Epic Post 2: No More Lip-Synching


Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi

This bit of news is really, really old and I was not going to post on this at all, but I began writing an introduction to another post that eventually evolved into its own long-winded post, and so here we are with me talking politics all over again because I couldn’t bear to just drop what I had already spent time on. Btw, Epic post basically means political post now.

China, as you may know from reading other sites, has recently decided to ban lip-synching from commercial performances, which in my opinion was a decision that came from older people in the industry frustrated by the recent flood of idol singers and not for other reasons that western news sources like to conjecture about, such as the lip-synching girl, Lin Maoke at the Olympics. Basically the first 3/4 of this post talks about why I am so pissed at how the articles that came out about this revelation (revealed by Chinese committe head himself) were so ridiculously flawed, as the articles often were during the Olympics, and I think it’s ridiculous that this is still being stated as truth, like the Variety article I linked to. The last 1/4 talks about the Chinese entertainment circle and how and whom the ban would affect. Beware, this is even longer than my Gong Li Epic Post.

So let me start off with that particular story, the story of the “ugly, chubby-cheeked, buck-toothed” girl and be like all the other journalists who love to bring it up at whim for their own amusement, regardless of the facts, and regardless if the way they spin their articles would be hurting either girl. It’s something I feel I must write about before diving into how it actually may relate to Chinese entertainment…since most people still assume that somehow China’s Olympic Committee in fact did say, you’re ugly when that’s not quite the case.

Let me tell you how I encountered this bit of news myself. My mother read the the transcript of the interview that spawned this whole debacle on the internet, in which the music director stated why they chose another girl to sing and another girl to perform. I didn’t think much of it, because I wasn’t really interested in that part of the Olympics – the opening ceremony had quite a few things that were more interesting than that little girl’s singing. Then the next day I read the onslaught of English-language reports spawned by this interview which started saying it was because she was ugly. What? I thought. I don’t remember that…I don’t remember anybody criticizing her cheeks or teeth. Or saying she was too ugly.

Well, they didn’t.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, which sums it up quite nicely what happened:

If there is a single story that has been used to support the Western world’s pessimistic assessment [about China[, it is about how China’s faceless leaders ordered a seven-year-old singer off the opening ceremony stage because she had “a chubby face and crooked teeth”. It was Yang Peiyi’s voice that sang Ode to the Motherland to the world but it was another girl, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who mimed the words on stage.

And so the story was told, in various incarnations, in most of the best-known news outlets in Australia and across the Western world.

Opinion writers used these reports to build a larger argument. A writer in The Age said the incident “represents a microcosm of China’s own two-faced approach to the Olympics and, indeed, the world in general”.

A Baltimore Sun writer, Kathleen Park, likened the episode to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. “Sentimentality doesn’t enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant and deceit is a lesson best learned young,” she wrote.

The problem with this argument about China’s totalitarian tendencies is that there is no evidence that Yang was callously replaced because she was too ugly or had bad teeth.

Bloggers in China and Hong Kong, notably Roland Song at EastSouthWestNorth, have combed through transcripts of all the comments by the important players in the opening ceremony and found that none of them have publicly said anything of the sort.

The closest was Chen Qigan, the general music designer of the opening ceremony, who told China Central TV that organisers had tried a number of singers and rehearsed with Yang, but made a last-minute change.

Chen’s comments strongly imply an unnamed leader considered that Yang’s replacement, nine year-old Lin Miaoke, had a “flawless” image. But the bit about Yang’s alleged ugliness, chubby face or uneven teeth was a Western media description repeated a thousand times across the world – as if it was the verified judgment of the Chinese Government.

Hundreds of foreign journalists, most of whom cannot speak Chinese and had been in China for only a week or so, replicated each other’s stories without bothering or having the time or ability to check the evidence themselves.

The fact that there were lip-synching was not a hidden fact. Both girls names were on the Olympic program, and both families knew. In fact, both girls were apparently at the stadium from pictures taken. Then the reasons for this were nonchalantly given in an interview with the music director in which nothing was said about actual physical features. To me it suggests that 9-year-old Lin Mao Ke was simply the best performer…Yang Peiyi would have been cute, but it’s most likely that at age 7 she would not have handled the spotlight of billions of viewers as well as the well-seasoned Lin Maoke, who had already appeared in ads etc.

From ESWN:

In reviewing the primary evidence, I found that none of the principals (general director Zhang Yimou, music director Chen Qigang, the Lin and Yang families, the unnamed Politburo member now pinned on future topdog Ji Jinping, Sarah Brightman, and so on) said anything of the sort. Therefore, my interest in this case is how a convenient heart-tugging story detail gets fabricated and is made into an inflated urban legend without any accountability to anyone anywhere. That is the real story that I want to present here.

What can be done about that? NOTHING as far as I can see, because the western media apparently don’t care. Rather, they continue to propagate this meme. When challenged, they will refer to previous western reports which they regard as evidence unless proven otherwise. This is how a meme gets propagated.

Who started this meme? From ESWN/ Blog at Fools Mountain, and whose work can be found at the above think, using internet caches and dates, they found that the earliest reference was by The Times, and there were no mentions of crooked teeth or chubby cheeks at all from the Chinese side. From ESWN:

Conclusion: the meme of “crooked teeth” and “chubby cheek” was started by Jane Macartney and Ashling O’Connor of The Times (The UK newspaper).


"banned" from singing?

This newspaper as I have mentioned, has been flawed to the bone when it comes to reporting on China. This revelation came soley from compiling reports for the Gong Li Epic Post, for which I began pulling articles I had read before that were vague and almost erroneous with wording, and realized most of them were from the Times. In particular, Jane Mccartney was the one who wrote the article about “Most” Chinese branding Gong Li a traitor without a shread of evidence to back this superlative word…citing no polls of any kind. Furthermore, they were the ones who cropped out images of Tibetans beating up Chinese police for their reports on the Tibet riots, and they were the ones to tell the Londoners, hey, Chinese netizens hated what we pulled together for the Olympics Closing Ceremony.

I would like to personally confess here and now, my utter loathing of this reporter, and the newspaper she works with. One mistake may be justified, but all of these added together make for a terrible record. I want to write this woman a strongly worded letter but I would probably find some attractive guys to worry about and not bother.

Liu Huan: Why is he up there if no one wanted fat and crooked-teeth?

Liu Huan: Why is he up there if no one wanted fat and crooked-teeth? If China was so hell-bent on appearances, they would have at least made him wear something more formal. Instead he just wore what he always wore...casual black shirt and pants.

What really galled me about that article,besides the fact that they blatantly tried to mislead people with their wording, was that they conveniently ignored the fact that out of all the single famous singers in China they picked Liu Huan to sing at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Liu Huan, who is much chubbier cheeked and with more crooked teeth than Yang Peiyi ever could be. And they didn’t even make him change out of his usual attire, which is just a black shirt and pants. So for them to “conjecture” that they dropped the first girl because they wanted to keep up appearances and that she was “ugly” is bull.


L-R Li Yundi and Lang Lang

Guess what…they chose the fatter pianist!

Furthermore, if they didn’t want chubby, they could have used Li Yundi instead of Lang Lang the pianist in the opening ceremony. They are both equally the two top pianists in the world, and in the classical circle, Li Yundi is more respected. As for looks Lang Lang is undisputedly fatter than Li Yundi and not only that but Li Yundi is often hailed for his resemblence to Takuya Kimura and was called the “classical version of Kimura” by the likes of Kelly Chen and was even featured in a nike commercial that ran throughout the Sydney Olympics. I was quite disappointed to not see that commercial anymore and I’m pretty sure if the Olympic organizing committe in China wanted to project hotness with global appeal, they’d have chosen Li Yundi. Why didn’t they? Probably because Lang Lang is more fun when he plays…better expression I’d call it. In fact what they probably should have done, is put these two rival pianists up for the most epic piano battle of the century… Li Yundi could play Sunflowers and Lang Lang could play Yellow River. Or if I let my imagination run away with me, Jay Chou could play with Yundi, and Wang Leehom with Lang Lang. Now that’d be an Olympics to remember…even if only because all the classical musicians would die of heart-attacks at the pop crossover. Oh well, maybe for the next time the Olympics is in China.

So yes, in summary I was quite appalled at how this story spread like wildfire without regard to actual fact checking or to the feelings of either girl, all in order to write a sensationalist piece for the worldwide interest in the fact that China was hosting the Olympics. I do think it was a bit hypocritical for a society in which I could not imagine someone like Han Hong (who sang at the Paralympics opening btw) getting famous at all, to point fingers.

Now that I have that off of my chest, let’s talk about the restriction which I think is quite an awesome idea.

Let’s look at famous cases of lipsynching in China, provided via ESWN.

Gigi Leung was caught in the Beijing TV Spring Festival gala

Song Zuying was miming at the 2007 CCTV Spring Festival Evening Gala

Wu Jing cried when doubts were raised over possible miming

Zhang Ziyi mimed during the 2008 CCTV Spring Festival Evening Gala

Qu Ying bent over to receive flowers from enthusiastic fans while the song went on without her moving her lips

Perhaps most of these people can’t sing live, but Song Zuying can. You don’t give a concert in Vienna lip-synching (yes, I just freaking love that song…link to it whenever possible). And so why does this occur for even those who do sing well? The basic traditions of Chinese television, which simply has the mind-set where lip-synching is simply easier for them, easier for them to ensure great performances and less to worry about, regardless if the performers actually can sing live well or not.

Singers reacted to the legislation:

Gao Linsheng: “90% of singing on a certain television show is mimed. 99% of lip-synching occurs at the request of the program producers.”

Cui Jian: “Our audio environment has reached an intolerable stage — 90% of all television programs are mimed; 50% of live performances are mimed! The rights of the masses are seriously abridged! This is a total fraud.”

Zheng Jun: “The lip-synching and fake award ceremonies are appalling. Only 20% of all singers insist on singing for real!”

Han Hong: “I raise both hands to support the ban! Singers who participate in commercial performances should observe professional ethics. When the audience members buy tickets, they want to hear the real voices of the singers. If they get lip-synching instead, they would be better off buying a CD and listening it at home.”

Yes, so Cui Jian is again sticking up for the integrity of Chinese music, as are all the established artists in the Chinese music business, and Han Hong has reaffirmed my love for her. When you have a voice like that though, it is quite easy to wax poetic about performance ethics.

First my opinion that it is due to older folk in the business stems from the fact that old people in the entertainment world are powerful. People like Liu Zhongde made comments, and these comments invariably led to placed restrictions on singing competitions like Supergirls (the effect of these will be seen in the next season of Superboys/Kuai Nan) such as less airtime. I think they want to weed out idols and remain quality. Unfortunately for them I think all the Super Girls pwn at live singing. Actually all the recent idols singers pwn at live singing. So who would this effectively burden? Not the idol singers. Not people like Jane Zhang or Jason Zhang Jie who basically all pwn at lives. Even kids like BoBo can sing live. Probably not the old, classically trained singers like Song Zuying, even though some have probably faded in their skill as they got older.

I think primarily the population hit hardest by this new legislation would in fact be the actors turned singers. I didn’t really mind this habit a few years back when it was people like Chen Kun or Lu Yi (who both had great voices) turning into singers. But I look left and right now and people like Eva Huang Shengyi and Chen Hao can win singing awards, and I think something needs to be done, so if this can stop the onslaught of of everyone who ever made a name for themselves in acting to turn into singers, then I would gladly embrace it.

…and this, is where I leave you and go prepare the post that all of this was supposed to preface before it turned into its own monolith of a post.

20 thoughts on “Epic Post 2: No More Lip-Synching

  1. Cfensi: I know this is an old post but I have been discussing the Olympics with some other Chinese people lately and a lot of them also did not bother to probe deeply into Western media reports. So they expressed disappointment with China.

    I also hang out at Asianfanatics and I must say that I find it very sad too to see the numbers of Chinese who wish they were Koreans or Japanese. I understand because I used to be one of them too.

    Recently, I have been trying to find out more about China and Chinese culture though.

  2. it was in national interest…Lin Miaoke was a better performer and Yang Peiyi had a better voice… is there anything wrong with that as long both were credited for their performances and gave consent?

  3. Thanks…I was wondering why all of a sudden my viewcount for this jumped to about 200 today. Nice to know, because I put massive effort into writing this when I had deadlines to fill, and I’m glad people are reading it.

    I’m not sure what you mean about the American Yahoo editor but the facts as I understand them are this:

    1) Lin Miaoke performed a song Yang Peiyi sang. This was in the program booklet printed for everyone.
    2) Music director casually mentioned this fact in an interview.
    3) Western Media the Times reports on this, using their own words, “Chubby-cheeked and crooked-tooth” to describe girl.
    4) Other western media propagates these words to describe the girl…as if this is what a Chinese official had sad.
    5) Everybody in the Western world thinks the music director called this girl ugly because of this shoddy reporting, that was typical of western media during the buildup to the Olympics.

    And I still do not understand why they would choose Liu Huan or Lang Lang if they wanted good-looking people.

    There are Chinese people who are less fat and better looking, and just as famous and talented as the both of them.

  4. The music director claimed the deception was “in the national interest,” because they wanted to “put forth the perfect voice and the perfect look.”

    … And I assume that you think the music director happens to be an American Yahoo editor who just made that up because “Westerns do not understand the Chinese and got their sources from Wikipedia”? Don’t make me laugh. The music director himself admitted that it was best to use the “perfect look” and match her with the “perfect voice”.

    This may be an old post, but I was referred by Google image, and saw this. Some of the comments are so interesting, I just HAD to comment.

  5. I was so annoyed with the way the Western media’s coverage, it’s very disturbing that people think this way and think that I should think this way! People say that the Chinese media is censored, but the Western media is absurd! The Western media tries to always show the Chinese as isolationist and flawed. They only care about politics, not culture, and the coverage of the Olympics had barely any cultural content at all, and the “China expert” on NBC drove me insane because he just seemed so idiotic! He tried to say “guqin” at one point, that was the only time he said anything about what was actually going on, and his pronunciation…I don’t know where he got that from! It was not even close! I hate to think that the Chinese would think I’m that stupid because I have this kind of background.

    Why does the media find such flaws with the Chinese media when it’s own “experts” make things up, get their “culture” from Wikipedia, and their “reporters” are just as bad/worse than the Asian tabloids and can only point out flaws? The NBC commentators on the Opening Ceremonies didn’t note the child with Yao Ming, the idea of having heroes is something they think only US could have.

    I agree about Lang Lang. If someone with physical flaws has talents, that person *can* make it in the entertainment industry. I mean, Jay Chou wasn’t considered particularly good-looking, he used to have gappy teeth, and he’s still popular in China, and Lang Lang is chubby. Lots of artists don’t have perfect looks but still have plenty of fans.

    I don’t think the Western media knows anything about Chinese culture for lack of curiosity, as they didn’t even know who LeeHom Wang was in the Closing Ceremonies, and they only want to point out the flaws. Anytime a Chinese product gets contaminated, it gets completely blown up. How many Chinese know about the American peanut butter scare or live mice chewing their way out of cat food from the United States? I don’t think they care. However, what American doesn’t know about lead in toys from China or poisoned cat food or Sanlu milk?

    Sorry for the rambling post. :P I’m just so annoyed and frustrated by the media!

  6. Very interesting to read. I don’t know how to read Chinese, and when it comes to politic, I have absolutely no interest. But in the last half a year, when the Dali Lama thing started, I began to look into politic news. But because of my current location, I always stumbled across some very bias news. And those news got me thinking, is China really this bad?

    Few nights in a row, I’ve talked with my dad over dinner about the problems with west reporting news about China and CCTV reporting China. I don’t trust any of the two because clearly, they are both biased. However, when I began to dig more news about the riot in March of the Tibet “peaceful protest”. I notice many images were distorted by the western medias, and that was when I began my process of ‘don’t believe in the western medias’ movement.

    Even with the Olympic in China, the western medias distorted it as well. They cherry-picked what they want to write on and used phrases and words that have negative feeling to it in their reports. Most people here would just believe what they heard or read from a western news outlet. I think the reason is obvious: they’re from western news outlet, and every thing from them has to be true. This is so simply because they are ‘free press.’ I feel frustrated whenever I read some ignorant posts in AsianFanatics. Most people there just simply believe most if not all news that was posted there, and they are ignorant to check the fact. The two little girls from the Olympic is an example for this media onslaught that many bought into.

    It is sad how these ‘professional reporters/journalists’ use such underhand method to distort one country’s image to satisfy their fear or whatnot.

  7. Yeah, seriously Liu Huan. They didn’t even make him change clothes or anything. That’s what he always wears. I guess it doesn’t matter to him whether on stage or on top of a globe w/ Sarah Brightman. He looked really uncomfortable too…like, oh crap, this was not the time to go casual.

    At least when Han Hong sang for the Paralympics she dressed up…not in a dress persay, in a suit, but at least she dressed up. BoBo dressed up too, their outfits were cute. :D

    Western media has always been really bad with Chinese news, in the last five years that I’ve followed it. They’ve always had biases but during the Olympics, and now, they’ve almost ignored facts and delibrately saidquestionable, incorrect things like saying Nepalese soldiers were Chinese. The quality control is getting worse and worse.

    China’s no angel when it comes to its media, but even if they did have free press, I doubt the western world would come to have a rosy view of China. China’s always going to be this mysterious giant that they won’t understand very well, unless Chinese entertainment becomes like US entertainment and crosses over to every part of the world. That being said, I do think free speech is improving in China, but it’s a bit slower than the economic reforms so people are still upset that there is that discrepancy. I’m just pissed at SARFT. Each time I think China’s improved their censorship, SARFT does something stupid.

    Wow, really? Lin Maoke is in that? I’m glad her career hasn’t been stopped by this mess. I’ve never seen Lin Maoke act, just in commercials so I’d be interested to see that.

    As for thinking about Opening Ceremony ideas I just always wanted to post those two vids of Jay and Wang Leehom with the two piano masters because I think it’s funny how they keep working with rivals of each other, such as Li Yundi and Lang Lang, and Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee, etc.

    I actually thought Jay Chou’s Herbalist manual was in fact derived from Song Zuying’s Spice girls. Isn’t it? I mean, Jay Chou has always said he wanted to collab with Zuying:

    “Presenter: At 30, does Jay Chou not have a target in life?

    Jay: No, targets in life are one step at a time, working with Song Zu Ying, the Chinese style will definitely be good.

    Presenter: Who do you want to work with now?

    Jay: No one.”

    – From Jaychustudio.com

    I remember there being fuss about a collaboration, but my Chinese wasn’t as good at the time, so I thought they did collab in fact for herbalists manual and simply couldn’t actually do anything like a duet (due to cross-straight relations…especially now that Song Zuying is a general in the PLA, heh)

  8. you know another idea for the opening ceremony?
    Song Zuying and Jay Chou singing together.
    I remember last year, all the news was about them collaborating for the Spring Gala because one of Jay Chou’s songs (Ben cao gang mei) has a chorus very similar to Spice Girls. people even made combined versions of both songs.

  9. wow…I never thought about Liu Huan, neither.

    I’ve been quite disappointed in the Western media, too…
    on the hand, China seriously needs to get freedom of the press sometimes. It’s the reason why people would rather believe the official press of the Dalai Lama (totally unbaised, right?) over Chinese news, even if it’s true.

    …random: I was pretty annoyed that Jane Zhang didn’t perform…I think she deserved it over Han Xue, who’s cctv’s little pet.

    and also being completely not on topic, did you know that Lin Miaoke’s also in Wei Chen’s movie Seventeen?

  10. @Fraye It’s not just your brother. There are plenty of Chinese who think this way. The media is a powerful thing, and even more powerful when nobody questions it like in this case. Ronald Soong at EWSN has completely disproved many articles about this matter but nobody cares, no newspapers except the Sydney Morning Herald said anything to the contrary to the false statements and consequently everybody still thinks the non lip-synching girl was called ugly.

    I really get sad when people are ashamed to be whatever race/ethnicity they are. Most Asians seem to base it on the level of entertainment from their country, which is just plain sad.

    I’m also really frustrated with Chinese people not being able to see anything unless it’s right in front of their eyes. China has been improving rapidly in all areas for a while now, including pop idols. So even if China is not very good at something now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be later on. All developed Asian countries have gone through this period of time. The Korean and Taiwanese transitions to modernity were under authoritarian rule as well. Korea’s Olympics in Seoul were held whilst the country was under a military dictatorship. So I don’t see why China can’t do the same. It’ll happen…people need to be patient and look at past, present and future not just the present. China is not some stagnant mess that nobody is fixing. It’s dynamic and I love the direction it’s heading.

    @Fei How can people be so stupid as to think “The economy is horribleeee, why do they (Chinese government) not care about it and focus on this insteaddd??”.

    That’s ridiculous.

    1) China probably has done more to stimulate her economy than most countries, especially the US. Did nobody read about the huge 500 billion stimulus package China implemented to stimulate the economy or were they too busy looking at news of hwat their idols said, ate, or did recently?

    2) China’s government can never win. When it doesn’t due something regulating smaller, social aspects of society, they get blamed. When it does, people think they aren’t focusing on more important issues.

    Anyway, thank you both for your feedback because I wasn’t sure if people would really care, and it’s made the time I spent on this more worthwhile. I started to think I was nuts for writing such a long post about something a while ago, but if western journalists keep bringing it up at leisure, then I will too.

  11. Thank you! I agree with you 100%, I am tired of all these Western media reports nitpicking at China’s flaws. I saw your post at AsianFanatics about the lip-synching and I was shocked how even at that forum, so many people don’t know the truth. You raised a very good point, one I never thought of when you mentioned the Olympics committee picking Liu Huan to sing. They certainly didn’t pick him for his looks.

    The lip synching ban is good, in my opinion. People will have less of a false impression on the artists and it might motivate the singers to practice singing more which can only be good. I was annoyed at how some people were saying ‘The economy is horribleeee, why do they (Chinese government) not care about it and focus on this insteaddd??”. If one chooses to think logically, then perhaps there might be more than two departments in the goverment? One group is handling the economy, and the other groups handle other matters in China, perhaps…?

    Ahh, this issue always makes me sarcastic.

    Because of Western media misreporting facts, I’ve lost faith in them and always question if an article is true or not now even if it is completely unrelated to China. Why do we (in general) believe everything we read? Is it because we think we are democratic and thus, everything SHOULD be fair and unbias? Whereas in China, people do read the news and take it with a grain of salt, since they know it might not be completely true.

  12. I am tired of the Western media vilifying China. I recently got into a big argument with my youngest brother about the Olympics because he believes western media 100%. I sometimes think he doesn’t want to be Chinese at all.

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