Weibo News Watch Syndication of Weibo News Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:12:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 We Are Social Asia Tuesday Tune Up #181 Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:12:11 +0000 Moderators coordinate response to dismissal of key Reddit employee
More tumultuous times for Reddit. Last month, the administration shut down several Subreddits which it had deemed offensive to the ire of some users who claimed the movie violated free speech. Now, the unexpected firing of one of Reddit’s key employees, Victoria Taylor, has sparked a concerted movement by the site’s volunteer moderators to block access to popular sections as a response to the dismissal . The Verge quotes a moderator as writing that this is just another episode in the ongoing difficulties between administrators and the volunteers who are lifeblood to the site.
Alipay seals a tasty deal with KFC
In China, Alibaba has launched a partnership with the fried chicken chain to enable the use of its mobile payments system in the store . At the register, customers navigate to a QR code on an app which is then scanned by the cashier. The Alipay system is regarded as the most preferred in China thanks to its flexibility and simplicity. Users can employ various methods of payment such as credit card, payment on delivery, and an escrow service, which facilitates secure transactions between buyers and sellers.
This deal comes on the back of a collaboration between Walmart and Alipay, which not only yields the sophisticated payment system for the retailer but a whole host of new data to explore. Alibaba has stakes in Weibo and Snapchat. Perhaps in future they will further integrate mobile payment with their social platforms.

Marketing challenges in Western Europe
A poll by the Economist Intelligence Unit has explored the biggest challenges for marketers in Western Europe (France, Germany, UK) over the coming few years. It’s interesting is to see how each market has a different view of where its biggest challenges lie. While the shift to digital was important for all three, in Germany it was the number one concern, mentioned by 47% of respondents. In France, the biggest challenge looks to be ‘acquiring appropriate skills’ (31%), while in the UK it’s that age old issue: budget (52%).

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Facebook changes its algorithm to make videos more relevant
Facebook has updated its News Feed algorithm to take into account when somebody expands a video to full screen, unmutes one or opts to watch one in HD. Facebook will show users more videos similar to those they interact with in any of these ways, while the platform will use the interactions to judge which videos should appear higher in other News Feeds. It’s the latest move in an ongoing battle for views between Facebook and other video services, primarily YouTube, and one puts Facebook’s data capabilities to good use.

Facebook to share ad revenue with video creators
It’s been a big week for Facebook’s video war with YouTube. As well as the above algorithm changes, Facebook has announced plans to start sharing ad revenue with video creators at the same rate YouTube already does: 55% goes to the creator. This will happen through its new ‘Suggested Videos’ product, in which ads are played between videos – the revenue from these is then split between all videos played in one session.

The system is being launched with a set of premium content partners, including the NBA, Fox Sports and Funny or Die; Adweek published an interview with the latter’s Vice President of Marketing, Patrick Starzan, which you can read in full here . In it, he discusses Funny or Die’s motivation to increase video views and how creators will change videos to fit the new product.

Facebook tests ‘cost-per-view’ video ad option
More Facebook video news! The network is testing an option for video advertisers to pay only once their ad has been viewed for at least 10 seconds , on a ‘cost-per-view’ basis. It’s aimed at preventing advertisers from feeling short changed, if their ads are technically being ‘viewed’ every time a user scrolls past them.

Twitter adds Personas for ad targeting
Twitter has introduced a set of ‘Personas’ , which basically amount to a set of audiences for advertisers to target easily, based on similar attributes. Available personas include millenials, professionals and business decision-makers, of which I would proudly consider myself all three, though others may argue that I am none.


You can now open snaps with a single tap
The most recent Snapchat update for Android and iPhone will give users’ laboured fingers a rest. You’re no longer required to hold your finger down to view snaps and stories, because, as Snapchat CEO Even Spiegel puts it, “It’s just kind of annoying to hold your finger down for so long.” Other minor improvement include the ability add new friends in your vicinity and customise your Skype QR code.

Brands and the Women’s World Cup final
It’s no surprise that the most popular FIFA Women’s World Cup of all time proved a huge marketing opportunity. When USA beat Germany in last week’s semi-final, they received support from a variety of brands . They’ve since gone on to win the final, so clearly it did the trick.

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English FA causes uproar with sexist tweet
England were one of the success stories of the Women’s World Cup, finishing in a more than respectable third place. The English FA tried to congratulate the team … but in doing so, they referred to them as “mothers, partners and daughters”. The tweet has since been deleted. Naturally, that didn’t stop some excellent responses from the Twittersphere.

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Sprint and T-Mobile CEOs have Twitter spat
What’s worse than when two brands have awkward interaction on Twitter? When two company CEOs do it . Marcelo Claure of Sprint and John Legere of T-Mobile, to the naughty step with you both. Never say ‘u mad bro?’ again.

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Quality Control for New Party Members Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:59:28 +0000 The Chinese Communist Party grew by 1.3% in 2014 to 87.8 million members, according to a communique released on Tuesday by the Organization Department of the Central Committee. This comprises about nearly 8% of China’s adult population and makes the Party larger than the population of Germany .

The rate of Party growth has slowed from previous years, which the report attributes to efforts to control the “quality of members” and strengthen the Party’s “vigor and vitality.”  AP links these efforts to President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of Party control of the government as well as non-governmental organizations . The refinement of Party membership also comes amid Xi’s anti-corruption campaign . Still, “slimming down is hard to do,” as Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Sonmez explains :

China is in the midst of a sweeping anti-graft campaign under President Xi Jinping, with announcements of corrupt officials’ investigation and ouster from the party a near-weekly occurrence. Along with that crackdown has come a steady stream of warnings for party members to rein in behavior ranging from their mahjong playing to the use of terms like “dude” or “boss” when addressing their superiors .

At its heart is the pursuit of the party’s survival. Xi and other top leaders have made a point of reminding cadres that the Chinese Communist Party must avoid the same pitfalls that brought about the demise of the former Soviet Union – particularly disloyalty to Communist ideals – with some Chinese scholars warning that the Soviet collapse came when the ranks of its Communist Party had swollen to an unwieldy 19 million , or nearly 10% of the Soviet Union’s adult population.

Yet despite a vow by China’s Politburo leaders to limit the party’s size and purge “unqualified members,” statistics released by the Organization Department show that membership has actually grown over each of the past four years, albeit at an increasingly slower rate. [Source ]

A facelift accompanies the nip and tuck of the new membership statistics. 82% of new members in 2014 were under 35, while the People’s Daily reports that “students make up 37.3% of new Party members, the largest proportion [of any group] .”

But the new image falls flat for some Weibo users, who continue to see bloat in the ranks of the Party. “Strive for 1.3 billion,” writes Yuanyulailüshi (@袁裕来律师). Better yet, recruit the whole world, suggests @bjzyh51.

Other netizens rail against the opportunism of many young recruits, who see Party membership more as a resume booster than a political affiliation. A 2014 Fudan University study found that Party members in Shanghai made up the majority of the city’s richest young adults. Despite the anti-corruption campaign’s measures to cut back on extravagant spending among cadres, many netizens still perceive Party membership as a tool for personal gain:

Youjiduiyuan79813 (@游击队员79813): There’s not one person guilty of graft who isn’t a Party member. I hope the members get more honest.

NingjingzhiyuanJIAXING (@宁静致远JIAXING): Let me just say that many of the Party members I’ve had contact with are really selfish. If it’s something good they fight over it, and their political awareness is worse than ordinary people’s. Party fees pay for trips to so-called sacred revolutionary sites or for gifts on July 1 [Party Founding Day]. I just hate them now!

Xiangjiaozhongjiezhe (@香蕉终结者): I was the class head at university, but because the head teacher and I didn’t get along, I didn’t have a chance to join the Party after I was done with classes. I may be the only class head who isn’t a Party member. For this, I am forever grateful to my teacher. [Chinese ]

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Chinese Companies Smear Western Tech On Weibo: Uber, Apple Mon, 29 Jun 2015 23:56:04 +0000 Uber is beginning to gain traction in China. A leaked memo from the company’s COO revealed last month that the Middle Kingdom will be Uber’s focus market over the coming years. After years of toe-dipping, it seems that the ride-share giant may finally have an inroad in the world’s largest economy.

So how does a competing local company with a medium-to-small market share attempt to nip Uber in the bud? Last week, one of China’s homegrown services released a particularly aggressive ad campaign to do just that. 

75321ff1b9d70ad2cf55_size500_w1080_h1626Car service company Shenzhou gathered together ten high-profile celebrities and released a series of posters on their Weibo page with the slogan ‘Beat U: I’m Afraid Of The Black Car.’ 

The ads have a distinct PSA feel, and warn against illegal car services, calling on women to avoid the services for their own safety. Uber’s for-profit civilian ride-sharing model is banned nationwide in China, but they have adapted with low cost black car services and not-for-profit ride-sharing, both of which fall in a legal loophole.

The company apparently underestimated China’s netizens however, and in the past few days the company has received a digital lashing for scaremongering, while the celebrities have been attacked for being “money grubbing.” There was even a series of mock ads using the same template with the slogan ‘Beat Shenzhou.’

All in all, it was a swing and a miss for Shenzhou on the front of self-righteousness, but they did manage to occupy a viral corner of the Chinese web for a few days, which can’t hurt in a market as competitive as China. 

And it’s not the first time this year that a Chinese company has shelled out major dollars to fund a smear campaign against a western company. In April, one of the country’s largest video streaming companies released a parody of Apple’s iconic 1984 ad as part of a promotion for its new smartphone, the ‘Le Superphone.’ 


LeTV’s high-budget parody of Apple’s iconic 1984 went viral just as the company hosted a US launch.


LeTV CEO Jia Yueting was criticized for posting a Hitler cartoon with an Apple sash on Weibo in April

Unlike Shenzhou’s PR blunder, the high-budget LeTV parody was a bit more tongue and cheek, pointing out the iPhone’s growing cult-following in China. Unfortunately, the company’s CEO also released an image on Weibo of a Hitler cartoon with a red Apple arm sash in the same week, which attracted widespread criticism. 

Blunders aside, both the  Shenzhou and LeTV campaigns point to the growing number of Chinese companies that are looking to push back against new western counterparts entering the market. For over a decade, Chinese censorship and rampant IP theft has kept Western companies wary, but as the market begins to modernize foreign players are finding new footholds.

However, while Uber and Apple have managed to make headway, it still remains a tough market to localize in. Linkedin, another successful entrant, is still ironing out issues on the mainland, despite entering several years ago. Last week, it released a China-exclusive app , Red Rabbit, it’s first dual-brand strategy in a foreign market. Banned services like Twitter, Facebook and Google are attempting back door acquisition by targeting companies who are trying to promote globally. 

Both Shenzhou and LeTV’s campaigns also point out that there is a lot of maturing to do in China’s advertising market. Netizens are becoming increasingly critical of the scaremongering that is commonplace among some company strategies. Last week, Chinese internet giant Qihoo 360 was dragged through the mud by online consumers when they released a ‘pregnancy safe’ router. The company later acknowledged that they “were not scientists” and were unaware that WiFi routers are not harmful to unborn babies. 

Image Credit: Shenzhou/LeTV/Weibo


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PX Protesters: “We’re Doing This for the Younger Generation” Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:38:36 +0000 Reports of a planned paraxylene (PX) plant in Jinshan District, Shanghai, have spurred several days of street protests by residents concerned about the potential environmental impact . On Saturday, protesters continued to march in Jinshan , on the outskirts of Shanghai, but were prevented from moving their demonstrations downtown. John Ruwitch reports for Reuters:

On Saturday evening, residents marched though city streets shouting “Go people of Jinshan”. Some carried signs reading “No good chemical plant”.

Police walked along with the protesters, but made no effort to stop them.

“This whole area is surrounded by chemical plants. I’ve had family members die of cancer and I bet everyone here has someone who has died of cancer,” said protester Xiao Wang.

“We’re doing this for the younger generation. We don’t want them to get sick.”

A lady who gave her family name as Ma added: “The level of trust that we have in the government is very low.” [Source ]

Paul Traynor reports that in the Shanghai city center, planned protests were stymied by authorities :

Still skeptical, the residents planned to protest outside the municipal government in central Shanghai on Saturday, but the venue was guarded by hundreds of police, both uniformed and plainclothes. SWAT police patrolled police tapes fencing off the area the protesters planned to gather.

The police forced demonstrators to board buses before driving away from downtown Shanghai. Scuffles broke out with less obedient protesters. Police also grabbed an Associated Press reporter and tried to shove him away. Plainclothes officers used umbrellas to try to block filming.

“People got angry and started to chant, and then they were taken away by police,” said a Jinshan resident who only gave her family name of Shen. [Source ]

According to FreeWeibo, both Jinshan and Shanghai were among the top searches on Weibo:

Read more about the Jinshan protests and other demonstrations against PX via CDT.

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Sensitive Words: Corruption Crackdown After Zhou Sat, 20 Jun 2015 11:59:28 +0000 Sensitive Words highlights keywords that are blocked from Sina Weibo search results. CDT independently tests the keywords before posting them, but some searches later become accessible again. We welcome readers to contribute to this project so that we can include the most up-to-date information. Use the form at the bottom of this post to help us crowd source sensitive words. You can also browse our archive of sensitive words .

The announcement of the corruption investigation into former security chief Zhou Yongkang last July unleashed a flood of coverage in China’s domestic media . By comparison, the news last week of his trial and sentencing to life in prison was heavily muted . This orchestrated hush extended to social media, with a number of related search terms blocked on Sina Weibo as of June 19th. These include Zhou’s name (周永康) paired with inspect (视察); death sentence (死刑); shuanggui (双规) (the Party’s notorious internal investigation system ); arrested (被抓); and Jiang Jiemin (蒋洁敏), a prominent former Zhou ally who came under investigation for corruption in 2013 and faced a one-day trial in April .

Many observers have tried to determine what the sentencing and its low-key presentation mean for Xi Jinping’s signature anti-corruption campaign, now that its greatest trophy has likely been claimed. That the trial was held in secret despite earlier promises may indicate that Xi was forced to take a more cautious approach than planned in the face of internal opposition. Editor and commentator Hu Ping argued that muted messaging when the verdict was finally announced also implies that the crackdown’s opponents have gained the upper hand . State media have recently quoted a statement by senior disciplinary official Huang Shuxian that the focus will now shift to lower level “flies,” although Russell Leigh Moses at China Real Time suggested that it could instead pivot “to take on figures closely linked to Xi’s predecessors , the leaders who supported Zhou’s rise and helped sustain it – former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.”

One possible target is education minister Yuan Guiren, who warned earlier this year against Western influence in university textbooks . According to rumor, his own influence in contracts for school textbooks [zh] has helped land him and his son, general manager of Beijing Publishing Group’s educational materials division, under investigation. Searches for Minister Yuan (袁部长) are currently blocked.

Meanwhile, American authorities are also on the hunt. U.S. banking firm JPMorgan Chase has repeatedly come under scrutiny in recent years for its close ties to China’s ruling elites . A leaked censorship directive in February ordered the deletion of reports that it hired Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng’s son despite seeing him as irresponsible and underqualified. JPMorgan and several other banks are now embroiled in an investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act : last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed records of the firm’s communications regarding 35 Chinese officials , including anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan . Wang is not believed to be implicated, but even the hint of association has prompted blocks on searches for Wang Qishan (王岐山) and JPMorgan (摩根), JPMorgan (摩根) and CCDI (中纪委), and SEC (美国证券交易委员会) and communication records (通信记录).

Have a sensitive word tip? Submit it through this form:

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Chinese Products Will Continue To Target Low-Income Consumers Globally Wed, 17 Jun 2015 21:23:49 +0000 IMG_7891

“Targeting low income users will be successful in cross-border e-commerce for China,”Hans Tung, Managing Partner of GGV noted in TechCrunch Shanghai 2015. Given that high-end products like iPhone proved a great success in China, his statement could sound rather unexpected.

He continues, “When U.S. companies make products they tend to focus on high-end users and ignore low-end users, while China will continue to excel at this, take Xiaomi for instance, they make affordable yet good quality phones. The next market for low-end will be generated in emerging markets that embraces underprivileged people and we’re convinced that those companies that serve economy for the underprivileged will greatly benefit.”

The cross-border market proved its potential in recent years in China and now it’s about bringing this model to adapt in overseas markets. “When I first moved into the cross-border area, valuation of companies in this sector was soaring. Everybody thought it was a bubble, but it became apparent that most of them made double growth,” Tung said. “Globalization will be a big trend in the market. If companies understand the trend and do this well, they can make huge growth.”

“There is a chance for new startups in the cross-border market, it’s difficult to grow very big since there are the main players in the market. But, I want to invest in any innovation made on community based solutions.” 

Community Voice Stronger Than Price

One startup that is using the community to its advantage is Xiaohongshu , an online platform where people can share cross-border purchase information and shopping tips, helping users to shop smarter overseas. 

Charlwin Mao, Founder & CEO of Xiaohongshu said “we ran many focus group interviews and found out that customers don’t know how to buy overseas products, even though they have a need for it. When users want to buy overseas products, they purely rely on search, which often doesn’t give you proper search results,” he says.

“Since last December when we launched Xiaohongshu, we have earned on advertising without making any payments on our platform and made growth every month. It proved community users can develop into real customers.” 

Now that laptops’  large screens have moved to mobile’s small screen, it’s hard for companies to appeal to customers with many products on the page. “Rather than cross-border purchasing, it’s more about how much the users are interested in the community. When it comes to specific needs, finding the right product for the user matters the most.” 

His three suggestions for Mobile eCommerce players are:

  • First, many times offering the VIP shopper’s shopping list is helpful to other shoppers, since VIP customers pre-filter the quality product.
  • Second, know who you are and pick the right product. Combining users’ comment, review with the number of ‘like’ clicks, numbers of preview of product can help you find out which products appeal to users the most.  
  • Third, price solution is also related to the community. When they use our platform, we try to give them feel like ‘We  know who you are, we’re trying to offer three most relevant products for you.’ 

According to Mao, two kinds of users in the community lead their peer groups. “First, some of the people in the community follow the account of vendors, and share good offers and events to their peers. Second, young opinion leaders in our platform are like celebrities. They travel around and go shopping, which influences their peers. We encourage everybody to take initiative and become celebrity shoppers on Weibo.”

Image Credit: TechCrunch Shanghai 2015, L-R: Hans Tung, (Managing Partner of GGV), Charlwin Mao (Founder&CEO of Xiaohongshu), Qian Niu (Senior Editor of TechNode)


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Uber Orders Drivers in China to Steer Clear of Protests Tue, 16 Jun 2015 11:13:46 +0000 2015 has seen a wave of strikes and protests by Chinese taxi drivers , including one incident in Beijing when ten publicly swallowed pesticide to protest working conditions. On Friday, a clash between Hangzhou’s taxi drivers and others for U.S. taxi-app company Uber escalated into a large-scale protest. Colum Murphy at The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber warned its own drivers to stay away, threatening to use GPS to locate and punish those who disobeyed:

In two short messages sent to Uber drivers in Hangzhou and circulated online—verified with Uber in China by The Wall Street Journal—Uber urged its drivers not to go the scene and instructed those already there to leave immediately. Uber said it would use GPS to identify drivers that had refused to leave the location and cancel its contracts with them.

The messages said Uber’s actions were designed to “maintain social order.”

In a statement issued Saturday, Uber also said one Uber driver involved in an incident during Friday’s confrontation was licensed and had cooperated with the Hangzhou authorities. The company was strongly against any extreme behavior that could affect harmony and stability, the statement added. [Source ]

Earlier last week, police intervened in another protest in Guangzhou after a sting operation on Uber’s local rival Didi Kuaidi, which is currently seeking US$1.5 billion to help it beat the American firm . Quartz’s Josh Horwitz reports that, while it has encouraged drivers to strike in support of its interests in the U.S., Uber warned those in Guangzhou not to participate in any form of protest or demonstration :

[…] According to business magazine Caijing, a transport bureau official hailed a high-end vehicle through Didi Kuaidi, got in the car, and then promptly asked for the driver’s ID and announced he would impound the vehicle (link in Chinese).

 What followed was what Chinese media is calling a “mass incident”—a special term used to describe disruptive protests that carries political baggage. Dozens of Didi Kuaidi drivers who apparently caught news of the attempted sting surrounded the vehicle, waving signs in support of Didi and demanding the official, who was inside the car, let the driver off the hook. The mass of supporters blocked traffic, and police arrived to break up the crowds, photos posted on Sina Weibo (log-in required) show:

[…] According to Caijing, around the time of the incident, Uber sent out a stern statement to its drivers, warning them that it does not condone public demonstrations. A spokeswoman for Uber in Beijing wouldn’t confirm whether or not the statement had been sent. But her description of the company’s stance towards public protests hits all the marks for party-approved rhetoric.

“We firmly oppose any form of gathering or protest, and we encourage a more rational form of communication for solving problems,” she told Quartz. [Source ]

At Tech in Asia on Monday, Charles Custer noted yet more protests in Wuhan :

On Monday, a similar scene played out Wuhan, where Caixin reports and videos show bystanders and drivers protesting authorities as they attempt to arrest a private-car driver. The situation reportedly got out of control, with police forced to fire warning shots in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Like last week’s protests in Guangzhou, both incidents this weekend were sparked by the arrest of a private-car driver for operating an illegal cab. And both incidents also led to demonstrations so large that riot police had to be called in to manage the crowds. Uber is apparently already spooked enough that it’s threatening to fire drivers who participate in protests, and with good reason. If things are regularly escalating to the point that riot police need to be called for what should be routine traffic enforcement, Chinese authorities may consider cracking down hard on the source of all these protesters: private-car ridesharing apps like Uber. [Source ]

The protests follow police raids on Uber offices in China last month . Despite these setbacks, chief executive Travis Kalanick claimed this week in an emailed announcement that the company is expanding rapidly in China . Tim Bradshaw at FT reports:

Uber drivers are making close to 1m trips every day in China, almost as many as on the entire ride-hailing service globally just six months ago, as it pours huge resources into one of its most challenging markets.

The San Francisco-based company hopes to buck the trend of US tech companies that have failed to crack the lucrative and fast-growing Chinese market by investing more than $1bn there this year.

[…] Mr Kalanick said in the email Uber plans to launch in 50 of the more than 80 cities with more than 5m residents over the next year, after first arriving in China in February 2014. [Source ]

A report in The New York Times cited a more modest estimate of “more than 100,000 rides a day in China, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s internal metrics .” But Quartz’s Josh Horwitz reported that even these figures for Uber’s performance in China may be distorted :

 […] Chinese Uber drivers have been logging in fake rides and signing up for multiple Uber accounts in order to nab the company’s cushy bonuses, according to various reports. Sometimes they even involve accomplices who pretend to be passengers, but go no where.

According to business news website iFeng, part of the independent Phoenix Television group, Uber has been offering generous incentives to drivers who ferry passengers on The People’s Uber—the name for the company’s peer-to-peer service in China (known as UberX in most markets and UberPop in Europe). By one account, Uber was handing drivers 300 yuan (about US$50) for every 30 trips and 400 yuan for every 40.

[…] Accomplices can sit in their apartments, disable location settings, and specify a pickup not far from the actual location of driver’s vehicle, the report said. The driver then accepts the hail, and goes on a trip without a passenger. After the accomplice approves payment, the driver will – hopefully – pay back the fee and share a cut of the bonus. It’s not the most clever get-rich scheme on the planet. But for drivers, it’s better than waiting for a hail in a parking lot.

Other Chinese drivers appear to be circumventing Uber’s system for signing up new drivers by signing up for accounts with fake credentials, in order to grab first-time driver bonuses over and over again. [Source ]

Meanwhile, He Huifeng at South China Morning Post reports that Chinese police have filed the country’s first sexual assault claim against a driver of a car-hailing app after he allegedly raped a woman in Guangzhou. The case has raised further questions regarding regulation.

A young woman has reported being sexually assaulted in a hotel room in Guangzhou by the driver of a car-hailing app, local police said on Monday.

It is the first case of its kind to be publicly reported on the Chinese mainland since the contentious apps were introduced there a few years ago.

[…] It comes at a time when car-hailing apps like Uber and Kuaidi Didi have been beset by problems in China. They were named illegal by the national transport authority earlier this year.

[…] The status of such car-hailing apps in China remains something of a grey area. Although deemed illegal, the regulation has not been tightly enforced, which sparked the protests. [Source ]

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U.S. Weather Experts: Yes, a Tornado Could Sink a Chinese Cruise Ship Thu, 04 Jun 2015 08:07:33 +0000 AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Can a level 12 tornado topple a cruise ship large enough to carry 400 people? That’s the story that Chinese state media has been telling. On the evening of June 1, a boat carrying 456 passengers capsized  in 50 feet of water while traveling the Yangtze, a major river in southern China. With 430 passengers still missing, the sinking of the vessel, called the Oriental Star, could become China’s worst boating disaster in more than 70 years if rescue efforts fail. The accident has captured the nation’s attention, and the ship’s captain, who survived the accident and whom Chinese media now reports  to be in official custody, claimed that a longjuanfeng, a Chinese word meaning tornado or cyclone, had caused the cruiser to capsize.

Chinese state media is backing up the captain’s story, claiming that a twister with level 12 winds — the most severe — hit 18 minutes after detection, leaving insufficient time for a proper warning on which a ship’s crew could act. Yet the claim has struck many Chinese netizens as far-fetched, and, alongside an online outpouring of dismay and sympathy for the passengers’ families, has driven online debate since the accident. “If tornadoes are a possibility, are predictions for tornadoes not a possibility?” asked  one user of Weibo, China’s largest public social media platform. In fact, while a competent weather bureau can help provide early warnings, that is not possible in all cases, according to Christopher Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Tornadoes can indeed spin up with little to no notice,” Strong told Foreign Policy. “Sometimes there is warning, and sometimes there is not.” Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist for theWashington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, told FP that the U.S. system has the “best tornado detection in the world,” but even so, the “average U.S. lead time is 13 minutes.”

Read the rest of the article here , and be sure to check out Tea Leaf Nation’s new channel on Foreign Policy.

The post U.S. Weather Experts: Yes, a Tornado Could Sink a Chinese Cruise Ship appeared first on Tea Leaf Nation .


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Translation: Public Opinion and the Sunken Ship Wed, 03 Jun 2015 07:57:29 +0000 As rescue teams continue to search for survivors from the Oriental Star cruise ship, which sank in the Yangtze River on Monday evening, propaganda authorities have issued a directive banning journalists from reporting at the scene . According to official news reports, a cyclone caused the ship to capsize , but online some people are questioning whether human error could have been involved. The captain of the ship and the chief engineer are among only a handful of survivors, and they both have been taken into custody.

On WeChat, journalist Song Zhibiao published his reflections on the power of public opinion, and the reasons it is more difficult for authorities to control discussion of the accident now than it would have been ten years ago. Song is a former reporter for Southern Metropolis Daily who was transferred to a different publication after questioning the government’s role in the deaths of schoolchildren in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake . He was later fired after writing for a Hong Kong website. He has since used his WeChat account to create “self-made media.”

“The Torch” (Artist: Tutoujueren @秃头倔人)

“The Torch” (Artist: Tutoujueren @秃头倔人 )

The Captain Didn’t Die: A Synopsis of Public Opinion on the Shipwreck in Jianli

Song Zhibiao

The Oriental Star cruise ship sank carrying 458 people. The current situation is that Premier Li [Keqiang] went to the site of the accident, giving four words of instruction on his way there: heal wounds, provide oxygen. Off and on they’ve picked up ten some people out of the water, several of whom have since died. The rest are likely beyond saving. The apparent rescue team on the bank raised the red flag –right, why are they raising the red flag?

The authorities were not alerted until five hours after the incident. The captain avoided being pulled under the water. According to his own statement, he managed to swim to shore, abandoning more than 400 passengers under the pitch-black water. At present the only testimony regarding the sinking of the ship is the captain’s, who says that they ran into a tornado. And so we find ourselves at an impasse. With only this piece of evidence, we need more to confirm whether what he says is true or false.

The fact that the captain didn’t go down with the ship is itself a big problem, because his version of events immediately triggers the logic of stability maintenance, spreading information and certainty with monstrous speed. Early on the Hubei Daily was spreading rumors: It was the wind! It was a natural disaster! The unspoken message: It wasn’t human error! Less than ten hours after the accident, official Weibo accounts apologized again, making a despicably frivolous joke.

At some point the interns and junior analysts in charge of official Weibos posted a cartoonish, mocking essay, even “mainstream” according to insiders: a so-called new media “standard” text–more than four hundred lives, a question this important, and if you say it happened, then it happened. If you say it didn’t happen, then it didn’t happen. This kind of frivolous attitude is dangerous.

In order to preserve the rash conclusion that this was a “natural disaster and not human error,” the entire public opinion stability maintenance apparatus is once again putting on a performance on the waters of Jianli County. The relevant departments put out bans right away . No interviews allowed at the scene of accident, and recall reporters who have been dispatched. You can’t keep a list of names [of victims] either. Use Xinhua wire copy and CCTV images. In short, they want to control the shape of public opinion concerning the shipwreck.

And if this was ten years ago, these methods of cleaning up public opinion would have been effective. But with the ubiquitous social media of today, orders to clean up public opinion bring about negative consequences: the first is that they can control newspapers, but they can’t prohibit Weibo and WeChat; the second is that the order’s very existence has created an air of “untrustworthiness,” so people are even less willing to believe that this was a natural disaster and not human error. Otherwise, why would they issue a ban in the first place?

This method of managing information is decayed and it finds itself in an awkward place vis-a-vis public opinion today. Its air of enforcement is absolutely incapable of bringing about real enforcement, and it serves only to inspire reverse psychology and oppositional readings. This fact makes it clear that the path to prohibition relies on the passivity of control. Its outer ferocity and inner weakness cancel each other out. In truth, the discussions which have emerged on social media have gone far beyond conspiracy theories.

When people are allowed to discuss the possibility of a tornado without the impediment of a ban, then the National Meteorological Center might be “uncertain”; before the ban the media revealed the course of the sunken vessel, which changed direction direction several times, requiring an explanation; which is to say, the people were not nearly as angry as they became after the ban, but instead were searching for the real cause for the shipwreck. It makes restrictive management and control seem out of date.

When the news of the accident first emerged, people used to talking about current events on social media once again diverged from the conservative information management represented by the bans. These are two parallel dialogues, and the funny thing is that the latter group think they have a handle on information flow. It’s hard to say when it started, but the public discourse control apparatus is not only out of whack with the real discussion, it can’t even take part in it.

So, this is what the situation has become. Even if there is a ban to keep the traditional media in check (“traditional media” is more and more an immoral pejorative), public opinion is as usual forming around the incident. The ban presupposed a kind of “destructive force,” a kind of “sinister motive,” a kind of “untimely rage”–but none of these presuppositions have come to be. But according to the logic behind promoting the ban, they may show up in due time.

Note: A silent prayer for the people on the boat. Like the man in the title picture, if there is light, you can find the way. [Chinese ]

Translation by Nick.

© Anne.Henochowicz for China Digital Times (CDT) , 2015. |
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Didi-Kuaidi Gobbles Up $142M Investment From Weibo Thu, 28 May 2015 16:35:29 +0000 Didi-Kuaidi

Didi Dache-Kuaidi Dache, China’s largest taxi-hailing startup which is said to account for more than 90 percent of the market share, has just revealed a US$142 million investment from Weibo, a SEC filing of the Twitter-like social network. Weibo said in the filing the investment will be made through its Cayman Islands holding company Xiaoju Kuaizhi Inc.

This investment comes on heel of a merger between Didi and Kuaidi in Feb this year. The valuation of the combined company is estimated to be around US$8.75 billion, Wall Street Journal  reported. Although the merger is still pending regulatory approval, it is widely-acclaimed by the industry as a means to end the money-burning wars between China’s largest taxi apps .

This latest investment strengthens the new Kuaidi-Didi coalition, meaning that American entrant Uber and Chinese contender Yongche, have a challenging fight ahead. DiDi Dache, which still runs as an independent brand after the merger, announced a 1 billion yuan (US$161 million) subsidiary program in May, to offer free rides to users in 12 cities every Monday. Chinese car rental and ride-booking service Yongche announced one day before that it will offer free rides to every user on May 21st every year.

Financing support has become a prominent factor in the battle to win supremacy in the ride-sharing market. The new investment raised concerns among industry insiders that Didi Dache-Kuaidi Dache’s growth is solely dependent on investments as both companies have only very recently made moves to monetise.

However according to an insider cited by Chinese state media “Both Didi and Kuaidi have secured hefty investments before the merger and the money is sufficient to support their development. This allows them to consider more factors like cooperation opportunities when choosing partners rather than only for money.”

The tie-up between Weibo and Didi Dache-Kuaidi Dache is not so surprising since Alibaba owns an 18 percent stake in Weibo, and also stakes in the merged company through its investments in Kuaidi Dache.

Weibo spun off from Sina and went public in the U.S. last April as Weibo Inc. But, people would find it is difficult for Weibo to expand monetization approaches beyond advertising. Investment in Didi-Kuaidi may help Weibo to better commercialize its user base by providing value-added service for transportation.


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