Glowing piece about 'model' couple's rural waste business turns out to be distorted

Woman complains on social media of being used to score propaganda points without her consent
By Yitong Wu and Chingman for RFA Cantonese
Glowing piece about 'model' couple's rural waste business turns out to be distorted
AFP photo; RFA photo illustration

The glowing article on the “Wealthy Together” news site praised the university-educated couple for quitting their jobs and returning to their hometown to start a waste recycling business.

Drawing on propaganda urging college graduates not to be too picky about their jobs, the article – republished on various Chinese Communist Party-approved news sites – lauded the couple for "throwing off their scholarly gowns" and getting behind the government's rural entrepreneurship drive.

But the woman quoted in the article, identified only by her surname Song, took to social media to complain that the article misrepresented their situation and voice anger at being used to score propaganda points for the government. 

Also, the post said she had put details of the recent career change, along with photos and video, on the social media platform Xiaohongshu, only to have them used without her consent.

"I'm outraged," said a post from Henan by user @LuChiMiaoer. "I'm the person quoted and I want to say ... that we are doing this as a temporary measure due to unavoidable circumstances."

"I told the reporter – I didn't know where they were from – that I would answer questions but that they couldn't use the video," the post said. "They used my private personal photos and posted the video anyway."

"I am really angry, and I don't know how to get in touch with the person who interviewed me," it said.

"Work hard, and don't be blindly led into quitting your job to start a business ... which is much harder in terms of time, money and energy than everyone imagines," the post warned.

‘Common prosperity’

The published article portrayed the couple – a former state-owned enterprise employee and a former accountant – as a shining example of supreme leader Xi Jinping's slogan "common prosperity" and included photos of them up to their waists in flattened cardboard boxes.

"Everyone is different," the article quoted Song as saying. "In the office, you have to deal with all kinds of interpersonal relationships, leaders, and conflicts with colleagues."

"But you don't have so much to worry about collecting waste products [and you] sleep better," says the article, which touts the couple's business in Puyang, in the central province of Henan.

Online comments under the piece were scathing.

"The victim herself didn’t even know this was being compiled as an inspirational news item," commented @xiaomingming, along with laughter and crying emojis.

"People who write stuff like this are shameless," added @TheWorldIsSoBigIWannaSeeItAgain, while @VeryFull commented: "People who have nothing better to do make up stuff like this to fool us," with a crying emoji.

‘State of chaos’

Beijing-based current affairs commentator Ji Feng said the government doesn't appear to have much of a strategy in the face of what he termed economic "collapse" in the wake of three years of zero-COVID restrictions, which ended last December following nationwide street protests.

"The whole of China is in a state of chaos, of collapse," Ji said. "More and more people are unemployed – 20% of them. There aren't any good jobs for young people."

Young people have told Radio Free Asia in recent interviews that they are unwilling to sacrifice themselves for the government’s attempt to kickstart the economy without relying on export manufacturing to drive growth.

Financial commentator He Jiangbing said many young people who were once fervent nationalists and supporters of the ruling party have had a rude awakening in the current situation.

"These millennials could have once been ‘little pinks,’" He said, using a nickname for young nationalists and party supporters. "They would once have been employed by the system, in a state-owned enterprise, and that would have been seen as a great situation to be in."

"The fact that manufacturing is leaving [China] has had a huge impact, not just on young people, but on everyone," he said. "There are tens of millions of college students, and an estimated half of them can't find jobs."

"That's the problem, right there – how [will the government] appease them?” He asked. “They can try to fool them, to string them along, but they don't even believe this stuff any more."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.