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David Wertime

Today's Most Viral Image: The Horrible Foreigner

It’s a classic narrative. Foreigner comes to China; is enchanted; learns fluent Chinese; makes meaningful and lasting connections with host country. makes complete fool of self; terrorizes local population; is beaten and arrested; is then pilloried the world over.

What does this image mean?

News flash! Rape remains illegal in China

This image is a still from a wildly viral video (viewable here). The video was shot with a cell phone and shows a foreign man (later identified as a British national) attempting to rape, or at least harassing, a Chinese woman in public view in Beijing. The video, safe for work but probably not safe for young ones, shows him apparently caught in the act, then beaten and left on the street to absorb more punishment until the police arrive. If nothing else, it provides an excellent primer on Chinese cuss words, delivered in standard Mandarin. 

It’s also an excellent primer on what gets eyeballs online. With over 110,000 reposts(!), it is far and away Sina Weibo’s most viral image of May 10, 2012 according to Hong Kong University’s Weiboscope. Weiboscope displays the most widely reposted images among prominent users.

Where did it come from?

After being uploaded to Chinese video-sharing site Youku.com, the video was quickly reposted to Sina Weibo on the evening of May 9. It took off like a rocket.

Why is it so popular?

Some have suspected that the video was “hyped” by Weibo to get eyeballs. It is safe to say Weibo didn’t need the help. Generally speaking, videos containing sex, violence, and idiotic foreigners will do well on the Chinese Internet.

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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.
  • FarQ

    ‘Generally speaking, videos containing sex, violence, and idiotic foreigners will do well on the Chinese Internet.”. What a load of racist bullshit.

    • David Wertime

      I’m confused. How is that racist? Does it really require I add another sentence saying, “and images of sex and violence are also popular on the Internet elsewhere”? If you are calling me racist, you do not appear to have read our site very thoroughly.

      • Psharp94

        He’s accusing you of racism because, like most other people, he’s brainwashed into thinking anything he disagrees with, doesn’t like the sound of, proves him wrong, etc… is racism. 

        Don’t worry, though. He’s probably just a little sheep self-hating white. 

  • FarQ

    ‘Generally speaking, videos containing sex, violence, and idiotic foreigners will do well on the Chinese Internet.”. What a load of racist bullshit.

    • David Wertime

      I’m confused. How is that racist? Does it really require I add another sentence saying, “and images of sex and violence are also popular on the Internet elsewhere”? If you are calling me racist, you do not appear to have read our site very thoroughly.

      • Psharp94

        He’s accusing you of racism because, like most other people, he’s brainwashed into thinking anything he disagrees with, doesn’t like the sound of, proves him wrong, etc… is racism. 

        Don’t worry, though. He’s probably just a little sheep self-hating white. 

  • http://twitter.com/sah_mile Sarah Mile

    Everything about the video and the story is wrong and disturbing on so many levels. Slimy English creep and violent Chinese vigilantes. It’s a petri dish of bad national stereotypes.

    • Psharp94

      He isn’t English in any regard. He’s an Arab.

    • Panzerkeil

      Thanks for slandering white British men.  Are you one of those idiots who thinks someone magically changes race once they cross a border?  Do you think I would become Chinese if I moved over there?

  • sah_mile

    Everything about the video and the story is wrong and disturbing on so many levels. Slimy English creep and violent Chinese vigilantes. It’s a petri dish of bad national stereotypes.

    • Psharp94

      He isn’t English in any regard. He’s an Arab.

    • Panzerkeil

      Thanks for slandering white British men.  Are you one of those idiots who thinks someone magically changes race once they cross a border?  Do you think I would become Chinese if I moved over there?

  • Pingback: Anonymous

  • Scandinaviaerbestur

    He’s not British, he looks Arab.

  • Scandinaviaerbestur

    He’s not British, he looks Arab.

  • Mstribbo

    I find it sad to see things such as this. Firstly, surely it is irrelevant where this person came from? It seems clear he was up to no good and deserves the full force of the Chinese authorities just like any other human being that commits a crime in China or anywhere else. I understand some Mandarin and can hear the venom in the soundtrack that is very much anti foreigner. It is a very disturbing trend in China for racist thugs to stir up anti foreigner feeling. It is unnecessary and dangerous to behave in this manner. If this person was from the UK so what? That does not make the crime worse or better does it? I hope that the Chinese people would condemn someone punching and kicking a person that is clearly unconscious. It is also a cowardly act and makes a bad situation much worse.

  • Mstribbo

    I find it sad to see things such as this. Firstly, surely it is irrelevant where this person came from? It seems clear he was up to no good and deserves the full force of the Chinese authorities just like any other human being that commits a crime in China or anywhere else. I understand some Mandarin and can hear the venom in the soundtrack that is very much anti foreigner. It is a very disturbing trend in China for racist thugs to stir up anti foreigner feeling. It is unnecessary and dangerous to behave in this manner. If this person was from the UK so what? That does not make the crime worse or better does it? I hope that the Chinese people would condemn someone punching and kicking a person that is clearly unconscious. It is also a cowardly act and makes a bad situation much worse.

  • WardKendall

    Your disgusting distortion of the facts is utterly reprehensible. For one thing, the bald-headed “British national” is NOT a white man but an ugly, greasy, slack-jawed non-white of the kind YOU, Mr. Wertime, are guilty of bringing into Western nations and then attempting to pass off as “one of our own”.

    Liar.

    Secondly, the Chinese themselves remain a vicious, murderous, utterly barbaric people, their cat-eating breaths just one hint that they are not civilized, despite their knack for stealing and emulating Western technology created by the genius of Caucasian minds. What a nauseating glimpse into your human “soul”, Mr. Wertime – you, the lover and worshipper of all things alien. Come WW III, please be amongst your Chinese friends so that Western nuclear warheads can obliterate you as well.