Netizen Voices: Weibo Users Mock Communist Youth League’s “Virtual Idols”

On February 17, the of China opened and promoted the official account @JiangShanjiaoYuongQiman (@江山娇与红旗漫Official), introducing netizens to two newly-created anime characters:

 

The post introduced the female Jiang Shanjiao (江山娇, meaning “lovable country”) and her younger brother Hong Qiman (红旗漫, meaning “fluttering red flag”), two “virtual idols” meant to encourage , both characters’ names inspired by monikers in poems by Mao Zedong. The apparent attempt to win young Chinese hearts, minds, and attention spans by fusing with China’s fandom trend, however, instead drew waves of sarcastic netizen comments, forcing the Youth League to turn off commenting and delete the original post.

Many Weibo users voiced their opposition to idolization in state propaganda, with several suggesting that they are citizens rather than “fans.” Reuters reports that some comments focused on the inopportune time the Youth League chose to launch the campaign, as the death toll for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus continues to climb amid resounding public anger over censorship and reluctance in the initial government response to the pandemic:

The Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League removed a pair of anime-like characters this week after their introduction in the midst of the outbreak unleashed a storm of criticism and mockery online.

[…] “Instead of spending time crafting the idols, I’d rather you make some real contribution to help with Wuhan,” one person wrote in a Weibo post that has since been deleted, referring to the city at the centre of the virus outbreak. [Source]

Coverage from Bloomberg provides context on Beijing’s use of youth pop culture to promote nationalism, and a comment from a Chinese media scholar on the soft landings of similar attempts by the government amid the viral outbreak:

“I’m your citizen, not your fan,” one Weibo user wrote in a widely circulated comment.

China’s government has over the years tried to engage the country’s youth and reinforce its ideology with rap, anime and chat-app stickers. Unsurprisingly, the Youth League is at the center of such campaigns: It ranks among the top 10 creators of content on anime-focused video service Bilibili in terms of both followers and views, according to data tracker Biliob.com.

“The government’s legitimacy is at a very low point more than a month into the coronavirus outbreak. Previously people have already accumulated dissatisfaction with state media tapping into fandom culture in virus coverage,” said Fang Kecheng, assistant professor of communication and journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Co-opting anime and fandom culture is no panacea.”

Using virtual idols to fan Chinese nationalism isn’t a new concept — but up to this point it’s been a distinctly grass-roots one. During Hong Kong’s pro- protests in 2019, online patriots created a viral personification of their nation called “Brother Ah Zhong” or Brother China, a pop idol who debuted 5,000 years ago with a fan base of 1.4 billion. The Youth League and state media praised what they called a spirited defense of their homeland against foreign attack. […] [Source]

@江山娇与红旗漫Official’s official account lists its gender as female, and some Weibo users took the opportunity to vent their frustration over gender-based discrimination in China, asking Jiang Shanjiao questions commonly fielded by women in China or others alluding to the gender gap. The original post and comments have now been deleted, but many replies were saved by Weibo user @为什么它永无止境 and WeChat public account 歡迎取悅. Several have been translated below, and a more comments have been archived by CDT Chinese:

“Jiang Shanjiao, are you a virgin?”

Jiang Shanjiao, did your family have a second baby because you are a girl?” 

“Jiang Shanjiao, are you on your period?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, are you sure you can keep up with the boys academically in high school?”

“When you need her, Jiang Shanjiao is an innocent goddess, a Loli, a virtual character with no sex characteristics. When you don’t need her, Jiang Shanjiao has inconvenient menstrual cycles and pregnancies, she is laid off and harassed, or she is a common whore. So which Jiang Shanjiao do you want to be your idol?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, did your family have a second baby because you are a girl?”

Jiang Shanjiao, are you still a virgin?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, will you shave your head for your country?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, do you get paid the same as your brother for doing the same work?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, how do you balance family and career after getting married?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, did you also have to score 200 more points than the guys to get into a police academy?”

“Jiang Shanjiao, are you pursuing a PhD? Because if so, no one will want to marry you!”

“Jiang Shanjiao, are you saving to help pay for your brother’s wedding home?” [Chinese]

Translation by Yakexi.

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