Curb Systemic Risk



By Heather Mowbray / Mar 22, 2021 01:22 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#花呗借呗不得向大学生放款# On March 17, the official website of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission posted a notice on regulating consumer loans for college students which is trending on Weibo, gaining more than 20 thousand comments.

What’s the story?

The notice said that microfinance firms are targeting campuses by marketing online consumer loans to college students. It went on to say that this tempts students into overspending, and results in some taking out high-value loans that infringe on their rights, with a negative impact on society.

In future, microfinance companies will be expressly forbidden from lending to college students, finance companies will need prior authorization to offer students credit, and local inspections will be carried out to ensure adherence to the regulations.

What are people saying online?

One irate-sounding student wrote, “Why does borrowing necessarily mean over-spending? I borrow on Huabei (a microfinance firm) so I can buy wealth management products. College students are adults. Who says we can’t repay what we’ve borrowed? After all, some of us are on scholarships or have part-time jobs.”

Another wondered why only students were disallowed from micro-lending sites. “People of the same age can use Huabei, but only if they don’t go to college. What does that even mean?”

Non-students expressed envy at college students who still had their lives funded by their parents. “Are the living expenses given by the parents not enough? If there is an emergency, ask your parents for more, and they can simply transfer it to you!”

University students have very little recourse to loans if microfinance platforms are out of bounds to them. As one said, “It’s really important for college students when it’s not convenient to borrow money [from friends or family].” Another questioned the approach of the regulators. “This is very formal, why? If [students] can’t borrow this way, they may go to high-interest loan sharks. If the most important thing is the loans, then regulators should look into universities forcing students to apply for credit cards.”

Another Weibo user asked if women couldn’t just control their spending a bit. “Sisters, let’s pull together. How can our living expenses be not enough? Nike a few days ago, Yves St. Laurent lipstick by the dozen. [We can do this] together!”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (

Related: China’s $13 Trillion Shadow Banking Sector Gets Clearer Definition


by Summer Li / Mar 19, 2021 03:07 PM / Trending Stories

What’s the trending?


# 100 million people are to travel during Qingming Festival break

Domestic tourism in China is gradually picking up pace. According to one online travel agency about 100 million people are planning to travel across the country during the oncoming Qingming Festival break, or “Tomb Sweeping Day” when people pay their respects to deceased relatives. The agency’s estimate would signal a significant rebound in China’s travel industry since the pandemic and has been a trending topic on social media with more than one million views, of the hashtag # 100-million-people-are-totravel-during-Qingming-Festival-break on Weibo.

What’s the story?

The number of domestic citizens planning to travel during the 3-day-break of the annual Qingming Festival has been estimated to reach 100 million, as revealed by one of China’s leading online travel agencies based on its records of travel services booked by customers, including airline tickets, hotel bookings and tickets for tourist attractions via its online platform.

According to the agency’s report the Qingming Festival, "is the first major event in the domestic travel calendar”, adding that another round of bookings for tourist attractions is expected in the coming two weeks.

Statistics also show a rebound in interprovincial tours, in which the seaside city of Sanya, and Lijiang, a city that is famous for its time-locked old towns and breathtaking landscape, ranked as the most popular destinations for travellers.

What are people saying online?

The predicted rebound in domestic travel marks people’s optimism towards control of the pandemic. Many Weibo users are celebrating the idea of “being free to travel again,” as during last year’s Qingming Festival strict restrictions were in place. Some people on social media however appealed to people to keep in mind of epidemic prevention measures and to “Play safe while being happy”.

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (

Related: Zhang Mei: Will China Be a Great Travel Destination in 2021?


Summer Li / Mar 17, 2021 08:08 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#沙尘过后洗车店生意火爆 While the worst sandstorm to hit parts of China in a decade brought misery to millions, they literally brought profit to others. Car washers have been cashing in on the increased demand for their services as car owners in Beijing have been queuing for over an hour to get their vehicles nice and clean. The hashtag #Car-wash-service-surges-after-the-sandstorm has trended online since Tuesday, attracting more than 10 million views and thousands of comments.

What’s the story?

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of citizens needed to get their cars cleaned after a thick brown dust shrouded Beijing and sent the city’s pollution levels off the chart.

In one video filmed by local media platform Feidian, a car wash shop near Dougezhuang in Beijing is seen being overwhelmed by car owners. One car owner in the long line talked about waiting for over an hour.

“We have been washing over 400 cars in just one morning,” a car washer says in the video clip, adding that with so many customers still waiting outside, the workers would have to take their lunch in shifts in order to wash them all.

What people are saying online?

The crowded car wash scenes attracted many Weibo comments. While a large number of people on social media made jokes such as, “The owners of car wash businesses are the last winner standing after the sandstorm,” and “Finally, we found the business that may benefit from such a terrible weather,” many expressed concern after experiencing the record-breaking sandstorm. “I would rather not to see such a surge brought by extreme weather conditions at the car wash,” read one comment.

Meanwhile, many questioned if it is the “right time” to get a car wash as according to domestic weather monitoring, the possibility of more dusty weather remains, which indicates that another round of air pollution may hit the city soon. “It is too early to get their cars washed,” wrote one of most popular comments, “The dusty weather may come back any time.”


Heather Mowbray / Mar 17, 2021 04:53 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#6分钱就能购买儿童个人信息# A black market operation that buys children’s personal information for 6 fen (1 cents USD) each is trending on Weibo, as police in the eastern city of Xuzhou broke up an online tech consultancy established in January after it was flagged as having suspiciously heavy phone traffic.

What’s the story?

A raid on the Jiangsu province company uncovered an alleged database of hundreds of school children’s personal information including age, gender, city and parents’ phone numbers which had been purchased online for between 6 fen and 1 yuan each. The company was reportedly engaged in spam calling parents on behalf of online training courses, and receiving commission for each successful sign-up. Each successful training program recommendations netted the data consultancy between 30 yuan and 60 yuan.

Chinese national broadcaster CCTV reported that two of the company’s bosses, surnamed Yang and Liu, are in detention for the illegal trade in personal data, and two others are under investigation. China’s recently implemented civil law has given law enforcers more powers to break up illegal entities engaged in such black market supply chains.

What are people saying online?

For some Weibo users, this incident is seen as the tip of the iceberg. “It’s too scary. This is just used to recruit students. If it’s sold to human traffickers, it’s terrifying,” said one popular comment.

For many commentators, the story is not a surprise. “My mobile phone almost never rings except for daily calls from training institutions. And they know very well the grade and name of my child,” wrote one parent, who said she began by replying politely before realizing the callers never took no for an answer.

Scam calls are seen as fairly untargeted. As one learner wrote, “It’s weird. I have only attended VIPKids online classes once, years ago. I am not your target user. Please don't bother me anymore.”

More annoyingly, training schools are calling people before their child is even born, and even after the child has grown up. “They keep calling me to ask if I need revision classes to move up to third grade of high school. I’m already in the third grade. Why would I want to repeat a year?” said one. “Do you know that their information is not updated? I have already given birth to a child. My mother also receives calls asking, “Hello, does your child need high school English tuition?”

Related: China’s Education Ministry Weighs Tightening Supervision of Tutoring Sector



Han Xu / Mar 17, 2021 02:09 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

The comments of a Chinese company’s human resources officer have gone viral after he said, “Whoever doesn’t get into a bachelor programme is intellectually challenged”. The message was texted to a job applicant with a “third-tier” bachelor’s degree. In China, bachelor’s degrees from different institutions are categorized into three different levels, with the clear implication that a “third-tier” degree is not a “proper” degree. The applicant posted the chat history with the HR officer on Weibo. The hashtag #HR-said-whoever-did-not-get-in-a-bachelor-programme-is-intellectually-challenged# has been viewed over 220 million times on Weibo.

What’s the story?

The HR officer, surnamed Wu, works for the big data company CityDo based in Hangzhou. After the statement was made public, the company quickly apologised stating that “what the staff said does not represent the stance of the company.”

In China, bachelor’s degrees are classified into three tiers. World-famous universities such as Tsinghua and PKU belong to the first-tier, whereas third-tier ones are often privately funded colleges and are generally viewed to be of relatively poorer educational quality.

For most Chinese students, the only way to get into university is by taking the gaokao (高考), a nationwide standardised examination. University admission is based on the grades a student obtains in this one exam.

The competition is fierce, meaning only a handful of students are successful at getting into bachelor programmes. In 2019, out of over 10 million exam takers, only about 4 million people were admitted to a bachelor’s programme.

What are people saying online?

As increasing numbers of university graduates enter the job market each year but with relatively fewer job vacancies for graduate positions, Chinese netizens are calling for employers to adopt a non-discriminatory approach to education level when recruiting.

“When you look down upon someone, you have to remember that not everyone has as good opportunities as you,” read one popular Weibo comment.

Some associate degree holders, a level of degree below a standard bachelor’s degree, also expressed that they felt they did not have many choices. One Weibo user said that “This is why after I finished my associate degree I tried my best to get into another bachelor’s programme. Employment discrimination against associate degrees is everywhere.”

Related: Opinion: How Elites Could Respond to Populist Backlash Against Intellectualism Post-Pandemic 


Heather Mowbray / Mar 15, 2021 06:23 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

Beijing’s government issued a “yellow” sandstorm and pollution alert at 6 a.m. Monday, 15 March and social media feeds are full of photos and jokes about how the capital’s residents are coping with the environmental hazard.

What’s the story?

Monday morning’s Beijing sandstorm stems from Sunday’s massive Mongolian sandstorm that saw 81 people reported missing and several people dead, especially among rural nomadic communities beyond Ulaanbaatar. Having moved towards Inner Mongolia on Sunday night, the sandstorm swiftly reached Beijing carried by winds of up to 30km/ph, where it is expected to last a full day. Just days after China’s annual anti-soil erosion “Tree Planting Day”, it has brought off-the-chart pollution to the city, as older people and children are advised to stay indoors, and everyone else is warned against outdoor activities.

Although by noon on Monday, the sandstorm had receded somewhat, it was the widest and heaviest sandstorm the area south of the Gobi desert has seen in a decade.

What are people saying online?

Young social media users initially amused themselves with nostalgia for a “good old sandstorm” the likes of which they hadn’t seen since their childhood, but some noted that the excitement was tinged with concern this time, as they were suffering from breathing problems on the approach of the “apocalyptic” weather system.

The Beijing sandstorm may last no more than a day, but it has generated many memes spanning history, movies, politics, and art. Many remarks compared photos of Beijing today with the yellowing canvases of classic landscape paintings from the Song dynasty, saying the sandstorm took them back in time. Others continued the theme saying that when it snowed in Beijing, photos looked like the sparser art of the Beiping [Republican] era of the 20th century.

The yellow weather warning did not oblige companies to let people take the day off work, and despite more flexible working conditions brought in by the pandemic, many office workers still squeezed into rush hour subways to make it to the office in time. One meme touched on this. “Go to work like a good staffer,” the text said. “Yellow weather leaves no stain on the good-hearted.” An image of a white-furred pooch was overlaid with, “There are no troubles at work, [that can’t be tackled by] brave little doggies.”

One photo montage resorted to a reliable trope from Chinese history, saying “Leaving home – as valiant knights on horseback; on the way – riding galloping horses into battle in the desert; arriving at the office – as calcified sandy-colored terracotta warriors.”

Related: Gallery: Sandstorm Hits Beijing


Han Xu / Mar 12, 2021 04:32 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

The rental price of shared power banks in China is now four times higher than when the concept entered the market several years ago. It now costs 4 yuan ($0.62) per hour to charge your phone, or up to 40 yuan for a 24-hour period. The hashtag #shared-power-banks-rent-increases-from-1-yuan/hour-to-4-yuan/hour# has been viewed over 160 million times on Weibo.

What’s the story?

Yu Daisong, a researcher from the economic department at Southwest University, said in an interview with The Cover (link in Chinese) that the booming shared economy model has followed a two-stage pattern.

In the first stage, business owners usually roll out special offers to attract as many consumers as possible. With shared power banks, some brands originally had a “first thirty minutes free” offer when they initially launched along with low rental prices and constant discounts.

However, after the user base reached a critical mass, Yu claimed the market then entered a second stage in which business owners started to shift their focus to increasing profits and that meant raising rental prices.

According to iResearch Consulting Group, a Chinese market research and consulting company, the shared power bank market size has grown from 80 million users in 2017 to 290 million users in 2020. A prominent player, Energy Monster, has completed a 500-million-yuan Series C funding.

What are people saying online?

From free for the first thirty minutes and 1 yuan/hour after that to 4 yuan/hour, most Weibo users believe that renting a power bank has lost any advantage it once had over buying one. One popular comment read, “The rent is too high. If I have to pay that much to get my phone fully charged, I’d rather buy a power bank at this point.”

But some also said that they found shared power banks irreplaceable under certain circumstances. “When I go to the mall, I really do not want to carry a heavy power bank with me the whole time. You don’t understand how great a rental power bank can be,” said one phone user.

Related: Shared Phone-Charger Sector Sees First Firm Run Out of Juice

Venture Cash Puts Jolt Into Portable Phone-Charging Business



By Summer Li / Mar 11, 2021 06:23 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

New-style milk tea is increasingly winning the hearts and wallets of Chinese millennials. According to the Nayuki Tea & Bakery, one of China’s most popular milk tea shops known for its fruits and cheese topped tea drinks, about 30% of consumers in China spend over 400 yuan ($61) on the beverage every month!

On Thursday morning, the hashtag #About-30%-of-domestic-consumers-spend-more than-400-yuan-on-new-style-milk-tea appeared on Weibo, with more than 10 million views and thousands of comments, hitting the most viewed list on Weibo within hours.

What’s the story?

China’s beverage unicorn Nayuki Tea & Bakery jointly released a paper titled “New-style Milk Tea Consumption 2020” with CBNData, revealing that the domestic market of tea-based drinks was valued at more than 442 billion yuan, approximately two times more than China’s coffee market.

According to the paper, millennials are the primary customers of milk tea. The report also showed that just under 80% of milk tea consumers have a higher education background with 60% of them holding white-collar jobs.

What’s people saying online?

Many people on social media were amazed at the amount of money the country’s young people spent on the specialty drinks. “They are so rich! They (the group of people who spend more than 400 yuan on milk tea) are basically drinking milk tea every day,” read one comment liked hundreds of times. “It’s hard to understand why people would spend that much on boba [bubble] tea,” said another commentator, adding that it is no small deal to spend 30 yuan per day for a cup of tea.

Despite expressing astonishment towards the figures, the post also led some Weibo users to reflect on their own beverage consuming habits. “I used to be a huge fan of such drinks. But I gradually realized that it may not be a healthy custom,” one commentator said.

This story has been corrected to reflect that it is the domestic market of tea-based drinks, not of new-style milk tea, that was valued at more than 442 billion yuan.

Related: In Depth: To Tea or Not to Tea — Investors Try to Make Sense of Milk Tea Craze



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