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Controversial video App triggers debate on ‘true spirit’ of rural China

A video-clip making and sharing app caused a sensation on China’s social media such as Sina Weibo and WeChat recently for its large number of “vulgar” video clips created by people at the grassroots level, which many on the Internet said presents the “true spirit of China’s rural areas.”

Screenshots of the video clips were included in an article which was read for over 100,000 times within hours on WeChat, China’s largest messaging app owned by Tencent, on June 8.

In the article titled “Cruel Grassroots Story, A Chinese Countryside Shown in an APP”, the author named X Doctor said if Chairman Mao, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, was alive today, he wouldn’t need a month to visit the remote countryside like he did in 1927 in order to write a long report about the peasant movement. The only thing he needs to do is to sign into the app which will show him the “spirit of the countryside.”

Some of the “vulgar” video clips introduced in the article include autosadism with some eating glass, putting firecrackers at the crotch, or eating sick pig meat. And the shooting locations presented in these video clips resemble the less developed areas of China, which many believed to be the rural areas of China.

Some netizens commented that through this app, “The rural people, a giant group that has been ignored and paid less attention by our society for a long time, seem to be rediscovered and noticed by the public.”

However, the article was soon banned on WeChat after it was “reported for many times.” Some dissenting voices argued that the article was “treating the part as the whole” and “widening the gap between people from the city and the countryside.”

Screenshot of Kwai application

A commentary in The Paper said, “It looks like different social classes are getting closer on the Internet, but the gap of culture and economic conditions between these people are getting more explicit than before. And the people at the grassroots level are now being projected in a distorted way to the public.”

The app named Kwai, or Kuaishou in Chinese, has over 300 million iOS and Android users by 2016, and one of the main features of this app is that there is neither censorship on the video clips nor on the users’ identities, which means everyone who can access to the internet can post short video clips on the app. Many on the Internet say the video clips on the app show the “cruel and desolate reality of China’s rural areas” and such conditions “can never be seen in developed cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.”

Although video clips on Kwai are criticized as “vulgar” and “cruel”, they have won popularity among people who like to seek novelty, regardless of their social classes.

Screenshots of the video clips Photo: Kwai

A video clip in which a young man holds a crane and lets the crane lift him up to three meters high and down is viewed by over 440,000 times within three hours. And a castle made by thousands of coins is viewed by over 186,000 times within a few hours. In another video clip, four students are playing teacher-and-student game, and the student who is playing the teacher asks the other three students to say loudly to the camera that the Diaoyu Islands are owned by China. At the end of the video, the four students call for the audience to double click on the screen of the phone, which gives the video a “like”, and to leave a comment under the video clip, which will also help them win popularity on the app.

Other “novel” video clips include “horseplay at a countryside wedding ceremony”, “ghost marriage customs”, and even a “funeral ceremony.”

In the introduction, Kwai describes itself as an “easy to use” app with “tens of millions of users” which will help users to “catch the hilarious moments of life”. “In Kwai, life is splendid, with people you adore and fans who adore you,” it said.

However, recently, a series of video clips on Kwai, which show a woman called “Chi Huo Feng Jie” eating “all kinds of things” such as bulb, living goldfish and worms, caught the police attention after some reported that the woman was forced to do so. The police released a notice on Weibo on June 3 saying that the video was shot by the woman and her son with “fake tools” in order to win popularity on Kwai.

Kwai announced on June 3 on its Weibo account that as an app “aimed to share interesting moments in life, it will enhance supervision of the content on Kwai and will definitely say no to behavior which may harm oneself and other people”.

Chi Huo Feng Jie Screenshot from Weibo

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