Chinese websites and apps have gone black and white. Here’s why.



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Alibaba’s shopping and streaming apps went black and white on Monday.

The Chinese woke up to find that the most popular shopping, food delivery, news and movie streaming sites went black and white on Monday.

It is not because the websites are performing poorly. Instead, government bodies and private companies are joining a national commemoration on the anniversary of the Nanjing massacre in 1937, when invading Japanese troops carried out massacres in the city of the east of China. Beijing says 300,000 people have died.

It is an important day in the political calendar of the Communist Party to remind people of the country’s past suffering, promote nationalism and mobilize support for the leadership.

Some of the biggest tech companies, including Alibaba, Huawei, and Xiaomi, have turned their website and app homepages to black and white, though consumers can still see colors when browsing individual products.

It is not known if the color change is from an official order. Wu Qiang, an independent political commentator in Beijing, said the propaganda apparatus could have given informal instructions to internet companies.

Alibaba has also applied the gray tones to the homepages of its Ele.me food delivery service and its Youku streaming service. The e-commerce giant lost some $ 500 billion in market value after Beijing cracked down on the country’s once-free internet industry.

While some users applauded the patriotic gesture, others were puzzled.

“I opened Taobao and thought Jack Ma was dead,” a user wrote on the Weibo microblogging site on Monday.

“If Taobao looks like this every day, I’ll probably save a lot of money,” another person wrote.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said that although the Nanjing massacre was played down by Mao Zedong’s leadership, given that the city was controlled by the rival Kuomintang party at the time , commemorations have been organized over the past decades to stir up nationalism and garner support from the Communist leadership.

“The ‘recent’ efforts to commemorate the Nanjing massacre were part of rewriting history to support the narrative that China and the Chinese people would still suffer from the brutality of the imperialists without the CCP and, more recently, the leadership. of Xi Jinping, ”Tsang said.

Remembrance Day is also an opportunity for local executives, businesses and individuals to pledge their political loyalty, at a time when the government is tightening ideological control over society and imposing a series of new regulations to curb it. it considers harmful business practices and cultural trends.

Most of the pop stars shared commemorative messages on Monday, while their fandoms made December 13 a “day without entertainment.” Fans have pledged to only post content related to the Nanjing massacre, such as candle emoticons and state media posters, in the forums which are usually filled with photos of glamorous celebrities.

Similar mass commemorations are also held on the anniversaries of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the traditional Qingming festival dedicated to the deceased, and other key dates in the Japanese invasion of China during WWII.

Chinese fan clubs mainly follow the official party ideology on social media, due to the rise of nationalism among the younger generation and also to protect the careers of their idols. The government this year launched a crackdown on what it called chaotic fan culture, while several pop stars were wiped from the internet over charges of rape, tax evasion or opinions. politically incorrect.

Some Chinese Taylor Swift fans have decided to postpone the American singer’s 32nd birthday celebration to December 13.

“Due to the time difference, it’s not Ms. Taylor Swift’s birthday yet,” said a top-rated comment on Swift’s official Weibo page. “Plus, today is National Memorial Day. It is not appropriate to celebrate in our country.

“I’m a Mei fan, but more importantly a Chinese national,” another fan wrote, adding a candle emoji. Mei Mei, which means ‘unlucky’ or ‘musty’, is Swift’s nickname in China.

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.


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