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Restrained Reaction in China to Zhao Oscar Wins

In this video image provided by ABC, Chloe Zhao accepts the award for best director for "Nomadland" at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (ABC via AP)
In this video image provided by ABC, Chloe Zhao accepts the award for best director for "Nomadland" at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (ABC via AP)
Restrained Reaction in China to Zhao Oscar Wins
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Chloé Zhao’s Academy Award wins for best director and best picture are being met with restrained reaction in China, her country of birth.

Zhao’s Nomadland is the second film directed by a woman to win an Academy Award, or Oscar, for best picture. She is the first woman of color and second woman ever to win the Oscar for best director.

Yet, in China, her history-making success has not been broadcast or celebrated. State media in China remained silent as of Monday afternoon, with no statement of her win by either CCTV or the Xinhua news agency.

A post announcing Zhao’s directing win by film magazine Watch Movies appeared on the Chinese media service Weibo. But it was censored a few hours after it appeared Monday morning. The hashtag “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was also censored on the service. Users who searched under the hashtag received an error message saying, “page is not found.”

Some Weibo users began using “zt” to post about Zhao. Those are the first letters of her full name in Chinese, Zhou Ting. Putting in Zhao’s name in Chinese brought up only unrelated posts from the beginning of April. A search for “Oscars” showed only official posts from the South Korean and U.S. embassies.

A news story on WeChat, the largest messaging service in China, was also removed.

But news of Zhao’s wins did spread onto the Chinese internet, with individual web users praising the filmmaker. Many took note of her acceptance speech, which included a line from a poem written in the 13th century Zhao had memorized as a child. The line in English means, “People are good at birth.”

South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, who played the grandmother in the film Minari, could be found in searches on the Chinese internet. Youn won the best supporting actress award, becoming the first Korean performer to win an Oscar.

In South Korea, “Actor Youn Yuh-jung” was at the top of Twitter’s trending list. Other South Korean performers quickly offered their congratulations. Actor Lee Byung-hun posted a photo of Youn holding an Oscar trophy. “Impossible is just an opinion,” he wrote on the post. Actors Bae Doona and Kim Hye-soo also congratulated Youn on social media.

Zhao faced criticism in China in March after winning a Golden Globe award for best director. Internet users questioned whether she could be called Chinese. Some said she had insulted her birth country in comments on the political system. China’s media organizations are closely controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Online criticism can often result in calls for boycotts of famous people or big companies.

Before the criticism in March, local media reported Nomadland was set for release in China on April 23. But the film did not open last week and there was no official word on a release date. Employees at two movie theaters in Beijing said they did not know of any future showings of the film.

Frances McDormand won the best actress Oscar for her performance in Nomadland.

Anthony Hopkins won best actor for his performance in The Father.

And Daniel Kaluuya won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Huizhong Wu reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


Words in This Story

censor – v. to examine books, movies and media and remove things that are not approved by a government or society

trend – v. to be one of the words, subjects or names quickly gaining popularity on social media at a particular time