Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network, has been swarmed with rumors speculating China’s political future after Bo Xilai’s fall. Among most recent are may-or-may-not-have-happened gun shots in Beiing and a mysterious Ferrari crash that has made Ferrarri a blocked word on the Chinese internet.
But the most interesting of all is the case of “Teletubbies vs. Master Kong”. This is not a new cartoon and surely not meant for kids, either. That is the argot for what might be happening or have happened in a rumored “coup” in Beijing.
Almost overnight, everybody on Sina Weibo becomes part of a “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” reality show – they look for traces of truth in every rumor, and in their hands lies a secret code book.
“According to unreliable resource, the 18th tug war has a winner. The winner is the team of dragon led by carrot and his team mates Teletubby, Subor study machine and wood son Li. The team led by Master Kong beef instant noodle was defeated because they lost tomato and it was a great loss.”
Total nonsense? Not if you know the ciphers.
Carrot: 胡萝卜(hu luo bo), a vegetable = 胡锦涛 (hu jin tao), President of China
Teletubby: 天线宝宝 (tian xian bao bao), popular cartoon character = 温家宝 (wen jia bao), Prime Minister of China
Subor study machine: 小霸王学习机 (xiao ba wang xue xi ji), famous brand of children electronics = 习近平 (xi jin ping), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been speculated as China’s next President
Wood son Li: 木子李 (mu zi li) = 李克强 (li ke qiang), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been rumored to be China’s next Prime Minister
Master Kong: 康师傅 (kang shi fu), famous instant noodle brand = 周永康 (zhou yong kang), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been rumored to be a supporter of Bo Xilai
Tomato: 西红柿 (xi hong shi), a vegetable = 薄熙来 (bo xi lai), fallen political star that has been the center of recent political dramas in China
“Master Kong is not longer instant noodles. Teletubby is no longer cartoon. Jia Baoyu, Jiang Xiaoyu and Hu yidao are not longer characters in novels. Greeting card is no longer a card. Subor study machine is no longer a play station. Here is the greatest work of 2012 ‘Those years when Teletubby fights with Master Kong’”
Jia Baoyu: 贾宝玉, the principal character in the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber = 贾庆林 (jia qing lin), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and whose illegitimate son has been rumored to die from the Ferrarri crash.
Jiang Xiaoyu: 江小鱼, the principal character in Gu Long’s (古龙) kung fu movel The Legendary Twins (绝代双骄) = 江泽民 (jiang ze min), past President of China before Hu.
Hu Yidao: 胡一刀, the principal character in Louis Cha’s (金庸) kung fu novel Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (雪山飞狐) = 胡锦涛 (hu jin tao), President of China
Greeting card: 贺年卡 (he nian ka) = 贺国强 (he guo qiang), one of China’s 9-member Politburo
Now you get the story? Overnight, Master Kong and Jia Baoyu has become part of the top 10 most-searched terms on Sina Weibo. Everybody knows it is not because a sudden popularity of instant noodles or Chinese classics.
And as if the above-mentioned argots are not complicated enough, some people went to the extremes to write in complete ciphers. (One of the posts has been deleted on Weibo, below is a screenshot from iPhone.) And who said Chinese people didn’t have creativity?
It is not sure how much truth are there in these rumors. What is sure is that if Chinese netizens continue this spy game, more brand names like Ferrarri and Master Kong will be blocked, and that will be a PR disaster for these brands.