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LATEST
Trending in China: Mission Impossible? Young Environmental Hero Tries To Clean Up Tibet
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Trending in China: School Throws Away Students’ Food Deliveries To Force Use of Canteen
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Huawei Cuts R&D Investment and Jobs in Australia Amid Tech War
TRENDING STORIES

By Carol Yuan / Sep 25, 2020 06:34 PM / Trending Stories

What's trending?

A millenial man has won over the Chinese internet with his singlehanded effort to pick up rubbish in Hoh Xil, Tibet, a popular tourist destination.

What's the story?

The increasing number of visitors to Tibet has led to an even larger increase in the amount of trash they generate. In 2019, about 40 million tourists arrived in Tibet and produced 134 million kilograms of garbage, including more than 2 billion plastic bottles. Without recycling facilities in the autonomous region, more than 80% of the bottles were buried in local landfill sites.

Wu Xianghong, a young man, felt “unhappy” when he saw the large amount of rubbish while on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. In July, he quit his job, borrowed 12,000 yuan through P2P lending, and went to Hoh Xil with his dog to pick up rubbish.

Since July, Wu has collected nearly a ton of garbage. He slept in a tricycle at night, ate two meals a day, and even encountered wolves and bears during his journey. Unfortunately, he has had to continue the cleanup operation alone since his dog died in a car accident.

According to Wu, his parents did not know of his decision, as he thought they might not understand or approve of him picking up trash. However, after his story was made into a documentary not only do his parents probably know about it but so does most of China. He plans to return to his hometown one day, find a job, and repay the loans he secured to make his trash picking mission possible.

What are people saying online?

Wu’s initiative has made people across China aware of the very serious problem of the waste on the world's highest plateau. A host of commentators expressed their respect for him. “He is very rich in spirit, and he has done a meaningful thing. It is amazing. I pay tribute” read one comment.

Another post read, “For us, if we can’t pick up trash, at least we can avoid throwing it away!”

While most comments praised the idea of addressing Tibet’s waste issue, some were critical of certain aspects of how Wu has gone about it; “You are 28, but you don’t even have a deposit of 12,000 yuan, and have to borrow online. You quit your job and go to Tibet to pick up trash for two months without informing your parents. If I were your parents, I’d be very sad. People must be responsible for themselves and their families first, and only then can they can do this kind of public welfare.”

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Carol Yuan / Sep 25, 2020 04:49 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

Can China’s love of watermelons come to the rescue of the poorest parts of the country? On September 24, students from Henan University won 10 tons of watermelons. The competition was all part of a poverty alleviation program that helped the hashtag # “我为母校赢西瓜 (Help my home school win watermelons)” attract over 100 million views.

What’s the story?

Between August 26 and September 15, four organizations ran a # “Help my home school win watermelons” scheme. Social media users were asked to vote on their favorite of a total of 211 universities, with the winner offered a bumper package of 10 tons of watermelons. Importantly the fruit was to be purchased from poverty-stricken regions and would therefore contribute to relieving poverty in the area.

The event went so well that the organizers ended up awarding 10 tons of watermelons not just to the winning university but also to the next five most popular universities as well. Henan seemed to dominate in the popularity stakes however with all the top six coming from the province.

Yesterday, as around 4,000 watermelons were delivered to Henan University, thousands of teachers and students gathered to taste the fruits of their “labor”. Some freshmen said they had voted every day since they got an admission letter from the university.

What are people saying online?

The mass of watermelons reminded people of the tons of broccoli won by Henan University and Zhengzhou University in a similar event last year. Students from other regions expressed their envy as Henan is one of the country's most populous provinces with more potential voters.

“I voted for my school every day but failed to beat those universities in Henan. Henan’s large population base is unbeatable.” A student from Shaanxi province wrote in a regretful tone.

However, despite the popular event being held with the aim of relieving poverty, Caixin found it difficult to find well-received comments that actually addressed the issue at stake.


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Carol Yuan / Sep 24, 2020 05:02 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

# “The first cup of milk tea in autumn” was trending on Chinese social media yesterday as over 400 thousand Weibo users discussed the topic and set about treating friends to cups of tea.

What’s the story?

September 22 is the Autumn Equinox according to the Chinese traditional calendar and the idea of giving a friend an online money transfer for their “first cup of milk tea in autumn” trended heavily yesterday. Although lots of people had no idea why the action of offering to pay for a friend’s tea had become so popular, they still posted screenshots of their chats with friends or family members containing money transfer records on social media.

This sudden popularity brought obvious benefits to milk tea shops. According to a milk tea shop server, his shop saw a 30% sales increase yesterday. “All this was sudden, so we were not prepared and customers had to wait,” said the barista.

What are people saying online?

Although many social media users participated in the activity, they were confused about why it had become so popular because while the Autumn Equinox has ancient origins, the idea of buying milk tea for a friend to mark the day has not. Some believed it was just a cynical marketing strategy with one popular post reading, “Another successful business hype”. While another pointed out that Autumn Equinox is not the first day of Autumn, which falls on August 7. “I’ve been confused for a whole day: why do you call it the first cup of milk tea in autumn? It’s been a long time since autumn began!” But others embraced the new “tradition.” “With such a special title, I think today’s milk tea tastes better!” a supportive post read.


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Carol Yuan / Sep 23, 2020 06:43 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

General travel between the Chinese mainland and Macau will resume today after a 238-day suspension. The news is one of the hottest topics on Chinese social media but people still have reservations.

What’s the story?

According to the announcement by the National Immigration Administration and Macao Government Tourism Office, residents from the Chinese mainland are allowed to travel to Macao from September 23. Travelers must be able to present a certificate confirming a negative result for Covid-19 or a certificate of specimen collection for a Covid-19 nucleic acid test issued within the past 7 days. People with a history of visiting epidemic or high-risk areas within the last 14 days will not be allowed in.

The easing of travel restrictions coincides with the forthcoming traditional Mid-Autumn Festival and China’s National Day holidays. If tourists go to Macau this holiday, they will be able to see the “Macau Light Festival”, popular amongst people looking for that perfect social media photo.

What are people saying online?

The news has been met with a mixed response online. Most complain about the inconvenience of having to take a nucleic acid test before traveling. “Great! Let’s go! Wait, need a nucleic acid testing? Then forget it,” read a popular comment.


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Carol Yuan / Sep 23, 2020 06:34 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

A vocational college in Shandong Province is trending on Weibo as its staff threw away students’ food deliveries in an attempt to force them to use the school canteen.

What’s the story?

On the first day of school, students from Shandong Laiyang Health School found the food deliveries they had ordered thrown in the trash. According to students at the school, the student union confiscated their deliveries under instruction from school management.

Students in the college are currently not allowed to leave the campus due to the pandemic, and students believe that by forbidding them from ordering delivered food the school had hoped they would be forced to patronize the canteen, although according to one student “the food in the school canteen is a bit expensive and there are a lot of people in line.”

The school later issued a notice saying that the food had been confiscated as part of epidemic prevention and food safety. But they also admitted that their “extreme measures” should be rectified.

What are people saying online?

The behavior of the school quickly aroused public outrage especially given the current national campaign to reduce food waste. Also, people regarded the school’s actions as a violation of student property. “How can you dispose of other people's personal belongings without authorization?! This is how you set an example for students? Isn’t it a waste of food?” One popular post remarked covering both points.

Related: Students at a Xi’an University Scream Over Quarantine Conditions 

As Grain Prices Rise, Agriculture Official Says Fluctuations Are Temporary

 


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By Heather Mowbray / Sep 21, 2020 08:06 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

#疑因不满封闭管理学生集体呐喊#

阅读4212.5万 讨论5303

Dissatisfied with the management of China’s campus quarantine policy, students of Xi’an International Studies University held a 30 minute “collective scream” protest Sunday from their dorm room windows. The students said that during the Covid-19 pandemic they were locked onto campus with access to a supermarket selling substandard goods, which forced them to campaign for better options and standards on campus by seeking publicity for their situation.

What’s the story?

According to a state directive in March, students were not permitted to leave campus during the spring semester. In planning for the Fall reopening, universities have been given some flexibility but many have been cautious about lifting controls, including Xian International Studies University, located in Changan University City in the northwestern city of Xian. Not only have students had their freedoms curtained, but many shops surrounding campuses have gone out of business as their clientele remain stuck behind school walls.

directive

http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_xwfb/gzdt_gzdt/s5987/202003/t20200312_430163.html

some flexibility on movement

http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_xwfb/gzdt_gzdt/s5987/202003/t20200312_430163.html

On Sept. 21, Xian International Studies University replied to the students’ demands by saying that it would simplify the procedure for students to apply for an entry-exit pass and improve conditions on campus. This would include setting up a temporary 24-hour shopping center and implementing more hygienic bathroom conditions. It would also bring in financial oversight of campus cafeterias, which had used the pandemic’s impact on supply chains as an excuse to up the cost of students’ meal options, and regulate delivery services that had been making the most of their captive audience.

What are people saying online?

Although one popular opinion was, “They are obstructing epidemic prevention efforts and should all be expelled,” many writing on Weibo were students and their sympathizers who sought to further highlight the poor conditions.

“Out of all the campuses in Xian Changan University City, only our school is still under closure, but as canteen prices increase, supermarkets close, queues grow for bathrooms and express delivery services, longstanding dissatisfaction has now broken out. Only undergraduates are locked up now. Faculty and staff can come and go, and we even see primary school kids running around freely.”

Students have had no other recourse but to protest, as one made clear, “We’ve been locked up on campus since we started in May. What can we do? Rebel?”

Others expressed the uselessness of locking in students while others could leave campus freely. “You can seal up a school if the services are perfect and teachers and students are all inside together, but if the leaders can go out and party and only the students are locked in, what’s the point?”

Many tried to make the point that the policy does not protect the population centers as intended. “Wind gets in, rain gets in, employees and leaders get it. Cats go out, dogs go out, only students don’t go out. And this protects students?”

Related: Trending in China: Excited About Returning to College Campuses? Not So Quick With Covid-19 Controls

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Carol Yuan / Sep 21, 2020 06:50 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

In the latest episode of the television series “Go Fighting,” a Chinese reality show promoting customs and cultures of Western China, a celebrity picks a flower in the wilds of Tibet, only for netizens to later point out it was an endangered plant, arousing criticism from environmentalists.

What’s the story?

On a “Go Fighting” episode that aired on Sunday, several celebrities arrived in Tibet and were told by the reality show’s production team to pick a certain flower. Liu Yuning, a young singer, was the one who finally found and picked the target flower.

After the episode was broadcast, netizens pointed out on social media that flower was a Saussurea medusa, which is on the List of National Key Protected Wild Plants (Draft for Comment) and picking it is banned.

Liu posted an apology statement on his Weibo, saying that the flower was not a real Saussurea medusa but merely a prop prepared by the production team in advance, in order to promote Tibet. Liu also admitted that his actions provided a fake impression of what had really happened, and he might have misled people into picking plants in the wild.

What are people saying online?

Botanist Gu Yourong from Capital Normal University questioned whether the flower picked by Liu was really just a prop, as it is impossible for a prop master to make such a realistic looking fake. Gu also questioned the way the show promoted poverty alleviation results by showing them as if there is a trade-off between the two. “Poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation are not contradictory, and they can even complement each other. This show is really to discredit people who are doing the best to alleviate poverty.”

The common view held by most netizens is that this flower was bought by the production team from the market and placed there because there are many sellers of this wild plant in the local fair despite the fact it is officially banned to pluck them.

“Since the purpose of the show is to promote public welfare and environmental protection, how can there be such a confusing plot? Why go picking instead of just finding this plant and familiarize the public with it? It is now a dilemma for the production team because substituting props for the genuine product is a fraud, but if it is a genuine flower, it is illegal,” read one popular comment.


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Heather Mowbray / Sep 18, 2020 06:20 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

The clothing company Semir, owner of China's leading children's clothing brand Balabala, was this month accused of IP theft in an open letter by Songshan Shaolin Temple, which took aim at its “Shaolin Kungfu” emblazoned items. Shaolin Temple said it was going public because it had been earlier rebuffed when it asked Semir to drop the clothing line, which launched in August.

Over the past 23 years, the Henan temple complex considered the birthplace of the Buddhist martial art of Shaolin boxing, has registered 666 trademarks, spearheaded by its controversial head monk, and criticized for commercialism by religious and cultural purists.

What’s the story?

Falling afoul of a litigious cultural body threatens to compound an already bad year for Semir. Affected by the pandemic lockdown, the Zhejiang-headquartered firm closed a tenth of its 7500 stores in the first half of 2020 and saw net profit drop 97% year-on-year to 21.6 million yuan.

Although many companies try to pair up with cultural sites such as the Forbidden City or Dunhuang Caves, the birthplace of kung fu has not taken kindly to “unsolicited collaborations.” The company was accused of not informing or obtaining authorization from Shaolin Temple when using the words “Shaolin Kungfu” in its “National Wave” leisure range.

This is not for want of commercial savvy on the part of a temple made famous for training Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and the use of Shaolin stunts in multiple films. The temple’s abbot, Shi Yongxin, dubbed “the CEO of Shaolin” and “the Buddhist Monk with an MBA,” has ushered in a global era for the martial art by acquiring land and property overseas.

One of Shaolin Temple’s trademarks is disputed by South Shaolin Temple in Fujian which registered the “South Shaolin” trademark in 2004. Songshan Shaolin Temple was also able to register “South Shaolin” a few years later, adding “North Shaolin”, “West Shaolin” and “East Shaolin” as extra brand buffers.

What are people saying online?

People responding to the tale on Weibo have accused Shaolin Temple of cybersquatting on Shaolin-related trademarks. The comment, “Shaolin Temple appears to have registered the trademark to prevent other companies from using it. Apart from the specialty walnut cake, there really aren’t any other products it can use to trap the money demon” received seven thousand likes.

Addressing the growing commercialism of cultural sites in China another commentator wrote, “Wake up friends who are filled with anger and outrage: The Qing palace is selling tickets for its exhibitions. In two days, it will celebrate its 600th anniversary.”

A comment further down the list praised Shaolin temple for getting serious about its brand reputation, saying “Disney has done a great job of protecting trademarks. Why can’t Shaolin Temple? People imitating Shaolin to sell medicine and food should be stopped…It is very difficult for China to produce a world-class brand, if brands can’t be protected.”

Shaolin trademark infringements are undoubtedly rife, with one social media user highlighting their use to sell alternative therapies. “Hurry up and deal with that ‘Shaolin thirteen moxibustion’ trademark issue: [Local station] Liaoning TV is advertising it every day.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

Related: Travel Agency Abandons IPO After Bout With Buddhists

 


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Carol Yuan / Sep 18, 2020 05:21 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

The TV series “Heroes in Harm’s Way” is trending, with the hashtag being discussed millions of times on Weibo.

The drama series, consisting of seven individual stories based on real events in the national fight against the coronavirus pandemic, premiered on September 17.

What’s the story?

Broadcast on state TV channel CCTV-1, “Heroes in Harm’s Way” took only four months to produce before hitting Chinese television screens, and consists of 14 episodes with each storyline spanning two episodes. The stories touch on the themes of heroism, sacrifice and courage in dire times.

So far only two episodes have been broadcast but the show has drawn criticism due to “factual inaccuracies”, not least in regards to the gender balance of the “heroes”. In one example an official says the doctors in one hospital who signed up to be sent to Hubei province in support of local efforts were all men, while in fact, two-thirds of the medical workers who were sent to Hubei were women.

What are people saying online?

The inspirational drama has had a deep effect on some viewers. “Those heroes are a beam of light in the darkness, giving us the courage and strength to go through the pain and confusion, walking towards the light, and finally victory is ahead,” was a typical comment. While another popular message read “I was so moved when I watched the first two episodes and can’t wait to watch the others.”

Critics pointed out what they saw as the false depictions of women in the plot as well as some medical inaccuracies. “The screenwriter and director seem to be deliberately obliterating the achievements of women” said one popular message.

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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Carol Yuan / Sep 18, 2020 05:08 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

“University launches half-portion dishes” is trending across China, with more than 34 million views across multiple social media platforms. It refers to Xi'an International University, which has abandoned the traditional “one size fits all” approach favored by canteens around the country in order to toe the line on a high-level government food waste program.

What’s the story?

Xian International University is not alone. As colleges across China resumed face-to-face teaching at the beginning of September, their canteens were working to meet the requirements of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “clean plate” initiative.

One of the first to act was Shanghai University, which has launched smaller portions at a lower price.

And in Jiangxi province, one university has adopted a buffet system where students take from a common stock, weigh their portion, and pay based on how heavy it is.

What are people saying online?

Comments on Chinese social media generally expressed support for the new options, saying they catered for people with varying appetites and would help them avoid feeling guilty about wasting food.

“Sometimes the portions really are too large, far exceeding one’s appetite. But it seems wrong not to clean the plate,” said one student.

Another said smaller portions were useful because “ladies may want to have less for dinner.”

But one was concerned about the cleanliness of the buffet approach. “This will cause hygiene problems, because not everyone washes their hands before going to take their meal, but they all use the same spoon.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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Carol Yuan / Sep 17, 2020 05:42 PM / Trending Stories

What's trending?

Basketball player Jeremy Lin posted a video on Weibo announcing that he would not being playing for the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) team the Beijing Ducks the season and would instead try to return to the NBA.

After a 10-year career in the NBA and a championship turn with the Toronto Raptors, Jeremy Lin reached “rock bottom” as a NBA free agent last summer and moved to the Beijing Ducks where he quickly became a star leading them to the semi-finals play-offs for the first time in five years.

What's the story?

On Sept. 15, the 32-year-old guard revealed his decision in a Chinese language video to followers on Weibo, followed by an English post on his Instagram account.

“This decision has really been the hardest in my life,” Lin said tearfully in the video. “I know that many of my fans have stood by me no matter if I was injured,” Lin said, referred to harsh treatment he had received in his time with the CBA.

His club the Beijing Ducks subsequently posted a message on Weibo saying; “We respect an athlete who pursues the highest ideal at all costs - Lin perfectly interprets ‘higher, faster and stronger’ sportsmanship”.

Jeremy Lin indicated on his Instagram that the decision had nothing to do with chasing the shadow of his glory days as “Linsanity” or about money, fame, reputation, or power.

What are people saying online?

The American player seemed to win netizens' respect by embodying the spirit of trying to become a better player.

Much of the discussion on Weibo focused on dreams and reality. One sports commentator wrote, “I don’t know whether Jeremy Lin can have a chance of returning to the NBA and what kind of contract he might win, but I always feel that a most cherished and rare character trait is giving up vested interests for a dream.” Basketball fans said, “Anyone who has a dream is great!” “I felt both sad and happy. Jeremy’s decision was really brave as he set out again from where the dream started!”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

 

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Heather Mowbray / Sep 17, 2020 04:58 PM / Trending Stories

What's trending?

#iPhone12 became one of the most trending subjects on Chinese social media despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that no one has seen one. Apple fans in China were disappointed after staying up throughout the night to watch the U.S. tech giant’s “Time Flies” fall conference Tuesday to find the heavily trailed iPhone 12 was not in the product lineup revealed at the event. #iPhone12 has attracted over 3 billion views on Weibo since it first got its own hashtag, with many of those coming as people speculated on why it wasn’t part of the conference and drew connections to wider U.S.-China relations.

Expected to reveal a new smartphone this year, Apple’s traditional fall conference instead focused on the release of Apple Watch Series 6, iPad Air 4, a 10.2-inch iPad, and the Apple One service bundle. Potential customers of a new 5G enabled Apple smartphone in China, where 5G is being rolled out, will have to wait.

What’s the story?

Addressing supply issues in an earnings call with investors Tuesday, Apple CFO Luca Maestri said “Last year we started selling new iPhones in late September, this year we expect supply to be available a few weeks later.” That led many to believe Apple would launch the ‘missing’ iPhone 12 in October.

Maestri did not reveal why this year’s new iPhone would be delayed. But the Wall Street Journal reported in April that production has suffered serious supply issues due to the coronavirus pandemic, causing Apple to delay mass production of its upcoming iPhone handsets by around a month.

Apple is anxious to release the new 5G enabled iPhone 12 as soon as possible. Huawei, its chief smartphone competitor, has restricted access to chip suppliers due to U.S. sanctions which in theory gives Apple a golden opportunity to bring out new smartphones and capitalize on its competitor’s troubles.

When released, the new Apple phone is expected to come with a new A14 chipset and 5G modem and be available in two distinct models with a 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch OLED screen.

For its latest phones, Apple is depending on supplier Qualcomm with whom it settled a lawsuit over patents in 2019. The 5G modem supplier needs extra time to adapt to the A14 chips.

In addition, according to predictions by well-known Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo on Monday, the latest models will not support a 120Hz refresh rate due to battery life considerations.

What are people saying online?

The disappointment is real for Apple fans who say the conference was not worth staying up for without an iPhone 12 reveal. As one viewer wrote, “Does it mean there will be an iPhone 12 conference in October, it’s so tiring...”

Apple appears to be losing momentum with its China supporters eager to make use of the country’s new 5G data packages. “Before China Unicom called me to upgrade to the 5G package, I refused at first, but later the price dropped, so I upgraded. Now I feel cheated, as the signal is just getting worse,” said one fan.

Some complained that Apple wasn’t the company it used to be. “Jobs has been gone nine years, and this is just one more thing [he wouldn’t have done]”

Others questioned why the phone could not be announced, despite delayed delivery, as the iPad Air announced Tuesday will only be on sale from next month.

Many referenced the political climate which accentuates the competition between smartphone makers. “Apple releases new products on the day Huawei’s chip supply is cut off. Are they mocking us?”

In resignation, one popular comment was, “The iPhone 11 is still pretty sweet.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

Related: Luxshare Grows Into China’s iPhone Champion With Help From Apple 


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By Heather Mowbray / Sep 16, 2020 04:47 AM / Trending Stories

picture

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A social media storm over a state-run restaurant selling steamed buns is raising questions of whether China’s brands from the past can survive in the modern era.

Goubuli Group, a state-owned restaurant chain renowned for its steamed baozi or “stuffed buns,” published an online apology for appalling customer service and conditions at one of its biggest branches in Wangfujing, Beijing, which were exposed by state television in a video.

In a statement that attracted more than 10,000 comments and was seen by millions, the Chinese fast food chain says it severed ties with the restaurant franchisee in Wangfujing, emphasizing its preference for directly run restaurants where it can control quality.

What’s the story?

Goubuli, which means “Dogs Won’t Touch It,” is originally from Tianjin in northern China and is one of the region’s best-known brands with a decidedly old-school reputation.

However, while the brand survived decades, the television expose caused some to ask whether the restaurant chain has gone past its sell-by date.

What are people saying online?

The restaurant first responded to the TV report by threatening the makers and posters of the video before taking a more reconciliatory approach. Netizens are not amused by the chain’s subsequent attempt to salvage its reputation.

“Your reputation?” one person wrote. “It's not as if you care about what you are selling. It’s just that this time everyone sees clearly, and you just cut the connection with one store? Look at all the rubbish you’ve written in the PR piece!”

A consensus developed that despite its efforts to minimalize damage, Goubuli’s public relations efforts were a disaster. One commentator called out the restaurant chain for hiding the apology in a night-time release.

“Goubuli is past its prime and is now just an old store selling old goods to old people,” another person wrote. “If you’ve done nothing wrong, fine, but if you have, take up the attitude of any restaurant in this situation and apologize properly, instead of being happy when you hear compliments and jumping a mile when you hear complaints. This time, kudos to CCTV!”

The most popular comment? “Never mind franchises, the main restaurant is rubbish too.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

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By Heather Mowbray / Sep 15, 2020 10:29 AM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

As movie theater seats in China warm up, with 91% of cinemas open, albeit with restricted capacity due to Covid-19, the live action remake of 1998 Walt Disney classic “Mulan,” about a girl who fights as a boy to save her father and defend her country, hit the big screen in China on Friday. But the film took in only $23.2 million by the end of its first weekend, according to industry watcher Maoyan.com (link in Chinese), far less than analysts expected. The results bring the film’s total international box office to $37.6 million, Disney said.

Despite being crafted by Disney to appeal to the billion-strong Chinese movie-going audience, the adaptation was met with less enthusiasm than either recent international success “Tenet” or local war film “The 800” in their first weekends at the box office.

What’s the story?

Delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, “Mulan,” based on an old Chinese folk ballad, cost $200 million to make. Not only has the timing been unfortunate for the swash-buckling story, but the film has been mired in controversy outside the country due to views expressed online by main actress Liu Yifei, and criticism of Disney for thanking local authorities in Xinjiang for hosting film production, prompting a boycott movement on Twitter, and leading to limited promotion of the film in China.

But even considering limited media attention on the theatrical release in China, “Mulan” appears to have missed the sweet spot with the public, according to reviews. On Friday, ticket apps Maoyan and Taopiaopiao gave the film low scores and on Weibo, “Mulan” received a 51% celebrity rating, compared with 82% for recent Christopher Nolan film, “Tenet,” which was released in China on Sept. 4.

What are people saying online?

Amid positive reaction to the film among enthusiasts who have been “starved” of new big-name productions for most of 2020, comments give clues as to why the film has flopped. “Regardless of values and aesthetic differences between Chinese and American cultures conveyed in this film, it has a vacant plot, and lacks even the narrative logic of Zhang Yimou's “The Great Wall,” another cross-cultural production. I can only praise Liu Yifei’s elegant fighting style. Jet Li’s eight-character mustache seems to grow from his nose!” More basic issues included the quality of the film: “The script is so bad that even Gong Li can’t improve on it, so Liu Yifei, with her track record of appearing in poor films, had no chance.”

Another commentator objected to Mulan’s main goals in the film, writing, “This film takes the simple story of “defending one’s family and country” and updates it for the 21st century, showing a group of soldiers desperate to protect the emperor. It’s a shame the film returned to days in which loyalty and filial piety were embroiled in such a corrupt way.”

Nonetheless, some netizens were simply happy to be watching a film outside of their own living rooms. “I couldn’t wait to go to the theater to watch this movie on Sept. 11. You should go watch it yourself to get a proper impression.”

Contact editor Gavin Cross (gavincross@caixin.com)


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Heather Mowbray / Sep 10, 2020 07:03 PM / Trending Stories

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Chinese food delivery service Ele.me launched a “five minutes more function” on its app Wednesday. If customers are not in a hurry, they can stop their delivery rider being penalized for being slow, especially if the driver’s credit rating is already good.

Ele.me has added the new option, “I'm willing to wait 5/10 minutes more” that customers can click at the point of payment. The move follows an article, “Takeaway Rider, Stuck in the System” (link in Chinese), which reported on the many day-to-day risks taken by riders, many of whom are on very low wages, in order to make their delivery targets.

The company says it hopes the new feature will reward riders with good credit service ratings and not penalize them for taking extra time if customers press the button, declaring that “every hardworking person in society deserves respect.” It asked its customers to give their “blue knights” a little more time for a “red packet” reward or free snack.

What’s the story?

“Takeaway Rider, Stuck in the System”, published by Renwu magazine, went viral this week on Chinese social media.

“These workers are not just digital nodes but flesh and blood individuals,” wrote Renwu, going on to argue that no matter how the technology changes or how innovative the model, it is the duty of the company to ensure the health of their workers who provide services while protecting the interests of consumers.

While the article wrote that “exhausted” food delivery riders deserve society’s concern, providing an “extra 5/10 minutes” function may only have addressed the symptom of a far larger problem – labor regulations. Renwu argued that the law is effectively playing catch up with consumer demand in a fast-paced digital economy.

According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the number of people working as delivery personnel every day has reached 1 million. Ele.me rival Meituan Dianping had nearly 3 million riders on its books in the first half of 2020. Many takeaway riders race against time, running red lights, going against traffic and speeding through the city for the sake of a few yuan per ride. Food delivery apps may provide efficiency and service, but in doing so, have long been accused of walking over employee rights.

What are people saying online?

Hungry netizens are not feeling so charitable. Word of the new function received thousands of comments, with the most popular expressing cynicism. “I will give him five more minutes, but I’m sure he won’t use them to ride slowly or obey the traffic rules. He will just use the time to take another order. This policy only treats the symptoms and not the cause.”

Another felt the new system was rigged against people ordering large meals. “A rider will always prioritize a small order over a big one, because it will take less time to prepare. Takeaways are not a one-to-one delivery service. Whoever presses ‘wait’ will suffer while the rider will not benefit.”

Others declared their support for the option “with hands and feet” and asked fellow supporters to send photos of their slower deliveries. One person said “I want to support this. There are too many uncontrollable factors in the industry. I had a situation in which the rider kept calling to apologize and explain exactly what had gone wrong while he was meant to be watching the road.”

One comment on Chinese online media site Seashell Finance said, “If you really feel bad about the rider, don’t let the customer decide to give them five minutes more. The company only needs to announce that riders will not be fined or deducted for a five minute delay. They are reluctant to do this because they need to use speed to attract customer orders, and transfer the responsibility for overtime to the customer and the rider.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

Related: Meituan Dianping Reports Better-Than-Expected Earnings

Delivery Platforms Change the Rules but Can Riders Escape The Algorithm (in Chinese)

 


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Yilin Chen / Aug 28, 2020 05:38 PM / Trending Stories

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A month after ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing launched the stand-alone ride-hailing service “Huaxiaozhu”, whose logo resembles a piggy-bank on wheels, the new app is struggling to live up to its hype. Hoping to lure younger consumers with more affordable rides than the main Didi app, Huaxiaozhu has elbowed its way into the top ranks of ride-hailing businesses. However, regulators in numerous cities have suspended the service, citing concerns over poor customer experience, unqualified drivers, and low-quality cars.

What’s the story?

Since the launch of Huaxiaozhu, Didi has rolled out a variety of marketing strategies to attract drivers and users, with its most popular slogan being “tens of billions of yuan in subsidies.” The more orders a driver completes, the more subsidies he will receive from the app. In order to expand its consumer base, the service has tapped into the power of social media by encouraging users to recommend the app on WeChat, Twitter-like Weibo, and short video platform Douyin in return for discounts.

Lured by the abundant discounts, drivers and users initially flocked to the app. In July, after an aggressive round of advertisements and discounts, the number of daily downloads of Huaxiaozhu reached 60,000. On Tuesday, the app rose to the top of the chart for “Best Free Travel Apps in August” on the mainland App Store, surpassing its parent app Didi.

However, lower prices also seemed to come with lower standards. Whereas Didi previously reassured the public that the new app would only allow existing Didi drivers to register under strict compliance standards to ensure safe rides, in reality, regulators found that many Huaxiaozhu drivers operate without a ride-hailing license. In several cities, transportation officials have found Huaxiaozhu cars in poor condition, with some rear- and side-view mirrors taped together to keep them from falling apart.

Even with lucrative discounts, Huaxiaozhu has been struggling with user dissatisfaction. With the rapid expansion of the app’s user base, consumers in major cities frequently have to wait a long time before a driver accepts their order. Meanwhile, because Huaxiaozhu charges customers pre-determined rates regardless of traffic situations and actual route, drivers complain that they often earn barely enough money to cover gas whenever they are stuck in traffic for too long.

What are people saying online?

Huaxiaozhu has been frequently compared with e-commerce upstart Pinduoduo in their user orientation and marketing strategies. People say that both apps target younger consumers who prioritize cheaper prices over superior quality. While some people said they want Huaxiaozhu to keep offering discounts but step up its quality control, others responded, “You can’t expect to have both.”

Still others are worried that the loose regulations around Huaxiaozhu would bring more scandals to Didi, which has experienced numerous PR crises involving driver misconduct. From 2014 to 2018, the media reported at least 50 cases of Didi-related sexual harassment and assault, including 2 murders and 19 rapes, according to Southern Weekly. One user wrote, “Did Didi suddenly forget about its past tragedies, just as it’s making strides towards ensuring safe rides?”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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Yilin Chen / Aug 27, 2020 06:17 PM / Trending Stories

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Yesterday, Alibaba announced that it would stop displaying technical employees’ level of seniority in its internal system. The e-commerce giant previously had a famous two-pronged hierarchy approach to convey status in a simple combination of the letters P or M plus a number. The P stood for “profession” covering “technical” jobs such as programmers and product managers, while the M stood for “management” referring to executives that oversee teams. As employees moved up the ranks of P’s or M’s a corresponding number next to the letter would change, and with it so would their salaries, their share of company stocks, and of course their level of superiority compared to their colleagues. The number system will still exist but in internal communications people will no longer be able to see what level/number a “P” colleague is.

What’s the story?

Alibaba staff have voiced mixed reactions to the new policy, according to news and data provider 36Kr. One employee said that they used to feel uneasy whenever they needed to talk to “Senior P’s” in other departments. He is optimistic that concealing rankings would chip away at the communication barrier. However, others find the increased ambiguity worrisome: “What if I accidentally offended a colleague in a meeting, then discovered afterwards that he is a senior director?”

Since July, Alibaba has been made a series of moves that aim to increase efficiency, such as eliminating the mandatory requirement of weekly reports and discouraging employees from working extra hours and holding unnecessary meetings. China’s tech giants, especially Alibaba, are notorious for their 996 culture, which refers to an implicit expectation that employees should work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. Alibaba founder Jack Ma even called it a blessing and sign of hard work. As the company grows at an alarming rate—from 66,000 employees in 2018 to over 100,000 last year, it seems to be aggressively optimizing its management strategies and hesitating to adopt its founder’s attitude.

Some employees also suspect that the new policy was triggered by the numerous scandals involving Alibaba high-level executives that have made headlines on social media. In June, Alibaba demoted Jiang Fan, who had overseen the company’s two major e-commerce platforms Tmall and Taobao since early 2019, from senior vice president to vice president due to an alleged affair. In June, a P8-level senior technician was fired from Alibaba after he harassed female job-seekers by using a full-time position as bait to recruit “personal assistants” for himself.

What are people saying online?

Many netizens argue that concealing P rankings will backfire by forcing employees to tiptoe around colleagues they don’t know. “This is counterproductive—only a company that’s open about seniority can foster transparent interpersonal relationships,” one user wrote. Others seem convinced that the new policy is partly a PR move. One person joked, “Alibaba has successfully eliminated executive-level scandals and replaced them with ‘employee’s mistakes.’”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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Yilin Chen / Aug 26, 2020 06:36 PM / Trending Stories

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China’s regulators and restaurants are waging war on food waste, urging people around the nation to adopt thrifty habits. Previously, state media has called out livestreamers who engage in “mukbang”—eating shows where hosts devour large amounts of food while interacting with viewers—and accused them of being wasteful. But when the aggressive “clean plate” campaign is left open to interpretations on a local level, it has given rise to unexpected measures that some netizens see as downright ill-conceived.

What’s the story?

Since 2015, a high school in Hunan has been implementing a rule that seems to be getting stricter: if a class wastes an average of 100 grams of food per student, the entire class will be disqualified for scholarships. Additionally, students with excessive leftovers will be fined 100 yuan ($14.5). Media footage from last week shows the school weighing and keeping detailed records of the leftovers from each class, solemnly noting that one class “threw away too many duck bones.” The cafeteria, which serves over 18,000 students and teachers, claims to have reduced food waste by thousands of kilograms every day.

Meanwhile in Tianjin, a restaurant has started offering male and female versions of packed lunches. According to the restaurant, the female version contains less rice and one less meat-based dish in order to “accommodate women’s lower required food intake,” but is priced the same as its male counterpart. After this arrangement caused a considerable backlash for gender discrimination on social media, city authorities weighed in disapprovingly with, “people are equal in the face of food.”

Across China, restaurants swept up in the “clean plate” frenzy are rolling out “creative” measures in quick succession. A restaurant chain in the city of Changsha stirred up controversy when it began weighing the body mass of customers to suggest dishes containing “appropriate” calories and ingredients. In Henan, a hotel has decided to punish its staff if customers leave too much food behind.

What are people saying online?

Puzzled netizens have asked why restaurants and schools feel the need to devise such a variety of measures that might actually be counterproductive. Regarding the Hunan high school’s policy of linking leftovers with scholarship eligibility, the top comment on Weibo reads, “It’s one thing to encourage saving food. But what does it have to do with taking away the scholarship of an entire class?” As for Tianjin’s packed lunches based on gender, one user wrote, “Not only do women have to endure unequal pay for the same work, now there is unequal food for the same price.”

Many netizens have their own experiences with mandatory “clean plate” campaigns that have gone overboard. One college student wrote that he would rather stay hungry than finish eating all the fatty dishes cooked by his college cafeteria. Apart from urging cafeterias to create healthier and tastier recipes, people have also joked, “local decision-makers can always come up with the most absurd and impractical interpretations of well-intentioned national initiatives.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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Heather Mowbray / Aug 26, 2020 05:12 PM / Trending Stories

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#新员工不喝领导敬酒被打耳光#

Screenshots taken from closed circuit video footage of a bank director slapping a new recruit for refusing a toast at a company dinner have been viewed more than 800 million times and have given rise to thousands of personal stories detailing workplace culture-related incidents. With graduates’ plans paused for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the youth recruitment climate in China is particularly harsh this year. Fresh graduates are seeking work in an environment where extreme talent programs are used to attract attention and exploitative company cultures have come to light online.

What’s the story?

After a screenshot was posted on a “2020 Campus Recruitment of New Employees” Weibo group, netizens got to work uncovering the case of Director Dong at Xiamen International Bank’s Zhongguancun branch in Beijing. Dong had tried to force a teetotal new recruit surnamed Yang to drink a toast of China’s national liquor, the sorghum-based baijiu. According to the local newspaper Beijing News, the new team member was slapped and insulted as “stupid” at a dinner in the Pangu 7 Star Hotel near the Olympic Park. Leaving immediately, the recruit later told the newspaper he was followed all the way to the elevator, after which the rowdy dinner continued before the police were eventually called.

On August 24, the bank’s official WeChat account posted an apology saying that the director’s behavior was out of order, and that half of his annual performance-related salary would be docked as punishment, while the branch chief would forfeit one quarter’s performance pay.

China’s urban unemployment rate was 5.7% in July, unchanged from June. In the first seven months, the country created 22.6% fewer city jobs than the same period last year, according to economists at Nomura International. With companies seen as having the upper hand in the job market, some people fear that employers are abusing their position with abusive behavior and unfair terms of employment becoming more commonplace. Last week Coconut Palm, China’s fourth largest soft drinks producer with a history of provocative product ads, attempted to recruit managerial talent for “lifelong jobs” for which they will be made to forfeit their company house if they leave, and required to “put career before family.” An online furor saw the talent scheme retracted.

What are people saying online?

Weibo commentators feel strongly that company culture is the wrong word to describe Xiamen International Bank’s dinner. One post bluntly said, “This isn’t culture, it’s hooliganism.” People believe the Xiamen International Bank director got away lightly with a fine. For many, the problem goes deeper than just one director or one bank, with a popular comment being, “These leaders are all about the power and obedience, not the drinking itself. Although you may find a good boss, unfortunately the bad drive out the good, corrupting everyone.” The new recruit was encouraged to sue, with the going rate for a slap thought to be 50,000 yuan ($7,230).

Everyone seems to have their own stories about drinking culture in China. One Weibo user recalled business trips to Shandong province in which downing 10 glasses per manager was standard, and then you had to drink with all your colleagues. “It’s really too hard,” he wrote.

As one non-drinker revealed, “If you go and don’t drink, people will think you’re faking it. But I really can’t drink. If I drink I feel terrible, but if I don’t, they’ll be upset, so I simply avoid going.”

Extended hours are dubbed as “996” company culture in China, which means staff never leave the office before their boss and rarely before 9 pm, taking only one day off a week. Forced drinking at company dinners is commonplace in many industries. One lawyer posted that being good at socializing makes working life smoother, so if you can’t drink, you just have to work harder.”

Related: Charts of the Day: College Graduates Face Their Toughest Test Yet: Finding a Job

 


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Yilin Chen / Aug 25, 2020 06:23 PM / Trending Stories

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A month after most cinemas in China reopened after the Covid-19 outbreak, the domestic movie industry is seeing its first box office breakout hit of the year: the war drama film “The Eight Hundred.” It depicts a battalion of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), led by the Kuomintang (KMT) party, resisting against the Japanese during the Battle of Shanghai (1937). However, some moviegoers feel reluctant to admit the film’s merits.

What’s the story?

Originally scheduled to debut in June 2019, the release of “The Eight Hundred” was delayed until last week citing technical issues. As movie theaters in low-risk areas across the nation adjusted their capacity restrictions from 30% to 50%, people rushed to cinemas to watch the much anticipated film. As of today, its box office revenue has reached 1 billion yuan ($145 million), well ahead of the performance of other domestic and international titles in China’s post-pandemic theaters.

“The Eight Hundred” is based on a true story and zooms in on the struggle of eight hundred NRA soldiers—although the real number is closer to four hundred—trapped in a warehouse who fought against Japanese troops for over four days. Although the film has received a strong score of 7.8 out of 10 on the Chinese review site Douban, it remains highly controversial among viewers. Some critics argue that the film lacked historical accuracy and glorified KMT leadership, saying the battalion was in fact intentionally left behind because the KMT wanted to buy time and gain international empathy from Western powers.

The controversy was further fueled by a Weibo post from the film’s director, Guan Hu, featuring a photo of him with the son of general Sun Yuanliang, despite Sun having ordered the battalion to defend the warehouse while he left the battleground, earning him the moniker, “the general who fled.” Viewers criticized the director’s glorification of Sun’s actions as an attempt to promote the film when the real heroes are the soldiers.

What are people saying online?

The most-liked review on Douban reads, “After the movie ended, the entire theater was silent. It seemed like all the viewers were still immersed in the tragic atmosphere and couldn’t bring themselves back to real life.” Others said that the film’s patriotic message and majestic scenes, which were entirely shot on IMAX cameras, a first in Asia, lifted their morale in the wake of the pandemic and recent floods across southern China.

Meanwhile, other people acknowledged the film’s superior production and visual effects, but argued that its content and meaning warrant more scrutiny. “A film that is based on historical events should be objective and accurate. One user wrote, ‘The Eight Hundred’ focuses on the defense of the warehouse, but brushes over the corruption of the KMT leadership. We should walk away knowing not only that a battle took place, but also why the battle happened in the first place.”

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)


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