Mr. Yu Li, an essayist who writes under the pen name Sima Nan, was involved in a freak accident on an escalator at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. on January 20. Sima Nan sustained only minor physical injuries from the accident but continues to suffer from a virtual pummeling on Weibo, China’s Twitter. The very presence of Sima Nan, whom many netizens considered an “anti-America warrior,” in the capital of the USA was enough to invite suspicions of hypocrisy and a deluge of ridicule on Weibo.
The last tweet Sima Nan posted on Weibo before he boarded a flight bound for Washington reads:
“America is the enemy of all the people in the world. It produces IOUs (U.S. dollars) in exchange for real products, and exploits countries around the world. It has planted economic roots on all continents. Its energy consumption level is more than ten times the world average. It’s like a giant tumor. Its military bases are all around the world. All wars after World War II were instigated, engineered or started by America. People around the world and governments of different countries are questioning [American policy]…”
The timing of Sima Nan’s visit to the U.S. coincided with Chinese New Year, when tradition calls for family reunions. As rumors that Sima Nan was in the U.S. to visit his wife and child made the rounds on the Internet, netizens responded to the news of Sima Nan’s misfortune with plenty of schadenfreude, calling it a “Chinese New Year comedy special.” “Reading comments on Sima Nan’s injury is much more entertaining than watching the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala” is a common sentiment. Some netizens congratulated the CIA for “developing an escalator with artificial intelligence” and “foiling Sima Nan’s mission to liberate the American people.”
Blogger Li Chengpeng tweeted,
“The American imperialists can no longer produce weapons of mass destruction due to their declining economy, so they switched from a war using aircraft carriers to a war using escalators. Mr. Sima astutely caught wind of this, and bravely went to enemy territory… and successfully destroyed the imperialists’ weapon in the testing phase.”
The less than charitable reaction to Sima Nan’s accident likely stems from netizens’ aversion to the perceived doubletalk by some Chinese officials and other defenders of the Celestial Dynasty. For example, Mr. Bo Xilai, the party boss of Chongqing municipality and a leading contender for a coveted seat on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, China’s top governing body, has preached a return to Maoist-era values. He initiated the infamous “Singing Red” campaign that reminded many of the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution. On the other hand, his son, Bo Guagua, holds degrees from Harrow School and Oxford and cruises around town in a Ferrari. Pictures of Bo junior’s drunken partying at Oxford have gone viral on the Internet.
Netizens have invented the term “naked officials” to describe Chinese public servants who have sent their families and assets offshore. Many have raised the possibility that Sima Nan is a “naked fifty cents.” As of the time of publication, Sima Nan has deflected rumors that his wife and child have emigrated to the U.S. for good but has not responded to questions of whether they in fact live there.