Chinese New Year goes tech
Digital hong-bao (red envelopes) have been trending in China for a number of years now courtesy of messaging app Wechat who launched the feature in 2014. During the Chinese New Year in 2019, 823 million people sent red envelopes digitally. Technology is now racing on to engulf even the sacrosanct Chinese New Year meal. As part as China’s food takeaway explosion, Eleme, a popular food delivery app, is one of the many similar apps proposing special “New Year’s meals”. No energy to cook or clean, yearning to avoid the smells and smoke? No problem, food apps propose anything from Duck to Hotpot to Dumplings for family gatherings at different price points.
Need to get your parents off your back about marriage? Various websites and apps such as Hire Me Plz offer dates for hire at around $145 per day as pretend fiancés for Chinese New Year family gatherings. Meanwhile tech gifts like robotic toys and drones are at the top of the gift wish list for children.
So is technology disrupting the Chinese New year or rendering it more lonely ? The ubiquity of smartphones and video apps allows families who are far away from each other to chat online by video, supporting family ties. Bullet trains cut down travel time by 75% compared to regular trains speeding people home, and a new app, Gaotie Guanjia, automatically monitors and grabs tickets online in this overcrowded period of the year where it is difficult to secure rail tickets. Facial recognition software is being tested as part of flight onboarding, making that process quicker and more efficient.
As to the Spring festival Gala, the 5 hour yearly extravaganza hosted by CCTV, China’s Central Television, since 1956, in 2019 621.4 million people in China and another 24.8 million overseas watched the show on television, and a surging number of viewers, 527 million, watched it on new media platforms: apps, websites, video-streaming sites and social media.
While being facilitated and sometimes gamified by technology, we are happy to report that many Chinese New Year traditions are alive and well!