Chinese Corner: Zhili is the child modeling capital of China - SupChina

Chinese Corner: Zhili is the child modeling capital of China

Also: A play about women migrant workers in childbirth, and a man takes revenge on pyramid schemes.

Chinese Corner is Jiayun Feng’s weekly review of interesting nonfiction on the Chinese internet.


The brutal reality of child modeling

逐梦童模镇:妈妈,我们明天几点拍照?
Chasing dreams in the town of child models: ‘Mom, when do we shoot tomorrow?’
By 戴敏洁 Dài Mǐnjié
April 1, 2019

Last week, a video showing a mother kicking and slapping her three-year-old daughter during a photo shoot ignited fury on Chinese social media. “Don’t make me kick you to death,” the mother, at one point during the appalling clip, yells at her child. Shortly after the video went viral, a baby care company revealed the toddler to be Niu Niu 妞妞, a well-known child model who has been featured in a number of ads for children’s apparel companies. Under immense pressure from the public, the abusive mother later issued an apology, saying she never intended to harm Niu Niu, and that her “big movements” was a form of “instruction and communication” that accidentally crossed the line.

Unsurprisingly, the “apology” didn’t quell the public outrage. To exacerbate the situation, more footage showing the mother’s violence emerged in the following days, which forced her to apologize again in an interview with Beijing Youth Daily, in which she confessed that she was “blinded by money” and “got lost in the world of child modeling.”

The abuse and exploitation of Niu Niu, however, is hardly an isolated case. In Zhili, Zhejiang Province, where Niu Niu spent the vast majority of the past three years, there are hundreds of apparel factories that produce more than half of the clothing for children in the market. There are also thousands of parents like Niu Niu’s mother, who dream of their kids making it big as a model.

In this article, journalist Dai Minjie exposes the grueling life of two child models in Zhili. The story is full of troubling details, including the disturbing precociousness of some young children after spending years in this ultra-competitive industry and the rise of training schools that specialize in child modeling. As one parent candidly tells the reporter, “No job earns money as quickly as this.”

childbirth chronicle

Women migrant workers in Beijing are creating an empowering play based on their childbirth experience

将生育经历排成话剧,女工们的生育纪事
A play based off experiences of childbirth, women migrant workers tell their stories
By 张楠茜 Zhāng nánqiàn
April 1, 2019

“My child, mom feels so sorry,” a exasperated woman screams and wails while holding the flesh of her aborted baby. “But you already have two brothers. You parents are poor. We would suffer too much if we had you.”

This is one of the many heartbreaking scenes in Childbirth Chronicle 生育纪事, a play created and performed by members of Mulan Community, a Beijing-based organization that does advocacy work for women migrant workers. Qí Lìxiá 齐丽霞, head of the organization, came up with the idea of the play after hearing lots of painful stories about childbirth from her peers. Based on the real-life story of one of Mulan’s members, who has had three abortions and two live births in the course of 30 years, the play is an intimate portrayal of an unseen aspect in the lives of migrant workers.

“Their husbands are migrant workers too,” said Zhào Zhìyǒng 赵志勇, a professor at the Central Academy of Drama and the director of the play. “Unlike middle-class men in major cities, they are unable to be a supportive presence in the delivery room when their wives are in labor. They need to work to make ends meet.

“The plight of the protagonist in this play is not just a gendered experience, but rather a depressing reality for people in the lower class. For women migrant workers, the situation is particularly dire because of the myriad challenges of childbirth.”

pyrimad scheme

Once a victim, one man turns his fight against pyramid schemes

传销解救师:反洗脑和洗脑一样,都是靠骗
Pyramid scheme victim-turned-activist: Brainwashing and de-brainwashing is all about deception
By 东北旺 Dōngběiwàng
April 4, 2019

In 2012, Xiāo Shuāng 肖双 dropped out of college to sell handbags for a clothing company. Its manager told him — and tens of hundreds of other mostly young people from impoverished families in rural China — that devoting all of their savings and energy into this company was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they couldn’t afford to miss. Fully sold by the promise of upward mobility, Xiao spent two years in the firm recruiting others to invest and sell a handbag called “Nobody,” a product that he only saw once in real life.

Xiao’s dream was dashed in a dramatic way. On the day he was promoted to manager, the highest position below the founder, his recruiter and supervisor told him that the entity was actually a multi-level marketing scheme in which the only way to make money was by building a team of sellers and getting a cut from their commissions.

Completely devastated, Xiao left the company and started giving advice on the internet to people whose friends and family are stuck in similar schemes. Later, Xiao was recruited by a police-backed anti-MLM organization, whose employees are mostly former victims like himself. Using their knowledge about the tactics that were once used on them, they are now on a mission to convince others to opt out.

Things that I read and loved from last week:

According to recent data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the top three provinces with the highest divorce rate are all in Northeast China. Why?

“For a long time, the key for making pop music in China has been to find a delicate balance between genuine expression and popularity, commercial success and true art, high taste and vulgarity. For talented musicians, the fixation on occupying the middle ground is killing their creativity for writing songs.”

The fact that Chinese traditional medicine dates back to ancient times doesn’t mean it’s effective. What we should talk about is its performance in medical tests.

Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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