What is ‘Wow China,’ the radio show sparking outrage on social media?

Sofia Tomacruz
What is ‘Wow China,’ the radio show sparking outrage on social media?
The 2-year-old program sparks fresh backlash during the coronavirus pandemic and after the government issues a cease and desist order vs ABS-CBN

MANILA, Philippines – The stark red letters pop up against a blue-and-white background, spelling the words “Wow China,” as a voice reads out the phrase to the tune of a Chinese pipa playing.

These are the opening credits of a radio show broadcast on the government-run Radyo Pilipinas in collaboration with China Radio International.

The program, which has been running since 2018, sparked fresh public backlash on Monday, May 11, after internet users called out the show for airing what seemed like “pro-China propaganda” in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Many internet users also slammed its timing, pointing out the irony of the program gaining traction after the government ordered a cease and desist order on ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest media network.

As of Monday afternoon, Wow China appeared on the Philippines’ top trends on Twitter, landing at 7th place with 6,442 tweets.  

You probably saw tweets and posts about the program on your timelines, but while this may be the first time you’ve seen it, the show has been around for two years now. Here’s what you need to know about the program.

What’s it about? Wow China is highlighted as a light “cultural program” that focuses on China and Philippines’ tradition, culture, and history, as well as the differences and similarities between the two countries. 

Magaan na usapan, siksik sa impormasyon, kilalanin natin ang mga kapatıd nating Chinese para sa mas magandana pakikitungo at pagkikiibigan. Wow China!,” its opening spiel goes. 

(Light conversation packed with information, let’s get to know our Chinese brothers and sisters for better relations and friendship. Wow China!)

The program has videos on social media that go as far back as September 2019, while one if its anchors, Ernest Wang, posted the show celebrating its one year anniversary on April 2019. 

Past shows have touched on traditions like All Souls Day and All Saints Day in the Philippines, while part of the show also offered Mandarin lessons in partnership with the University of the Philippines’ the Confucius Institute. 

The program is run by the Philippine Broadcasting Service under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the state-owned China Radio International (CRI). 

As in the Philippines, radio programs from CRI can also be heard on stations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Kenya, and Sri Lanka, among other countries. 

CRI also maintains websites and broadcasts shows in several languages, including Filipino. 

Fruit of government deals: The show is a continuation of the partnership, which the PCOO and CRI entered through a memorandum of agreement signed in February 2017

At the time, CRI also signed separate memoranda of understanding with 3 state-owned media groups: PTV, Radyo ng Bayan, and the Philippine News Agency.

The agreement involved the conduct of training sessions and sharing of content, as well as assisting one another in information gathering and setting up interviews for urgent events in the Philippines and China.  

Under the 2017 MOA, PCOO also agreed to assist CRI in its bid to put up its first Philippine bureau.

While Wow China started playing in 2018, CRI Online Filipino said CRI has been airing its half-hour “Serbisyo Filipino” Filipino-language program since October 30, 1965. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.