The novel coronavirus is affecting every Chinese person: Many have been isolated at home, others are on the front line fighting, and there are those struggling themselves with overcoming the virus. In everyone’s heart, there is the belief that we can overcome the plight through helping others.
Like the local Chinese, the situation has been watched closely by international students who have studied, worked, and lived in China. Despite not being Chinese nationals, they share the same wishes of health and recovery for the country.
Many international students even decided to try their best to make real actions, hoping to alleviate the situation a little bit.
Raz Gal Or (高佑思) is an Israeli PKU alumnus and co-founder of Y-Platform, a production company known for their social media accounts under the name Ychina. Raz became well-known on Chinese social media because he did two things for the Chinese people during this epidemic. His actions have been reported by many famous media outlets, including China Daily and CGTN. Here is a brief summary.
Part 1: Making a Difference in China
- Raising 100,000 masks from Israel for Hubei in one day
Every Chinese New Year, Raz goes back to his hometown to spend time with his family. This year, his friend Brian (夏波波), an Argentinian international student, went back with him. The two of them followed the news closely as the number of infected people was rising day by day. It made them feel anxious and uneasy.
They noticed Chinese doctors risking their lives every day to save the growing number of patients. Brian said it was now his turn to have China’s back!
They focused on two big questions:
“What can we do in the face of an increasingly severe epidemic situation?”
“How can I really help China’s 1.4 billion people in a country with only 8 million people?”
Days after, some hospitals in Hubei released their medical stuff needs to the public. They were very worried about the new coronavirus being transmitted through droplets. One item, N95 masks or medical-surgical masks which can block droplets that carry the virus, were in great need. Because the whole country fell into a frenzy of buying masks, they were hard to find. Raz decided to be the man in Israel on a mission to find masks for China.
The first place they turned to was a local pharmacy in Israel. The masks in the pharmacy were cheap, but the stock was limited.
Raz believed that Chinese doctors and their patients had no time to wait, so they turned to the local hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital said they could not sell any masks.
After experiencing a few setbacks,they got a big chance. They reached out to the Israel-China Chamber of Commerce. The board of directors of the Israel-China Chamber of Commerce, includes representatives from one of the ten largest hospitals in the world and investors from all over the world. Raz and Brian were invited to propose a plan they called “We have a hope to help Chinese friends”, and the plan was quickly endorsed by all parties.
After this, they received 30,000 medical masks donated by all walks of life in Israel! The medical equipment supplier of Tel Aviv’s largest hospital obtained more medical supplies to donate, including 100,000 masks, 50,000 pairs of medical gloves, 2000 sets of surgical gowns, and so on. Finally, with the assistance of his friends staying in China, they were able to overcome difficulties related to shipping and distributing medical supplies to the center of the epidemic, Hubei, China. The final destination was a city called Huanggang. The donations would have a great impact because Huanggang was slightly neglected by the public donations and more ill-equipped than Wuhan.
But Raz was still determined to do even more. There was one another way he thought he could help China and the whole international community.
2. Calling on others to reject racism, and standing up for overseas Chinese
Raz and Brian set out to investigate what overseas Chinese were experiencing during the epidemic. They had the entire team from Ychina, a media group set up by Raz and his friends, spend two weeks collecting relevant news and interviewing people. They then produced a video to take real action against discrimination and prejudice in society and the media.
Ychina hopes this video can help the situation of overseas Chinese. They believe that biased and malicious reports have been the biggest accomplices of discrimination. Some western media outlets have used racist labels and low-level satire to spread gross stereotypes that result in the prejudices, like “Chinese all carry infectious viruses”, which brings serious discrimination and harassment. Furthermore, it is not only violent insults that bring pain, but also silent isolation.
They interviewed nearly 30 Chinese people from all over the world to expose and spread awareness of the discrimination Chinese people were facing overseas. In the video, Student A (St. Petersburg, Russia) told Raz, “A girl saw me and shouted ‘This girl has a virus’ “. Student B (Southampton, UK) says, “When shopping with friends, a group of people shouted at us ‘Chinese virus, get out of the UK’ “. Student C (Berlin, Germany) recounted, “They did not want to make eye contact with me…a Chinese student was hit by two women in Berlin.” Many other students chose to have text interviews for self-protection due to the fear of violence and harassment.
In the video, Ychina shows some comparison to how black people were treated in the United States in the 1950s before the progress made in the Civil Rights Movement. Terrible prejudice and stereotypes also lead to the persecution of Jews in Germany in the 1940s. “But this is 2020!” Raz exclaims. The lessons that history has taught have not been fully learned. People still experience unjust suffering as a result of harmful stereotypes. Our greatest danger is not viruses, but racism and ignorance.
Since the start of the epidemic, there is evidence of discrimination or racist stereotypes against Chinese people in over 25 countries around the world. News organizations who have contributed to this situation have now begun to receive backlash, criticism, and calls to apologize. Thankfully, voices rejecting racism and harmful stereotypes are getting louder. For example, on February 6th, in the streets of Madrid, Spain, many people gathered to proclaim: “China ≠ virus, xenophobia = virus”. On February 8, a young Japanese girl bowing while fundraising for Wuhan warmed the hearts of a lot of people. On February 11, in front of the Tel Aviv City Hall, which was illuminated with the colors of the Chinese flag, people gathered and shouted: China, we love you! Go China! We stand behind you.
Part 2: What is Ychina?
歪果仁研究协会（歪研会，Ychina）was launched in 2016. The media brand is behind many short video series. They have an integrated creative team of both Chinese and Westerners who are noticeably young and hip. “歪果仁研究协会” means Foreigner Research Association. “歪果仁” is a cute way to express foreigner, and it shows their identity as well as their embrace of Chinese culture. Just as its name implies, it’s an association of foreigners who have or currently are studying in China. According to the explanation of the home page of Ychina on YoutTube, Y means Why, because part of their mission is to encourage more young people to study in China. It also has a massive Chinese audience who enjoys discovering how foreigners live in China and adjust to Chinese culture.
- A PKU international students association?
At first glance, Ychina is like a PKU international student association: the main members of Ychina are Raz Gal-Or, the president; Lila Kidson (Chinese name: Xinyue), an American who studies in PKU, the vice president; and CC, a Chinese handling the video processing and editing. However, it is it’s own company that these young people are working to grow.
- Video blogging to self-media platform
With the increasing of the followers, Ychina started creating more original content, especially entertaining videos. They launched a series of short videos in January 2017. These videos often feature international students as street interviewers or other characters. One of the highlights of this group is every international member can speak Chinese fluently, some of them have even mastered it to the point of being able to debate fun topics wonderfully in Chinese. What’s more, during the street interviews usually held in areas around Beijing’s universities, you will find that the foreign pedestrians are good at Chinese too.
- MCN (Multi-Channel Network)
The personalities of the members quickly earned people’s affections. The members became foreigner online celebrities in China. Ychina became a MCN (Multi-Channel Network), a kind of agency like SM entertainment in Korea managing many artists. Ychina is the social media version managing their online celebrities. Now they profit from making videos and their advertisers. Now Ychina has 3.371 million followers on the biggest original video platform of China, Bilibli.com, and 169k on YouTube, achieving a great success on self-media market.
From online information, Ychina is already registered as a company. According to co-founder Fang Yedun (方晔顿). they aim to build an interesting cross-cultural content producer team, and to “gather global elites, share global goods, dismiss cultural discrimination and spread the voice of China”.
Raz: the co-founder of Ychina.
The foundation of Ychina closely relates to Raz’s experience.
In January 2008, due to the work of his father, Raz moved with his family from Israel to Hong Kong and went to a Canadian international high school in Hong Kong for five years. In 2012, his family of six left Hong Kong to settle in Beijing. He had reached the age of needing to complete military service in Israel. Moving to Beijing meant he may give up military service. In Israel, not serving in military service often means becoming an “outsider”. He made a choice to attend university in Beijing, and set his sights on Peking University.
Later, in 2013 during a study tour project, Raz met Fang and became his business partner officially. In September, by chance, he received an invitation from the talk show ” A Bright World（Season 2）”. The talk show was meant to show an international perspective on issues that are of most concern to young Chinese today. Through this program, Raz began to attract attention. On December 14, he completed the first program that interviews foreigners on the street, which became Ychina’s trademark. In 2017, Raz led a creative team of more than 20 people to launch the project Ychina. On March 10, he participated in the program “Every Day Up”, one of the most famous variety shows in China, with his younger brother. On September 24, CCTV broadcast the last episode of the TV documentary “Brilliant China”, which told the story of Raz and his father. In the same year, with the dissemination of Ychina, he and his team welcomed new investment and Ychina set off higher.
Part 3: Ychina’s positive role
Fang and Raz, met on the campus of Peking University. The two relied on their passion and skills for content. They kept persisting and exploring.
2013 was the first year of mobile internet. Encouraged by mass innovation and entrepreneurship, many graduates devoted themselves to entrepreneurship. Fang said, “We both have seen the trend, and China and the world are communicating more and more. We hope to create a window to tell the Chinese story to the world with confidence. Being the pioneer, flagship and representative in the youth culture of China is our the most initial motivation (https://www.sohu.com/a/254972995_105496).
From watching the videos they have made, it’s obvious the quality has improved a lot. They do not just make street talk about some online “popular topics”, but also show their care about the true “offline life” of Chinese, even touching on things like Chinese factories or children in poor villages. It is not just entertainment for the sake of entertainment. It seems they start to take more responsibility and show more empathy towards society. As a viewer, I am thankful to witness Ychina’s good development. As China’s prominence grows, more and more overseas bloggers try to capture a share of the foreigner influencers market in China. Some clearly have no interest or knowledge and are merely trying to market themselves in contrived ways for personal gain.
An online self-media company should set a positive role and take responsibility for its followers and the incredible amount influence they have worked hard to gain. The medical donations for Hubei and the rejection of racism is good evidence that Ychina is bringing benefit to society. Also they have brought a positive impression of foreigners to Chinese society. Thank you, Ychina.
Written by Mei Siyu