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David Wertime

Chinese State Television’s Helpful Online Announcement: World There Ends at 3:14:35 p.m.

Let the countdown begin. (Via Weibo)

Chinese authorities may be busy cracking down on a “doomsday cult,” but end-of-days chatter is still dominating Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter.

A recent search early in the morning on December 21, 2012, Beijing time shows that five of the ten “hottest” posts on the micro-blogging platform all relate to the forthcoming end of the world. Clocking in at #1, with over 100,000 re-posts and 20,000 comments, is this announcement from state-run China Central Television’s social media account:

“December 21st is the final day of the Mayan calendar, and the so-called ‘doomsday.’ Due to the time difference, it will be 3:14:35 in the afternoon before China enters ‘doomsday.’ Some netizens have said, ‘The timing is good, at least the markets will have closed so I can tell whether I’ve earned made money or lost money.’ Tomorrow at 3:14:35, what will you do?”

Many Web users’ answers were honest, if prosaic–they’d be eating (“definitely eating dumplings!”), sleeping, at work, or in the library. @木牙步 from Xi’an wrote, “December 22 is my birthday, so first I will wish myself [an early] happy birthday.”

Others took the opportunity to reflect. @美库原创黎冬 from Beijing hoped for “a chance to be reborn and to forget our grudges.” @忠义慎言 from Nanjing city wrote, “For people living in war, hunger, poverty, or under a dictator, every day is doomsday.” @蒜苗欲放香, who claims to live abroad, wrote, “As a normal Chinese person, I first want to say that today is the winter solstice before it is doomsday. Every year at winter solstice, I always constantly think about my hometown…it’s been so many years since I’ve spent the solstice in my home town!”

Well-known online personality Zuoye Ben (@作业本)’s reflection clocked in among the top ten “hottest” tweets of the day. He wrote:

“Regardless of whether there is a doomsday, after December 21, everything will begin anew. You once watched helplessly and powerlessly as time slipped away, the nation ignored individuals, strangers were impolite to you, your love dumped you, and you couldn’t avoid saying farewell to friends…you’ve waited for a day that’s already been [talked about] too much, and afterwards, everything will be as you wish. Hello, doomsday. [May you be] a new beginning.”

Doomsday tweets–both humorous and reflective–dominated the Weibo top 10.

New beginning indeed. The fact that China has recently sought to tamp down some doomsday chatter was not lost on some commenters. A number of users joked that police should arrest CCTV–or even confine them to re-education through labor–for “spreading rumors” about doomsday. Others wrote that they could not believe CCTV’s official account had posted this (faux) announcement.

But this is not the first time that CCTV has pleasantly surprised netizens. As Oiwan Lam of Global Voices reported, just days ago, CCTV Channel 6 shocked observers by broadcasting for the first time “V for Vendetta,” a film that depicts the overthrow of a tyrannical government in dystopian London.

In any case, casual doomsday chatter may be a bit less seditious than vigilante justice, and CCTV was in thick company here. Ashin (@阿信), lead vocalist for the beloved Taiwanese band Mayday, posted a hilarious image of Micky and Minnie Mouse covering their eyes as a purple mushroom cloud exploded in the background.

User @angelababy, an actress in Hong Kong, also made the top ten by posting a reverse horoscope, one instructing–not predicting–what members of each astrological sign should do in their final moments:

Aries: Rob a bank

Gemini: Have a crazy amount of fun

Leo: Give everything you have to charity

Libra: Get all made up

Sagittarius: Go streaking

Aquarius: Travel the world

Taurus: Enjoy life

Cancer: Be with your family

Virgo: Bravely confess everything

Scorpio: Escape the earth

Capricorn: Get lost in memories

Pisces: Hold hands with your lover

Time will–very shortly–tell whether any of the above is useful or prescient. For now, readers are advised to be with the loved ones; or to have fun; or to enjoy life. Perhaps such advice is sage no matter the date.

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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.