Here we are in 2016. But before we leap headlong into what will certainly be a twelve-month roller coaster ride of China stories — we already have the probable abduction of (another) Hong Kong publisher, test landings in the disputed Spratly Islands, and a “wild ride” on China’s share markets — how do we make sense of 2015?
Fortunately, we can count on the creative energy of China’s mobile internet. One of my favourite year-end reflections is this darkly humorous one, shared across Chinese social networks since late last month. The piece, “2015: Whose Grief?”, was apparently posted first to Qzone Diary (QQ空间日志), a blog-like service added in 2013 to Tencent’s Qzone (itself developed in 2005). I first saw the post when Chinese friends on WeChat shared it, remarking that it was “an excellent summary.”
I share my feeble translation here.
2015: Whose Grief?
By “Fragrant Wu” (吾乃芬芳) / December 29, 2015
In just a few days, 2015 will be history. This year, I can say that I’ve been fortunate, and I’ve been unfortunate . . .
When the stampede occurred in Shanghai, I was fortunate — because I hadn’t rushed out to join the celebrations.
When the Oriental Star cruise ship sank, I was fortunate — because I hadn’t gone off on a holiday.
When the chemical explosion occurred in Tianjin, I was fortunate — because I don’t live in Tianjin.
When the “mountain of mud” collapsed in Shenzhen, I was fortunate — because there was some distance between me and Shenzhen.
Still, I don’t know how long my good fortune will last. I’ve managed to escape earthquakes and floods, to hide from [collapsing] “tofu dreg” developments. But is it possible to avoid such things as gutter oil, GMO foods or all those other potential misfortunes that might befall me, for which there is no responsibility or oversight?
This year, 2015, has afforded us so many memories, so many things that are impossible to forget, but which we have now consigned to oblivion . . .
For the big tigers [in the Chinese Communist Party], this year has been an unending nightmare . . .
We saw the death this year of [Xu] Caihou], who left behind a hefty pile of personal treasure. Had he passed away two years earlier, [his reputation and fortune] might have been saved. His death would have been a momentous occasion — conferring, perhaps, the title “great commander.” Xu’s death in 2015 saved the system instead. He died with grave dishonour, seen as a “national monster.”
[Zhou] Yongkang was sentenced this year too. Those television hosts with whom he once flirted — in whose beds are they gently panting now? The security chief who once commanded millions of armed police sits now behind bars. The very same man who once said, “We will not tolerate an iota of corruption!” I wonder at how much strength must it have taken to utter those words without cracking a smile?
This year [Ling] Jihua entered [a prison cell]. In the end, did he manage his get-rich plan with success? His only son died [in a high-speed crash], and still he managed to go on making reports just like nothing happened . . .
If we rely on human beings to oppose corruption, corruption will persist . . .
This was a year of major economic crisis.
The stock market tanked this year; the factories of the Celestial Empire shut down, falling like dominoes. The bigwigs of the middle class were slashed by what, 90 percent? [Migrant] workers got to go home early, and there was no need for them to scrabble for train tickets [as is generally necessary during the annual Spring Festival].
This year, the rich rednecks died from credit trusts, the middle classers died from “non-standardized debt assets,” and the lowest losers died from peer-to-peer lending. In 2015, more than 1,000 P2P platforms died. Meanwhile, those coal barons from Shanxi who used to hold lavish weddings for their daughters were crippled by debt.
This year, neither the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership nor the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have anything to do with us. When we’ve entirely exhausted our population advantage, when we’ve entirely exhausted our natural resources, can our economic brilliance continue? Here we are, still comforting ourselves. “We have such huge domestic demand,” [we say]. “We have our brothers in Africa,” [we say]. “Capitalism has not abandoned its will to destroy us,” [we say].
Our country is still throwing money around, throwing money around, money . . .
For the Chinese people, this has been the most wonderful of years.
As it was a race against the clock on the scene of disaster, as lives were buried suddenly under a mountain of earth, all in a flash, and [there on the scene] we had the most wonderful pledge [as firefighters made a pledge to the flag of the Chinese Communist Party].
That faithful servant of the people in Beijing, [Mayor Wang Anshun (王安顺)], made such a wonderful promise with those brave words that put his head on the line [NOTE: Wang said he would cut off his own head if he couldn’t solve the problem of air pollution], and this deserves to go down as the most wonderful joke of the year.
Around the dinner table, [television host] Bi Fujian (毕姥爷) acted out a different sort of Avenue of Stars [an altered revolutionary song making fun of Mao Zedong], and he suffered the most wonderful of secret filmings . . . honouring us with the year’s most wonderful lyrics.
Over the summer, in a Uniqlo changing room, a couple were locked in lovemaking, and [the resulting sex video] made Uniqlo known to the world, giving us the year’s most wonderful advertisement.
A friend once asked me: Why is it you can’t find any positive energy anywhere? In response, I said I found positive energy in the way lawyer Pu [Zhiqiang] kept on standing, the way he fought for the freedom of the people to resist, the way he never compromised or gave up, the way he stood up for others even as so many of us remained silent.
Chai Jing’s “Under the Dome” was also positive energy. All for nothing did she make a documentary about air pollution. Its shocking portrayal made Chinese sit up and take notice. She did what any responsible journalist should do, what any mother should do.
Regrettably, as 2015 comes to an end, I find all of a sudden that as big as the world may be, there is no escape whatsoever.