Top searches on Douyin: Taiwan's #MeToo, Chinese mainland's technology anxiety
A mixture of serious and not-so-serious concerns
Today's China top searches newsletter is a fine specimen of what Chinese netizens have on their minds: entertainment, security, and money. They are excited about box office news and the life of celebrities. They are also deeply concerned with national security and technological development. Furthermore, they feel most truly the sting of every lost penny.
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Thursday's top 10 trending searches on Douyin (the Chinese equivalent of TikTok) as of 5:30 p.m. (0930 GMT)：
#1 Chinese legend on screen
A trailer was released of the Creation of the Gods Ⅰ, the first of a movie trilogy adapted from the classical novel Fengshen Yanyi (Investiture of the Gods). Directed by Wuershan and starring Kris Phillips, this "Chinese version of The Lord of the Rings" is set to hit the box office on July 20, 2023. According to the official Douyin account of the movie, the plot centers around Zhou, the last lord of the Shang dynasty (12th century BC), Daji, Zhou's favorite consort and incarnation of a nine-tailed fox, and Jiang Ziya, the hermit destined to end Zhou's tyranny.
But the fact that the movie features one of the most well-known and mesmerizing characters in Chinese folklore seems to have attracted more concerns than anticipation. Many doubt whether the lead actress qualifies for the legendary nine-tailed fox, whether the role of Daji is falsely interpreted, and whether the setting of the movie is too westernized (that is, to similar to that of the Lord of the Rings).
#2 I'm back, says voice-over artist supposed to be under custody
It has been 11 months since 姜广涛 Jiang Guangtao, one of the most prolific and commercially successful voice-over artists in China was suspected of being taken away by the police in July, 2022. Jiang was the voice behind dozens of TV and theatre hits, and his arrest could well mean that these works will be pulled off shelves indefinitely. So far nothing has happened to these movies, TV series, and animation productions, and nothing has been heard of Jiang or his supposed charges -- until now. His sudden announcement on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that he is now back to work is as baffling as his sudden disappearance. "Can someone please tell me what is going on?" says one user on TikTok. "I am so confused. Isn't this guy supposed to be in jail?" says another.
#3 When a bridge rotates into place
A spectacular demonstration of modern engineering happens on the Huafu mega bridge at the Sichuan-Chongqing section of the Chongqing-Kunming high-speed railway in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. It is not the first time that China has accomplished such a feat -- On April 10, 2022, the 100-meter-high main tower of the Longyan Bridge in Fujian completed a counterclockwise rotation of 69 degrees. However, this technical marvel, which took place on the early morning of Jun. 28, made a rotation of 82.8 degrees in under 90 minutes. "It is an aerial ballet," says one report.
#4 Human remains likely found from the Titan submersible wreckage
Human remains have likely been identified from the wreckage of the submersible that imploded during an underwater voyage to view the Titanic, the U.S. Coast Guard said on June 28, according to AP on Thursday. Recovering and scrutinizing the wreckage is a crucial part of the investigation into why the Titan imploded last week, killing all five people on board. The lasting search and final recovery of debris captured the world's attention.
#5 Tsinghua University denies brain drain
One of China's top universities defends itself in a WeChat article titled "Don't believe these ten untruthful claims about Tsinghua University", denying its rumored role of feeding foreign technology with Chinese talents. The one claim which has drawn the most attention states that over 80 percent of Tsinghua graduates go abroad every year for study, work, or immigrating. The real figures, however, according to Tsinghua University, are only 7.1 percent for class 2022 and 6.9 percent for class 2021. "It is an insignificant proportion compared with that in other universities in China," says the article.
#6 Wife Christine Fan supports with statement again for husband Blackie Chen's denial of sexual harassment
"I deeply believe my husband is a righteous man," said Christine Fan, a Taiwanese singer, in her latest post on social media to show her support again for her husband Blackie Chen, who is accused of sexual harassment by a Taiwanese actress Tina Chou. "A straight foot is not afraid of a crooked shoe. I love my husband and I will protect my family with all my strength," added Fan in a firm tone but it seems that most netizens don't buy it.
#7 "Never Say Never", instructive to watch with kids
"Never Say Never" 《八角笼中》, a movie adapted from real-life events, made its premiere on Monday. The film tells a moving story that Xiang Tenghui, a fighting coach with rough experiences, devoted all his energies to assisting a group of underprivileged rural children to fight against fate and find a way for a better life. "The movie is quite suitable for parents to watch with their kids. Children can see from their own perspective that life is not always easy, but they can learn to be strong and determined, to face future difficulties without fear, and to find their own way," said Wang Baoqiang, director and leading actor of the film, whose own personal journey of seeking a breakthrough from his previously stagnant life is mirrored in the movie.
#8 Blackie Chen said to once sexually harass Dee Hsu's mom being naked
After being accused of sexual harassment by several Taiwanese actresses, Blackie Chen is again found by netizens that he has even sexually harassed the mother of Dee Hsu, a renowned Taiwanese television host, according to the story exposed in a TV show named "Kangsi Coming" hosted by Dee. In that show, Dee said that Chen liked to come to her home to take a bath and once he just walked to her mom naked after having a shower. "He seems to be a pervert," said Dee in a seemingly playful tone.
#9 One-thousand-km transfer to save the dreadfully burned little boy
A six-year-old boy who suffered from life-threatening burns, is being transferred from northwest China's Qinghai Province to the West China Hospital in southwest China's Sichuan Province, covering more than one thousand kilometers to find a chance of survival. Many people are concerned about the boy's life and a kind elderly man watched the live broadcast of the event and rushed to the scene to meet the boy. He couldn't help shedding tears during the interview and felt sorry for the child to suffer so much at such a young age and hoped that the hospital could cure the little boy.
#10 Universities fed up with WeChat Pay service fees
A number of universities in China will suspend the use of WeChat Pay starting from Jul. 1, 2023, due to the company's latest announcement that a 0.6% service fee will be charged for "profit-oriented payments on campus" (in other words, payments except for tuition fees). The decision seems to have started a cancel culture for mobile payment services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, and the more radical fraction of indignant netizens are now calling for the return of cash. Chinese users certainly are not fond of the idea of "tipping the tech companies" as they pay.
#5 Technology anxiety and patriotic fears
Tsinghua University, one of China's very best academic institutions, has made a public clarification as to the percentage of its students going abroad after graduation, either for work, study, or immigration. The percentage is far below 80 percent -- the rumored rate, and has staggered below 10 percent for three consecutive years, according to the announcement published on a WeChat account.
The article also debunks nine other rumors, including that over 1,000 Tsinghua graduates work for SpaceX, that Tsinghua is leaking core space technology to the University of Tokyo, and that over 43 percent of courses in Tsinghua are delivered purely in English.
But Chinese netizens, at least those on Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, are far from believing the official claims. Many speak in a tone almost as sarcastic and as emotional as the exclamation mark-ridden WeChat article. "Tsinghua is hushing up the affair just to hide their guilty conscience", says one comment. "I feel uncomfortable at the sound of 'Tsinghua'," says another. One user even dubs Tsinghua as the "talent pool for the United States".
The fears and indignation for brain drains are not new in China. But the timing for the recent debate is a delicate one. At the very moment, millions of students who have taken the National College Entrance Examination, otherwise known as Gaokao, are preoccupied with the choice of universities and majors, which in turn will partly decide their careers and life trajectories. The question that troubles the doubting netizens is: will these budding talents be in danger of betraying the motherland under the influence of contaminated university values?
There are still some who take a more sympathetic position, even though they aren't really buying what Tsinghua University has to say. "We all know what happened when the figures dropped, COVID." "The proper question is why all those people chose to go abroad instead of staying in China."
#6 Wife Christine Fan supports with statement again for husband Blackie Chen's denial of sexual harassment & #8 Blackie Chen said to once sexually harass Dee Hsu's mom being naked
The barrage of Taiwanese stars and their #MeToo scandals continues to gain momentum these days and has been rocking the entertainment industry. Blackie Chen, a Taiwan TV host and P.LEAGUE+ CEO, was accused of sexual harassment by several Taiwanese actresses.
According to Taiwan News, on Tuesday (June 27), Hey Girl's member Tina Chou, more commonly known as Da Ya, posted on Facebook about the sexual assault she endured from her previous boss, whom she called "Mr. Chen" in her post.
Hey Girl was a girl group which hosted the variety show Blackie's Teenage Club with actor-host Blackie Chen, and was active from 2006 to 2013. Through other information in Chou's post, it could be easily inferred that "Mr. Chen" in question is Blackie Chen, shattering Blackie’s public image as being a good husband to Christine Fan, a renowned Taiwanese singer.
In her post, Chou accused Chen, her boss at the time, of forcing his way into her hotel room and sexually harassing her when the pair were working on a show in Hong Kong in 2012. A few hours later, Chen responded by issuing a statement through his lawyers in which he denied the accusations and said that he would take legal action.
Tina Chou (left) and the couple Blackie Chen and Christine Fan (right)
On Wednesday (June 28), Chen and his wife Fan issued a statement through their attorney saying Chou's post was "purely false" and it hurt the couple's reputation and personal rights, so they sue Chou for 10 million Taiwanese dollars and say the compensation will be donated to social welfare charities, reported CNA.
Regarding Blackie and Christine's compensation demands, Chou immediately responded, "Everything I have said is true. I have a clear conscience and justice will prevail." "Once again, I feel the same suffocating pressure like years ago. This time, I'll be brave. See you in court," said Chou, according to JayneStars.
Later on the same day, Taiwanese actress Yuan Kuo also accused Blackie of two instances of sexual harassment, marking the second woman to come forward with allegations against Chen, according to Taiwan News. She said Chen once hugged her from behind and repeatedly told her, "Kiss me first, kiss me first." She said that incident happened when Chen's wife Christine Fan was still pregnant.
Kuo wrote that she was motivated to share her experiences because "I don't want Da Ya to be alone." She expressed admiration for Chou's bravery in being the first woman to fight back against Chen's behavior.
Moreover, on Thursday (June 29), netizens found that in a former episode of the "Kangsi Coming", a Taiwanese variety-comedy talk show, the host Dee Hsu, said that Chen likes to come to her home to take a bath and once he just walked to her mom totally naked after having a shower, which caused Dee's mother to scream. "He seems to be a pervert," said Dee in a seemingly joking tone.
Though Chen and his wife Fan unite to deny the allegations by filing a lawsuit and posting statements on social media, the netizens seem not to stand by the couple's side as the accusations come one after another.
#10 Trust crisis for China's third-party mobile payment providers
WeChat Pay, the mobile payment service provided by Tencent, has received a major blow both in profits and reputation, after announcing an additional service fee of 0.6 percent for payments on campus.
The announcement, regarded by many as an arrogant attempt at monopoly, has been met with objection and outrage. Multiple universities have decided to suspend the use of WeChat Pay and a boycott of mobile payment may well be on its way.
"I would rather use cash," says one comment. "Don't you overrate your importance," says another.
The truth is, Chinese people may not be as dependent on mobile payment as tech companies have surmised. "I feel as if I am turning in protection money for every transaction I make," says one user on TikTok. "Why should I keep using WeChat Pay when I can choose bank transfers and digital yuan?" reads another comment.
Mobile payment, the pride of Chinese technology, is undergoing a major trust crisis as people start to doubt the legitimacy of mobile payment providers.
WeChat Pay has always charged a 0.1 percent service fee when a user transfers money from their WeChat account to their bank account. Now that a 0.6 percent is going to be in place, the discontent has finally broke free: "I've always wondered why I should be charged when I'm transferring my own money." "I can't imagine how they dared to charge so much." "WeChat Pay disgusts me."
The latest development in the chain of events is a letter of apology by the WeChat, attributing the decision to the high costs of long-term zero-fee policy. "For non-profit payment scenarios on campus (tuition and fees, life services, etc.), the preferential policy of zero fee will be retained," says the statement. Yet so far, the letter of apology has seemed to be of little use against the pouring complaints.