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The male contestants in the third season of Youth With You (青春有你). (Internet)

Working 'mothers' are the biggest spenders of fan economy in China

The fan economy is a huge business in China, driven mostly by young women in their 20s. But while these fans are willing to spend money on their idols, some chalk up mountains of debt to feed their passion. Given that the idols are endlessly trotted out on a conveyor belt and few escape the cookie cutter, how long can the fan economy last?
TV series Nothing but Thirty (《三十而已》) revolves around the lives of three females living in Shanghai. (Internet)

Portrayal of women in Chinese dramas getting more westernised?

Hit Chinese television series Nothing but Thirty has struck a chord with scores of working women in China, says young academic Lorna Wei. Unlike one-dimensional portrayals of women in previous dramas, this one seeks to give women in China a voice as she copes with trials in work and in love. If this is art imitating life, it seems that Chinese society is becoming more like any other modern, in fact, westernised, society we see today. Only entrenched attitudes about their roles in society can keep women back as they seek a better future for themselves.
Participants of reality TV series Sisters Who Make Waves (《乘风破浪的小姐姐》). (Internet)

Rich and wealthy ‘little sisters’ are the new driving force of Chinese consumerism

“Little sisters” — young women urbanites between 20-40 who have high spending power and little financial commitments — are the new darling demographic for those targeting China’s domestic market. In fact, the 2020 market size of the “little sisters economy” in China is expected to reach five trillion RMB. In keeping their buy-in, integrating e-commerce with social apps is key.
Television series The Empress of China starring Fan Bingbing as Wu Zetian. (Internet)

Tang dynasty's Wu Zetian: Was she a wise emperor or did she ruin the country?

A television series about Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, has Cheng Pei-kai reflecting about the semantics (read: politics) involved in the title bestowed on this charismatic figure. Did she live up to her many labels, or even more powerfully yet, was she really a character that defied any labels? History refuses to make a definite call.
Gou Jing and her friends, taken a day before she took the gaokao in 1997. (Weibo)

Stolen identities: Imposters rob poor Chinese youths of their university dreams

For years, poor Chinese peasants, especially girls, were led to believe that they had failed their college entrance exams. Little did they know that schemers had misappropriated their identities. With a greater number of cases coming to light, some justice is being done. But many more steps still need to be taken, says Han Yong Hong, to show that the rights of vulnerable groups in Chinese society cannot be trampled on.
A woman wearing a face mask walks in the Central Business District in Beijing on 14 April 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

China's grassroots civil servant and her story battling the Covid-19 pandemic

China's grassroots civil servants have been sandwiched between their demanding supervisors and the people, while braving the elements standing guard outside different communities and organisations throughout winter and spring during the pandemic. Young Chinese academic Lorna Wei tells the story of one of these non-medical frontline workers amid the tough fight as she salutes the numerous nameless heroes among them.
Chiang's potted gloxinia is in full bloom. (蔣勳/Facebook)

A return to the physical body and the exuberance of the Tang dynasty

Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty presented her personal piece of clothing to Buddha as an offering. Taiwan art historian Chiang Hsun says this is a sign of that era's exuberance and confidence. Immersed in reverie, he admires his pot of gloxinias, which are as vibrant as the Empress's fiery red skirt.​
A couple wearing face masks cuddles along a park at the Yangtze river in Wuhan, Hubei, on 12 April 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Death of a Peking University girl: Virginity matters in modern China

Baoli, a student at Peking University, committed suicide because of her boyfriend and died this early April. Young academic Lorna Wei examines the case and bemoans the sad situation of both men and women holding parochial attitudes in China towards a woman’s virginity. In extreme cases, the vulnerable may fall prey to grave self-harm, even death.
A case of sexual abuse has recently swept the Chinese internet community. (iStock)

Chinese netizens stand firm behind sexually abused 'adopted daughter'

The case of a former high-calibre law consultant who allegedly sexually abused a teenage girl has been making the rounds among China’s internet community. While the man argued that theirs was a consensual relationship, netizens are not buying it. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu asks: "What does it mean when justice has to be upheld by public opinion?"