David Wertime

Today’s Most Viral Image: Open Secrets

Cha-ching! With over 20,000 reposts, a list of some of the United States’ richest (and poorest) public servants is Sina Weibo’s most viral image of May 15, 2012 according to Hong Kong University’s Weiboscope. Weiboscope displays the most widely-reposted images among prominent users.

What is this image?

These names may look familiar–it’s a list of disclosed assets of certain prominent U.S. public officials.

Where did it come from?

Well-known investor, Internet guru and Weibo power-user Kai-Fu Lee (@李开复) posted this list on Sunday evening. He wrote, “Assets of U.S. federal government officials are all disclosed here: http://t.cn/zOEuISV. The three lists are separated this way: President and cabinet members’ assets (Hillary is the richest, at $31.2 million, Obama with $7.32 million, [while] the poorest department head has $160,000), [then] the richest 25 U.S. Senators (the richest one having $448 million), [then] the poorest 25 U.S. Senators (the poorest one having debts of $4.73 million).  For net worth valuations, see the average of the maximums and minimums.” {{Chinese}}[[Chinese]]美国联邦政府官员的财产都公布在这里:http://t.cn/zOEuISV 。下面的三个表格分别是:总统和内阁的财产(希拉里最有钱3120万美金、奥巴马732万、最穷的内政部长16万)、最有钱的25位议员(最有钱的4.48亿)、最穷的25位议员(最穷的负债473万)。身家估值看上限和下限的平均值(Average)。[[Chinese]]

Why is it so popular?

Chinese netizens (and citizens) have been demanding for years that China’s public officials disclose their personal assets. With corruption still rampant, that is vanishingly unlikely.

Adding insult to injury, party mouthpiece Beijing Daily recently accused U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke of making trouble in the Middle Kingdom. Locke’s common touch has found great favor in China’s blogosphere. This may help explain the Beijing Daily’s efforts to smear him–but when it demanded yesterday that Locke publicize his finances, many netizens felt compelled to point out that he already had.

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.