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Zhibo: Valentine’s Day, Freedom, and “Getting Black”

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Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.

Survey Topic: Relationship Goals

Valentine’s Day is upon us — or at least, it was when I started writing this — so I figured I’d ask the folks on Yingke what they’re looking for, relationship-wise. The obvious stereotype is that every single person in China is desperate to get married and have kids because that’s the societal imperative, but even to the casual observer it’s pretty obvious that China’s young adult population is starting to push back on that — if very gently and cautiously.

So on Valentine’s Day, I asked the audience to choose one of the following:

1: You want to get married and have kids soon.

2: You want to get married and have kids… when you’re ready.

3: You don’t want to get married and/or have kids.

4: You don’t know.

5: You’re already married (this one had to be added mid-survey)

To my surprise and great delight, “I don’t know” (#4) swept to victory with a solid 25-30 votes vs. only around 5 votes for #1 and #2 and 8-10 for #3. Of course, it could be that my audience is telling me what I want to hear — or that the people with the boldness to actually answer the foreigner’s personal question are a self-selecting sample.

But then again, it could be that young people hidden behind the anonymity of a screen might be more willing to say what they actually think. As with all things, I can only imagine the truth exists, unsatisfyingly, somewhere in the middle.

 

Question of the Week:

Do you make love?

This is a lot classier than the usual questions about my personal life. Still, pass.

 

Worrisome Message of the Week:

I can’t stand you getting black.

I’m not sure you know what “black” means

Apparently a week in Florida was enough to cause people to worry that I’m losing that basement-dwelling alabaster glow they’ve come to know and love. I’ve tried to explain that they have nothing to fear on that front, but we’re kind of coming at the issue from completely different ends of the spectrum (pardon the pun). As we’ve talked about before, the Chinese obsession with pale skin dates back many centuries, and very much pre-dates any significant contact with Europeans.

Now, the choice of the word “black” can probably be chalked up more to a Chinglish-y attempt to express the word (shai; sunned) than the apparent racism, though I’m sure there’s room for both. Shai means the sunshine (the pronunciation similarity is probably a coincidence, but who knows?) or the drying/darkening effect of the sun. There’s no question, though, that a whole lot of people in China are pretty straightforwardly unapologetic when it comes to their opinions on dark skin and the people walking around in it. Of course, trolls also call me a *white ghost* (白鬼), so at the end of the day I suppose pointing out how someone looks different will always be a solid low-hanging fruit for the uncreative.

Then again, this just happened:

I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

 

Insight of the Week:

“Single life is freedom”

I mean, *I* think it’s an insight. Certainly when it’s coming in the midst of a thousand “Happy Valentine’s Day Why Aren’t You Married Yet” messages.   

 

Video of the Week:

This truly bizarre music video

There is so much to unpack here, I don’t know where to begin. Is he walking around a mini-golf place? Is this just a snippet of a larger video? Why is something with seemingly high production value so out of tune? And what the holy hell is with that terrifying Attack on Titan thing?

This is screaming for a caption contest

I haven’t actually looked into who/what this is out of a combination of laziness and enjoying the mystery — but if you know, please tell me.

Taylor Hartwell
Taylor has been living in China since 2014 on the basis that he's already sunk too much into studying Chinese and can't stop now. When not staring at himself on his phone, he can be found writing, teaching and consulting at various schools and companies in Beijing. His Zhibo column runs every Monday on Radii. He tweets @TaylorJHartwell

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