2021 China insights

After one and a half years of Covid, the world is still living behind locked borders. With the majority of big events being postponed, the 2020 Olympics finally took place in August 2021, a year later. Albeit without an audience of course. Due to technology, we have been able to streamline the games and keep up with the competition. But the restrictions of not being able to travel is still taking a toll on us. One thing I have missed out on is writing the annual China Insights article, so composing this has given me some comfort. To write this article, I have had to do things a bit differently, I have relied on memory, conversations with friends, reading and streaming to source information. 

Unifying the mind of a nation

The Chinese government is taking on a significant challenge. Bringing everyone to the same understanding on the country’s purpose, vision, mission and value set. You have to admire the courage they have to tackle such a task. Gilligan Sheppard has less than 30 employees and we started the same task five years ago, and can’t yet brag that we have achieved our similar mission yet. Chairman Xi is taking on this task with more than 1.4 billion people! So, good luck!

Making State owned enterprise/capital stronger, better, and larger

In early 1992, Deng Xiaoping accelerated the pace of economic reform in China by setting the right tone and speaking out to support the change during his Southern Tour. Thus began the process of passing business and capital from SOE/SOC to private entities. Forty years down the track, enterprises such as Tencent and Alibaba have been created. But if you look at the top 100 corporates, only less than 20% are truly private entities, yet the government still felt a need to change the trend.

TV serial: The success of ‘Word of Honour’ became the fall of BL TV serials

‘Word of Honour’ is a successful TV serial inspired by the novel ‘Faraway Wanderers’, written by Priest, a female web author from www.jjwxc.net. The serial’s success has grown from a couple of factors in particular:

  • Choosing the right actors – not too famous but good at performing and creating strong chemistry between other lead characters
  • Using language from famous Chinese literatures – this makes the flirting subtle, and essentially less ‘obvious’

While the tactics helped the success of the Serial, and attracted many followers, it has also brought the attention of authority. Suddenly, almost all serials adapted from BL novels were given stricter scrutiny and ordered to conduct major changes/edits before being allowing to air.

Anime – doing amazingly well

To my delight, I found that Chinese anime has been doing well, that they have almost caught up to their biggest competition – Japanese anime. Two major players in the anime producing and streaming market are Tencent Video and Bilibili.com. Some of their 3D Anime that they have created recently has been impressive. The scripts, music, sound, and modelling are all up to a high standard. Among these, I recommend:

By Tecent Video:

  • Scumbag System
  • Thousand Autumns
  • Soul Land

By Bilibili.com:

  • A Mortal’s Journey S1
  • Legend of Tang S1

Internet bullying of celebrities

It’s obvious that society feels that since celebrities have made so much gain from being famous, that they should be subject to internet bullying as a form of ‘pay back’. Over the past three years, the most astonishing and unfortunate celebrity cyber bullying cases were suffered by:

  • Xiao Zhan – whose success from the TV Series ‘Untamed’ quickly made him one of the most popular males on the screen. The bullying and destruction of his career was caused by social and political debates from his fans, and in fact had nothing to do with himself. The heated controversy went on for almost a year from Feb 2020 to Jan 2021, until CCTV stepped up to support him openly.
  • Zheng Shuang – accused of abandonment to her surrogacy child. While surrogacy is illegal in China, abandoning a child is also morally wrong. In many eyes, she committed ‘double sins’ and the online harassment towards her was humongous. Unfortunately, unlike the Xiao Zhan case, there is currently no saviour coming to her rescue.
  • Wu Yifan (Kris Wu) – who has recently been accused of sexual assault to a female fan. Before any official trial, Kris was already suffering from significant online bullying, negative noise and accusations. As a result, TV serials have already removed him from leading roles.

I hope that through time, fans will mature, law-abiding, and learn how to appreciate the beauty and success of their subjects, but also understand they are human, and humans make mistakes.

Musical – side effect of TV serial/anime booming

Music plays a huge part in the production of TV serials/animes. There are at least two songs included in each serial and season, one at the beginning and another at the end. Some popular serials have created an original soundtrack for each major character.

With huge financial support, talent has rushed into this area. The top three I recommend are:

  • Zhou Shen – has a very wide vocal range. His expression of music is beautiful and he is very diligent. His recent OTS here, is one of favorites from him.
  • Mao Buyi – also a writer. His voice is soft and his songs are like story telling. My favorite one here.
  • Li Jian – also a song writer. He has a nick name – “musical poet”. One example of his songs here.

Interestingly, all three musicians are ordinary looking. They are not the tall and handsome type, but their songs are beautiful.

Popular Games: Mahjong and Tractor

Whilst we’re cooped up inside during the winter season, it’s the perfect time to get amongst some quality games with friends and family. There are two popular Chinese games that I look forward to setting up here at the Gilligan Sheppard office, which I believe will contribute to enriching our team culture. With the instruments on their way and the rules set in stone, we will soon be opening the GS Mahjong/Tractor Club!

Mahjong: This game comes with a very long history, and the rules are so variable. In New Zealand, quite often it seems it takes longer to agree on which rules to follow than it does to actually play the game! There’s Hong Kong (Cantonese), Sichuan, Tianjin, Nanjin, Fujia, US and Japan rules. I have decided that we will adapt the Hong Kong Mahjong rules at GS, with just a few changes to make it easy and fun for all to play!

Tractor: This is a type of card game. The nearest comparable game to it would be ‘Bridge’. Tractor is played with two different pairs of cards, also with varied rules. It was particularly popular among Chinese university students, and when the graduates emigrated to the rest of the world, they took this game everywhere with them.

This concludes my 2021 China Insights! While Insights normally focus on social, economic, and political issues, I think that understanding a little bit of how people enjoy the limited spare time that life gives us, is also quite insightful and inspiring.

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