2012 is a dream year for anyone who covers China news – the predictable, the unthinkable, the fun, the sad, the heart warning and the heart breaking, China gives it all. Offbeat China, after resuming publishing in February, also has a good year of stories that help both its authors and readers make a little bit better sense of China and its people.
In February, Wang Lijun, former police chief in Chongqing and closest ally-used-to-be of now sacked politician Bo Xilai, fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu and was put into “vacation-style therapy.” The historical flee started a year-long evolving political drama in China. At the same time, “occupy” movements were picked up by Chinese netizens. Online, Chinese netizens “occupied” Obama’s Google+ account, calling for help to bring “change” to China. Offline, Chinese girls, tired of long lines outside toilets, “occupied” men’s room for gender equality to loo.
In March, China People’s National Congress kicked off a sexy month with a runway show of luxury brands by congress delegates. The 9th Shanghai International Adult Product Expo and a knockoff Victoria’s Secret show at Chengdu University of Technology followed. In the online world, “pussy high miniskirt” worn by the mistress of a government official became an internet meme.
On the not so sexy side, a rumor of a coup in Beijing started to circulate online. Chinese netizens, to work around censors, used ciphers like Teletubbies and Master Kong to talk about what may have happened in Beijing after a mysterious Ferrari crash (which was later reported to potentially change the course of history in China). As a result, the comment function in Sina Weibo and Tecent Weibo, two leading microblogging services in China, was banned for 72 hours; and Chinese netizens were asking, “Can I curse?”
The biggest bomb of year dropped in April. Bo Xilai, then rising political star and former head of Chongqing, was removed from both the Politburo and the Central Committee of China’s Communist Part. Bogu Kailai, wife of Bo, a man famous for “busting gang criminals,” was arrested for the death of British man Neil Heywood. Like always, all media and every single person in China “firmly support CCP Central Committee’s” decision to bring down Bo Xilai.
Since a live power+money+sex+spy+murder blockbuster was shown in real life, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television decided to censor out the painting scene in 3D Titanic that revealed Rose’s naked body. The reason? 3D boobs may be too much for Chinese viewers to handle – of course, it’s only a classic example of Chinese netizens’ black humor in the face of something impossible to make sense of. Off the screen, real boobs weren’t having an easier life – China’s millions of left-over women were desperately looking for their Mr. Right.
In May, China’s official media primarily focused on the country’s conflict with the Philippines over disputed Huanyan Island, aka, Scarborough Shoal, which was the first of a series of disputes in the South China Sea for the rest of the year. The unofficial chatter, on the other hand, was more on the miracle escape of Chen Guangcheng, China’s blind activist, to New York City.
While an activist escaped, the under-privileged in China kept on their struggles. The 10-yuan sex workers lived extreme difficult lives in the corners of China’s big cities; and the exam-cramming high school students were having IV drips in classroom to keep up energy level.
Comic books of the world’s new superhero Captain China were available for purchase at Amazon in June. Meanwhile, a real life hero rose in Southern China – 48-year-old bus driver Wu Bin managed to safely stop his bus and keep all passengers secure after being struck by a piece of flying metal smashed through the bus’ windshield.
But when heroes were born, babies were aborted – Deng’s family in Shaanxi province was forced to abort a 7-month-old baby. This case of late term abortion stirred up nation-wide discussions of the cruelty of the one-child policy in China.
In July, while China’s Olympic team was fighting for gold medals in London, the ordinary people back home were fighting for a better environment to live in. Firstly, a not-in-my-back-yard protest against a planned molybdenum copper plant in Shifang, Sichuan province, turned into a bloody crash between protesters and local police. Then, another well-organized NIMBY protest several thousand miles away in the coastal city of Qidong, Jiangsu province, against a sewage treatment plant also turned violent with local government building smashed and the mayor stripped by protesters.At the same time, a deadly flash flood caused by a record rain fall in Beijing killed 37 in one night.
In August, the Macroeconomics Institute of China’s National Development and Reform Commission proved that China was 62% complete on reroute to its great renewal as a world superpower. To celebrate, three township-level officials in Lujiang had an orgy party; and some 120 group sex photos plus a live video clip of these swingers were exposed online.
But it wasn’t all fun, domestically, “Brother Watch” Yang Dacai, local official in Shaanxi province who smiled at a car crash scene, was brought down by netizens after being found to own numerous luxury watches. Internationally, China’s dispute with Japan over Diaoyu Islands started to intensify; and the dual face of China’s nationalism started to show. While nationalism rose and anti-Japan sentiments spread, the Chinese were also voting with their feet – an online poll showed a preference of Japan over mainland China as an ideal place to have kids.
The dispute over Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan accelerated in September. Anti-Japan protests blossomed all over China. Japanese-brand cars were torn down; Japanese stores were smashed and most interestingly, images of Mao were used by protesters across China as the savior and guardian of the country’s sovereignty rights. Coincident or not, more details were revealed about the case of Bo Xilai, who was often considered to follow Mao’s style of rule.
October was a month of harvest. Firstly, Chinese writer Mo Yan got this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature after much speculation. However controversial the prize was, Mo Yan has successfully become a cash cow for various businesses in China – his hometown invested in Mo Yan centric tourism; and his images were used in various advertisements, with or without his consent. Secondly, the Voice of China, possibly China’s most popular TV show in 2012, crowned a winner who concluded his performance with the song “I love you China.”
Mo Yan wasn’t the only middle-aged man who caught public attention in October. The 61-year-old real estate tycoon Wang Shi’s love affair with a 31-year-old actress revived the discussion of the mistress culture in China. Also caught national attention was an abusive kindergarten teacher in Zhejiang province who lifted a boy in her class off the ground by ears.
November kicked off with China’s 18th Party Congress, during which time Beijing shifted to paranoid mode by banning things from knives, balloons, pigeons, toy planes, ping pong balls to openable taxi and bus windows. The Party Congress had some fun moments, but most importantly of all, China’s new core leadership was arranged. Xi Jinping, a dual-natured Gemini, was “elected” the country’s new boss.
But lengthy yawn-generating speeches full of empty talks soon gave way to the much more juicy sex tape of Lei Zhengfu, Chongqing official who was blackmailed by a real estate company that sent him a 18-year-old mistress as bribe. Moreover, right when people were tired of staring at officials lined up uniformly in black suits, a cool grandpa who modeled in teen girl clothes for his granddaughter’s Taobao store went viral online. But while this grandpa was having some good time modeling in teen girl clothes, pre-teen girls were posing in bikinis as car models and teen boys were dying in dumpsters after burning charcoal inside for warmth. Last but not the least, November also brought us the “aircraft carrier style.”
December started off with a piece of very experience Xinjiang nut cake which put China’s ethnic problems under spotlight. On the more serious side, the politics of dynasty seemed to make a comeback to Asia after descendants of power took over the leaderships in North Korea, South Korea, Japan and China. The Chinese people seemed to be optimistic about their next 10 years because several moves of Xi Jinping as the country’s new leader indicated that he may be a different leader that is more open-minded, more low-key and closer to the people.