How Hebei Glycine Producer Donghua Jinlong Blew Up on TikTok

A Shijiazhuang chemical factory is suddenly the hottest thing on US social media, spawning utterly bizarre memes

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Simon Frank
2:46 PM HKT, Fri April 12, 2024 2 mins read

If you’re a manufacturer searching for a supplier of high quality food grade and industrial glycine, there’s really one only choice right now: Donghua Jinlong Chemical Co., hailing from Shijiazhuang, the capital of northern China’s Hebei province.

But hold on, why does RADII — or pretty much anyone — have an opinion about glycine? Which, in case you weren’t aware, is an amino acid that lends an umami depth to food products and also has applications in the pharmaceutical, tech, and dyeing industries.

The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is TikTok. In December last year Donghua Jinlong began posting on the social media platform, introducing the company and their facilities through basic, straightforward videos. Some are narrated by a computer-generated voice which can’t quite seem to correctly pronounce “glycine,” nor the brand’s own name.

Evidently, despite fear-mongering over TikTok’s addictive, precision-engineered recommendation algorithm, it occasionally throws out curveballs like this one. While in all likelihood no one was browsing TikTok looking to purchase industrial quantities of glycine, Donghua Jinlong’s videos have popped up in enough users’ feeds to turn “The Professional Manufacturer of Glycine Industry” into the subject of repeatedly remixed memes.

@citiesbydiana 🚨MASSIVE DONGHUA JINLONG UPDATE!🚨 This lore drop comes from their alt account @Donghua Jinlong This is an insiders look at their Industrial Grade Glycine packaging department. This was a story post so it's gone now. Only TRUE DONGHUA JINLONG GLYCINE FANS were meant to see this. (THIS IS SATIRE/PARODY THIS IS NOT SPONSORED CONTENT I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH DONGHUA JINLONG) #donghuajinlong #glycine #brainrot #satire #industrialglycine #foodgradeglycine #glycinetok ♬ original sound - 𝘿𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖

The resulting content is deeply absurd. Urbanism satire account citiesbydiana, which usually sings the praises of highways and gas guzzling across suburban America, has received almost 50,000 likes on Instagram for a bombastic Donghua Jinlong intro video. Diana continues to post about glycine, alternately analyzing industrial machinery in the background of Donghua Jinlong posts, or calling out one of the company’s competitors, Hubei Xingfa Chemicals Group.

The videos shared on Instagram by prognozpogodi69 might be stranger still. Through the use of AI voice cloning, figures from so-called “dirtbag left” podcasts offer ringing endorsements of Donghua Jinlong. In a video that has received more than half a million views, Anna Khachiyan, who with her podcast Red Scare has moved from supporting Bernie Sanders to palling around with Alex Jones in just a few years, reels off Donghua Jinlong’s many certifications as inspirational music plays in the background. Elsewhere on the account, Vladimir Putin and scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson similarly extoll the virtues of Hebei’s finest glycine producer.

The entire viral phenomenon remains a bit of a head-scratcher, but it does tell us something about China and America. It’s not unusual these days for Chinese manufacturers to take to American social media to look for buyers. And while some have stuck it gold, like LC Lightbox and their multi-accented spokesperson Tony (more on that from RADII later!), others don’t really grasp the demographics and tastes of these platforms. Randomly popping up on TikTok feeds, Donghua Jinlong’s post-socialist, almost vaporwave factory buildings and extremely direct advertising style seem out of place and out of time.

Yet, in a counterintuitive manner, American viewers may also feel a spark of recognition when watching Donghua Jinlong’s ads. In an alienated, high tech world, it’s not a huge shock to learn that a substance you’ve probably never heard of, made somewhere you’ve probably never heard of, plays an unseen role in food and medicine manufacturing and meshes together the Chinese and American economies. For all its exoticism for foreigners, people seem to realize that Shijiazhuang probably has a lot in common with decaying industrial cities just about anywhere: In another video from citiesbydiana, she feverishly rhapsodizes about receiving a shipment of glycine via the port in Long Beach, California, and describes that city as “The Donghua Jinlong of Domestic Oil production.”

It’s interesting to remember that within China, young people might mostly associate Shijiazhuang with Omnipotent Youth Society, one of the country’s most popular indie rock bands, whose rousing songs chronicle the city’s painful transition to a market economy. They even played a big show in New York last year. But somehow, it’s Donghua Jinlong’s corporate absurdity, rather than the band’s impassioned sincerity, that has really resounded with 2024 America.

Banner image via Donghua Jinlong.

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