A Weibo caption about panda diplomacy in S’pore went viral, but the event never happened
A case of recycling dated content into something new, sacrificing context and accuracy.
A microblogging platform Weibo caption posted by Chinese online video explainer site Liao Bu Qi Wo De Zhong Guo (My China is Amazing) publicizing a video about China’s panda diplomacy last week went viral in China.
The caption mentioned a trivia about Singapore, which was picked up by other media that contributed to the virality:
“In order to welcome Chinese pandas to Singapore, Singaporeans rushed to dye their dogs and make them look like huskies.“
“In order to welcome Chinese pandas to Singapore, Singaporeans rushed to dye their dogs black and white.“
In total, the news received over 10,000 combined likes and shares across different platforms.
For readers from Singapore, this news certainly sound bizarre as what was described did not match anything that happened in reality.
Upon closer scrutiny of the video, which is nearly four minutes long, we found a narrative that was quite lacking in context. The video had a narrator telling a story of how China pandas were highly sought after all over the world. Singapore was mentioned as one of the privileged recipients, among more than 10 other countries.
However it only took 5 seconds (at the 2:36 mark) to report on this interesting “fact”:
Translation: “In order to welcome Chinese pandas, Singaporean fans rushed to dye their dogs and make them look like pandas.“
Two pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, were loaned to Singapore in 2012 for a period of 10 years.
It is not uncommon for Chinese news platforms to recycle dated content into something new, sacrificing context and accuracy in the process.
We did some online research and found that the exaggerated narrative may have originated from two sources:
1. A September 2012 event that had Singaporeans welcoming pandas from China at the Singapore zoo; and
2. A February 2016 event that reported on Chow Chow dogs being spotted on Orchard Road as they were dyed to look like pandas. These dogs were apparently dyed by an owner who was making a business out of offering photoshoots with interested clients.
On the surface, this is most likely a case of sloppy scripting. Though it wasn’t the main point of the video, it has the effect of spreading misinformation.
Well then, it’s pretty much fake news, but if you would like to see the video for yourself, here is it:
Top image screenshot via Liao Bu Qi Wo De Zhong Guo @ Weibo