Why China’s Censors Are Deleting Videos About Poverty

A heartbreaking video showing groceries that retirees can buy for 100 yuan ($14.50) (roughly a monthly pension and their only source of income) has gone viral on the Chinese internet. Video has been removed.

One singer vented widespread dissatisfaction among educated young Chinese about the dire economic situation and bleak job prospects such as gig jobs. “But my pockets are cleaner than my face,” he sings. , his social media accounts were suspended.

A migrant worker struggling to provide for his family received widespread sympathy and attention last year after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, with authorities releasing extensive details of his move. He became known as the most hardworking person in China. Censorship prevented discussion about him, and local authorities were posted outside his home to prevent journalists from visiting his wife.

China says it is a socialist country aimed at promoting common prosperity. In 2021, its supreme leader, Xi Jinping, Declared “A Comprehensive Victory in the War on Poverty”. However, many people still remain poor or live just above the poverty line. Poverty has become a taboo topic that draws the ire of governments as the country’s economic prospects darken and people become more uncertain about their future.

In March, China’s Internet regulator, China’s Cyberspace Administration, said: announced It said it would crack down on people who publish videos and posts that “deliberately manipulate grief, incite polarization, create harmful information that tarnishes the image of the party and government, and disrupts economic and social development.” increase. Ban sad videos of old people, people with disabilities and children.

Behind the ban is a government eager to keep all stories about China positive. The Chinese Communist Party boasts how many people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years, but refuses to mention how it pushed the entire country into extreme poverty during the Mao era.

Poverty alleviation is a badge of honor for the party to claim its legitimacy. But despite China’s rise as an economic powerhouse, China’s social safety net is dramatically inadequate, with governments trying to discourage discussion of the conditions facing the poor.

A search for the Chinese word “pinkhun” or “poverty” on, China’s largest news portal, yields news article is about research This makes poverty the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The news media rarely report on the systemic causes of poverty in China.

Hu Chenfeng recorded footage that has been deleted from the Internet in China. On a popular video site, he posted a recording of an elderly woman living on just $15 a month. In the words of many social media commentators, he was revealing too much: Quora-like site, he wrote in his thread on Zhihu’s now-deleted discussion, “This subject is force majeure.” is,” he wrote one commenter. Another wrote, “His account was censored simply because it showed what life was like for so many people.”

In a video that has survived on YouTube outside China’s internet, Hu interviews a 78-year-old widow on the streets of the southwestern city of Chengdu. She said she was going to buy only rice, about the only thing she could buy. She hadn’t eaten meat in a long time. Her tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke of her financial difficulties. The two go through a grocery store. They bought rice, eggs, pork and flour. The bill was 127 Yuan ($18). Hu insisted on paying.

He was also emotional and signed off with a “heavy heart.”

The video has been removed from China’s two largest user-generated video platforms. Hu’s account was suspended.

Even Zhihu’s discussion thread about why the government doesn’t allow videos about poor people was censored. “Because in theory there are no poor people in China,” one social media user speculated in writing before the thread disappeared.

“Because in this society we can only celebrate prosperity,” wrote another commenter.

Income inequality is a problem in many countries, including the United States. In China, the largest wealth gap is between rural and urban residents. This gap is created by government rules that associate social benefits such as schooling, health care, and pensions with place of birth rather than according to place of residence, income, or needs. This policy especially hurts retirees.

In 2021, rural seniors will receive an average of $27 a month in Social Security benefits, according to the government. reportThis pension is only about 5% of what the average urban retiree receives.

one viral video In Henan, one of China’s most populous provinces, an incident occurred about an elderly person struggling to earn a living. Raised This year, the monthly pension for rural residents will be increased from $16 to $18. In this video, two porters of him in their 70s use their hands and shoulders to unload a truckload of cement.

From the 1990s to the mid-2010s, when China experienced phenomenal economic growth, people paid little attention to poverty. Now, as China’s economic engine explodes, nascent middle-class Chinese worry that they will fall back into poverty. That’s one of the reasons these videos caught our attention.

Due to propaganda and censorship, many of them were unaware of the depth and extent of poverty in this country.

When then-premier Li Keqiang said in 2020 that 600 million Chinese people, 40% of the population, would earn less than $150 a month, some didn’t know where that figure came from. People called it fake news. The official People’s Daily had to ask the National Bureau of Statistics. confirmation It was true. China’s official press rarely mentioned the inconvenient number again.

Another reason why poverty is seen as a novelty among the middle class is that local governments usually chase beggars and homeless people off the streets. They become invisible in big cities. Last year, the daughter of a friend of hers in Beijing asked her what it means to beg. I recently met a new Chinese immigrant in San Francisco, she is 13 years old. He was shocked to see homeless people. She said she had never seen her in Beijing.

The Beijing government is not just banning beggars and homeless people from staying. In the winter of 2017, it evicted many low-income people from their apartments in an effort to weed out what it called the “low-quality population.”

Now, with video streamers roaming the country trying to find the obvious facts that grab online attention, the general public can see the poor and nasty side of life in China. is one reason.

Governments don’t want their people to be obsessed with another big social problem besides poverty. That is the youth unemployment rate, which according to the government has reached nearly 20% of her.

The songwriter uses Gong Yizhi, a famous literary figure who was educated but had a poor intellectual life during the Qing Dynasty, to explain that young people cannot find a job because they are not working hard enough. The song was censored and the singer’s online account was suspended.

The official media, on the other hand, carried a plethora of articles about university graduates making a decent living collecting garbage and becoming street vendors.

The government wants to “deny the recession and widespread unemployment” and avoid accountability, one commenter wrote.

The same is true of poverty. By censoring videos and online discussions, the government sidesteps its responsibility to provide the most basic social safety her net to the poor.

In a video posted to his unblocked backup social media accounts, videographer Hu said, “I shot these videos. This is a small step forward in our society, but also some I wanted to make money,” he said. “But I had no idea this was prohibited.”

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