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Weekly #8: the balloon talk 🎈, sued by Netflix 💻 , durian stock 📈, Guangzhou out of the big four 😢 | Following the yuan
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Wow, I'm overwhelmed by your responses to my analysis of Chinese internet users’ reactions to ‘the balloon’ saga. I did it on a whim last Saturday because after seeing official responses from both sides (those familiar talking heads…), I realized one valuable voice was missing: the people.
It wasn’t scientific, I just scrolled on various platforms for 10 to 15 minutes and took screenshots of posts that seemed representative. As I said, Weibo, Douyin, and Bilibili have a combined 1.65 billion monthly active users and not everyone cared or commented, but I hope I peeled off a layer or two and showed something other than the official line.
Some comments are snarky, some jokey (with punchlines similar to those in Bowen Yang’s SNL Sketch below, which I only watched three times), some make references to the U-2 Spy Plane, some even show empathy with Americans. This is all to say — contrary to the haters online claiming the comments look inorganic — the opinions of Chinese people are not monolithic.
1. China’s largest pirated video site on death bed 🎬
If there’s one thing that can get rival entertainment companies to gang together it’s a website hosting their pirated content.
From last Nov. to the end of Jan., Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Studios, Netflix, and Disney have been waging legal warfare in Shanghai against Renren Video, which has changed its name to Duoduo Video this month. The case claims large-scale copyright infringement has been committed, says Tianyancha, a business information platform.
Renren 1.0 (called YYeTs) was founded by an overseas Chinese student in the early 2000s and became a go-to place to watch subtitled U.S. TV and movies. Renren 2.0 was founded in 2014 under a separate owner, and by 2020 it had amassed 160 million users and, supposedly, had IPO plans.
The aforementioned entertainment giants have been hitting back. Last July, domestic media reported that 90 percent of the site’s content had been taken down due to copyright issues and its mobile app was also removed from Apple’s app store.
Not to stand up for Renren, but the reality is that these pirated sites are a source for many teenagers (including yours truly back in the day and this guy who mourned about the loss) to learn about other cultures and languages. Hopefully other copyright compliant sites can fill the void, otherwise another window onto the world will be lost to Chinese netizens.
2. Durian smells like money 🤭
China’s first publicly traded fruit seller Hongjiu Fruit has become one of 2023’s biggest dark horse stories. Its champion product? Durian.
After listing in Hong Kong last Aug, the Chongqing-based company had been muddling along at around HK$12 ($1.5). Then in Nov it started climbing, reaching the lofty heights of HK$41 by the end of January. It’s a straightforward story.
Demand for imported durian has grown significantly over the past few years and has been No.1 imported fruit since 2019, and Hongjiu has been well-placed to capitalize on this. In 2021, imported durian made up more than a third of Hongjiu’s revenue.
Hongjiu’s rise represented the trajectory of a so-called ‘monster stock’ 妖股, a phrase for stocks that surge so unexpectedly that the growth comes and goes like a monster. The stock has now evened out at HK$25, can it rely on durians to keep its momentum?
3. Guangzhou squeezed out of the big four? 😢
Here’s something I enjoy: being overwhelmed by information and then sorting it — like how Marie Condo organizes a sock draw, or used to.
Today, I pored over the GDP city ranking from 2012 to 2022, the first decade of Xi Jinping’s reign — I dare say there could be more decades — and found that a common shorthand 北上广深 (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen) may no longer apply.
According to official data, the top 10 cities by GDP in China in 2022 are: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Hangzhou, and Nanjing. Overall, Shanghai led with 4.47 trillion yuan ($658 billion) and Beijing followed with 4.16 trillion yuan ($613 billion).
The shorthand 北上广深 was largely based on these cities’ GDP ranking, but Guangzhou has been lagging behind Shenzhen, where tech giant Tencent Holdings’ headquarters is based, since 2017.
Now ranking fifth, it looks like the city isn’t part of the club anymore. Last Feb., I wrote that fast fashion giant Shein was plotting a US$2 billion global supply chain center in Guangzhou, and with the city as part of the Greater Bay Area that also includes Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, let’s see if it would catch up. 🏁
I’m planning to do some collaborations with other newsletter writers in consumer/web3/China beat, who do you like to see me vibing with? Leave your comments below or tag the writer(s) directly!
Copy Editor: Richard Whiddington
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