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We update you on the most essential news from Asia in tech, media, and business—the things you need to know that you probably haven’t heard in Western media.
To people in my generation, we remember watching the animated Disney film Mulan back in 1998. I was too young to realise that the film was not well received in China at the time. So far, it seems like Disney’s Mulan remake has touched on a similar nerve for many Chinese viewers. The new $200 Million live-action version of Mulan came out on Disney+ a few days ago after much anticipation. Despite some controversy around lead actress Liu Yifei posting about the Hong Kong protests last year, Disney expected this new Mulan to do well in China.
While the film will officially be released in Chinese theaters on September 11, pirated online versions have already appeared on the Chinese internet and tens of thousands of people have already written reviews on Chinese ratings site Douban. Right now, the film has a 4.7 out of 10 rating. Chinese reviewers have complained about the film’s Western writers generally misunderstanding Chinese culture. The problem of Hollywood whitewashing ‘Asian’ films has been perceived to be improving against the backdrop of successes like Parasite and Crazy Rich Asians. There’s still a chance that the film will do well when it comes out in Chinese theaters in three days on Friday. Whether Disney misses on Mulan or not, they can’t ignore the huge Chinese film market.
In traditional Chinese culture and throughout most of Asia, people are expected to marry and start families at a young age. The first thing my relatives in the Philippines ask me is if I have a girlfriend and when I’m getting married. But today, this trend is starting to shift as young people do these things later in life and increasingly pursue a single life living in big cities. The number of single people in China reached 200 Million last year, and the number of single people living alone is expected to reach 90 Million by 2021. Another country that has seen this happen more quickly is Japan, where the government has even provided subsidies to encourage dating.
Chinese companies are capitalising on this new consumer class of young, single working professionals, which would have been a smaller group in previous generations. Chinese hot pot restaurant chain Haidilao has started putting teddy bears in empty chairs as companions for solo diners and other restaurants have started building dining booths for individuals. ‘Solo dining’ is becoming a popular content category on social media and appliance companies are starting to create mini-appliances for people living alone. It’s interesting to see how business adapts to changing consumer demand. From a cultural perspective, I’m most happy with the fact that being young and single is now seen as less negative in Chinese society.
To you, it might just be a silly video game. But for millions of Indian gamers, PUBG Mobile was an immersive, social entertainment experience that played a meaningful role in their lives. So when the Indian government banned PUBG last week, it hit harder than the hundreds of other banned Chinese mobile apps. Arguably, losing access to PUBG could be considered even more impactful than India banning TikTok, since many gamers (especially young men) spend more time playing video games than they do consuming social media.
A group of young gamers went viral in India this week for recording a video of themselves holding a pretend funeral procession for PUBG.
On a more serious note, I think this highlights the disparity between public policy and popular culture. While the political conflict between India and China continues, people will suffer in many ways. If things like media and entertainment need to become regionalised, it could lead to interesting new developments for companies that understand popular culture. In the meantime, fans of PUBG will continue to suffer. All they wanted was a video game to play with their friends.