Thought Catalog

Pissing Off China In 20 Tweets Or Less

  • 0

In China, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about a cute, 20-year-old girl posting photos of herself on Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter), even when they feature her jet-setting around the country toting designer handbags, or sitting in the front seat of her luxury car. In her posts she called the orange Lamborghini she drives while in the southern part of the country her “little bull”, and the white Maserati she has in Beijing, her “little horse.” China’s nouve-riche are loud and proud, and have no qualms about displaying their wealth, social networking included.

But what was unusual about this particular Weibzer, called “Baby Guo Meimei” (???Baby), was that she listed herself as Business General Manager of the Red Cross Society of China, the nation’s biggest charity organization. It was a detail noticed by one sharp-eyed netizen, as Chinese internet users are called, and in pointing this out was reposted over a thousand times in just two hours. It was one thing to be just another spoilt, materialistic rich-kid, quite another if the circumstances of your wealth came about from redirected charity funds.

Chinese netizens are swift and ruthless. Within hours they began a “human flesh search”, which utilizes the power of thousands of internet users who scour the inevitable identity trails we all leave behind on the internet, as well as spreading the word through their own social network, in order to search for clues that might uncover the details behind a story. It is a highly organized manhunt, think crowd-sourced detective work, and inevitably nobody can hide.

Using information Guo Meimei had registered on an automotive sales website as well as a photo album she had posted on Netease, a Chinese portal site, netizens discovered that she had previously lived in Shenzhen and Beijing where she rented, dressed and decorated her room modestly, and was using a domestic brand cell phone. And yet in less than two years she had suddenly moved into a large villa and was driving a luxury sports car. In short, she had become very, very rich, far too fast.

While Guo Meimei was quick to pull down the references to the Red Cross, claiming she’d “made it up”, unrepentant statements like “I and my family members are taxpayers. How can people attack us about how we spend our money?” only further enraged the netizens. Soon they were following her every move, snapping her photos at Beijing Airport and calling the Australian Embassy to protest any approved visa applications when rumor had it Guo Meimei would try to escape the heat by heading Down Under.

Guo Meimei’s story hit a raw nerve in China, where the gap between rich and poor seems to grow by the day. For a long stretch of time in China, poverty was the norm. You were poor, but then so was everyone else you knew. It was only in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping put in place the economic reforms that began to open the country up to the global economy, that things started to change. Migrants from the countryside were pouring into the cities and the manufacturing industries of the east coast, with the most enterprising of them playing their cards correctly, and quickly finding themselves filthy, filthy rich. Be it fact or fiction, Deng was attributed to as saying, “To get rich is glorious” (????).

But these days the rags-to-riches stories are becoming less and less common. Many netizens are pre-occupied with the issue of “second generation rich” (???) and “second generation poor” (???), in which a relatively short period of meritocratic enterprise has resettled back into Chinese nepotism. As of ancient times, it is guanxi – a word that is difficult to translate into English, but roughly means connections created through a large and highly personal social network – that rules. The Party’s oft-repeated line that the country is running on “socialism with Chinese characteristics” appears to be leaning heavily on the latter part. With the advantage sitting squarely in the hands of the powerful (party members) and the wealthy (rich businessmen) – and the two forming an alliance that is so close knit they have become impossible to distinguish from one another.

Last year the China Labour Bulletin reported that, “China’s Gini Coefficient, which is an index that measures inequality, clocks in at 0.47 – very close to the 0.5 marker, which often signals risk of instability.” With society seemingly fracturing into two distinct camps – the haves, and the have-nots – many young women are disinclined to find themselves on the wrong side of the line. It has created a new culture of cynical materialism that manifests itself most clearly in the rules of romance. A couple of years ago Ma Nuo, a contestant of an extremely popular Chinese dating show caused a mini-scandal on air. In rebuffing an unemployed suitor who had invited her for a bicycle ride, she responded with the killer line: “I’d rather sit and cry in the back of a BMW.” Ma Nuo came to personify the modern Chinese woman, or at least the worst of her qualities: obsessed with wealth, and cunningly ready to do what it takes to marry into it.

Desperate bachelors unable to land a woman because they don’t own a car and house regularly pop up in news on China. As do stories and comments widely condemning another despised group of women: Er Nai (??) or second-wives. Second wives resemble modern-day concubines. In exchange for being a ‘kept woman’, they expect to be lavished with thousands of dollars in cash, designer clothes, fancy meals, overseas trips and in some cases their own apartment. These secret girlfriends may be young university students from modest backgrounds who struggle to pay for their tuition fees, or girls that simply feel that in dog-eat-dog China a girl has to utilize every advantage she has.

As it turned out, Guo Meimei is not, in fact, an employee of the Red Cross Society, but rather the girlfriend of a businessman called Wang Jun. He previously worked for China Red Cross Bo’ai Asset Management Ltd. Corp., a for-profit company that does work with the Red Cross. The businessman was the source of Guo Meimei’s lavish gifts, but since handing in his resignation on June 26 he may be forced to be a little tighter on the purse strings.

Guo Meimei’s foolish behavior seems that of someone too young and too high on the smell of new money. But what is astounding is the chain reaction her narcissistic micro-blogging has triggered. Netizens are hot on the case of uncovering corruption within the Red Cross. A recent report shows that donations to the Red Cross have dropped dramatically, with many donators giving less than 1RMB (0.15US) as a kind of “fuck you”. And as China’s most prominent humanitarian NGO, doing significant work in the areas of disaster relief, this may very well have a devastating ripple effect on philanthropy in China, which is still in its infancy. TC mark

Powered by Revcontent

Poetry that will change you

This is for the women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. This — is for you.

“When Janne has a new poem written, I shut my life down to do nothing but read it, and then when I turn my life back on, everything is better.” — James Altucher

You’ve never read poetry like this before

More From Thought Catalog

Pissing Off China In 20 Tweets Or Less is cataloged in , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Charles Reinhardt

    amazing article!

  • Whats_yourpoint_

    this was really good

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1552230509 Blake Austin

    This was a breeze to read. Thank you. 

  • Andrei

    You’re becoming my favorite author on this site. There’s actually substance and intelligence in your posts!

  • http://michaelynch.com Michael Lynch

    This reads more like journalism than an opinion piece. I very much enjoyed it as I’m not really familiar with Chinese culture. Informative and engaging. Great job.

  • Anonymous

    This is an awesome article, and I hope you publish it somewhere other than TC.  Most of the stuff on here is unintelligent filler to get people through the workday but this is actually interesting.

  • Esther

    Nouveau riche

  • Anonymous

    Really great piece. Was journalistic and an easy read. Thoroughly engaging. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work!

  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    Great article! Newsy and opinionated. Great combination for this site.

  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    Great article! Newsy and opinionated. Great combination for this site.

  • Molly

    I came back last month from living in Shanghai for a while and I can definitely attest to the obsession with material things. It’s not like NY or the European Cities where wealth is exhibited, to an extent, through quality, craftsmanship, and tradition.  In Shanghai, people want and need to see the money being thrown around…from very recognizable designer goods to restaurants and bars that charge expensive minimums or only accept VIP memberships.

    Thank you for this well written and succinct article. I love China, but more foreigners could benefit from a well rounded discussion of its culture. 

  • Youramericanlover

    You’ve written something of real substance here. Very well done.

  • http://whoismau.tumblr.com/ Mauricio

    This was excellent. Thanks for renewing my faith in Thought Catalog.

  • Mary

    This was super interesting and informative! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

    Loved this. Had no idea what was going on over there. What I found most interesting though, was the whole “I’d rather sit and cry in the back of a BMW” For all the shit people might talk about the girl who said that, it seems that in China women have fully and unabashedly adopted a mindset that most women over here wish they could be out and proud about. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504951716 Tau Zaman

    This is so cool. I wish there were more pieces like this on TC. 

    Now DON’T get me wrong, I do love all of the “woe is you for being in love” pieces  often written in the second person as if they were a set of instructions–that’s the charm of TC. I wallow in it. <3 

    But, I would love to see stuff like this more often, is all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504951716 Tau Zaman

    This is so cool. I wish there were more pieces like this on TC. 

    Now DON’T get me wrong, I do love all of the “woe is you for being in love” pieces  often written in the second person as if they were a set of instructions–that’s the charm of TC. I wallow in it. <3 

    But, I would love to see stuff like this more often, is all.

  • Chels

    wow, what a refresh from the everyday TC  “5 ways to write a 5 ways article”

  • http://twitter.com/yaoyaowang YaoYao Wang

    I definitely didn’t expect to see something like this on TC. Thank you for sharing. People need to know more about this kinda stuff

  • anoning

    additional overwhelmingly positive comment! 

  • anoning

    additional overwhelmingly positive comment! 

  • Anonymous

    This was fucking phenomenal. 

  • clare

    I learn a lot from all your articles, I’m glad you are becoming a regular contributor. 

  • Cathy

    great article.
    haha and I loved the hilarious title. Chinese netizens really are getting more and more brutal with their criticism but at least it somehow helps uncover and raise awareness about all the corruption in China, as well as other important social issues. There still seems to be a lot of apathy among everyday Chinese citizens when it comes to stuff like this, and the fact that the CCP covers up so much…
    Ah democracy will come around someday. Some faraway day…

blog comments powered by Disqus