Commentary: China’s jobless divas hit the road


Social media has played a big role. Entertained by the “southern potatoes,” a nickname given to tourists wrapped in layers of winter clothes, locals offered visitors free rides across the city. The government installed small, warm houses as well as an artificial moon above a local Russian Orthodox Church, to provide better lighting, and cater to a generation obsessed with taking Instagram-worthy selfies. All these welcoming gestures were recorded and amplified on popular platforms. 

Shandong province’s Zibo, a small, declining industrial town in eastern China, offers another case study for places that went viral. Young Chinese flocked to the city of 4.7 million, where US$10 can buy roughly 35 meat skewers. They were pleasantly surprised by “how sincere and honest” local businesses were, as they didn’t raise prices even when tourism demand surged. 

Open-minded and budget-conscious youths are drawn to hidden gems. They prefer hanging out with the locals and learning ethnic minorities’ way of life to shopping in glitzy resorts such as on the island of Hainan. And when they have saved enough money for overseas trips, they are following in the footsteps of those Divas Hit The Road, who ventured to Saudi Arabia in the latest season. During the eight-day October holiday, Chinese descended on Dubai, en route to places like Egypt and Jordan.

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