If a course assured you a 50-percent salary increase within three years, would you pay to take it?
That’s not a hypothetical question.
Recently, internet celebrity, entrepreneur, self-styled business guru, and registered WeChat account holder (with 10 million followers) Mi Meng launched an online course, offering career advice to students. She guaranteed that those who took the course would see a rapid increase in their annual salary. If that didn’t happen, they were eligible for a full refund.
The course, “Mi Meng helps you get 50,000 yuan monthly pay,” is made up of 15 classes and costs 99 RMB. According to last week’s introduction, it “will teach the students practical skills to get a pay raise, including how to conduct salary negotiations, how to get a promotion, and how to find a better job.”
Sound like the perfect deal? Netizens sniffed a scam. Some argued that a 50-percent increase in annual salary over three years is a normal increase for most good employees. User Wang Jia on Zhihu, China’s most popular Q&A platform, writes: “Ms. Mi Meng designed a very successful financing product. Inflation, possible job-hopping, personal progress+salary based on working experience and normal pay increase—all of these can result in a 20-30 percent increase in your salary in three years. Also, if Ms. Mi Meng invests her incomes in some trust fund, and three years later, even if people asked for a refund, she could still earn another 20 percent interest.”
A Weibo user points out that the course is actually a disguised interest-free loan:
Isn’t it illegal fund-raising? “A full refund in three years” can be also presented as “an interest-free loan for three years.” In the worst case, none of her students gets a 50-percent pay raise and all ask for a refund, and Mi Meng would still make a good money!
Yet another Zhihu account says it’s just a trick based on probabilities:
I have a secret recipe of conceiving a son. If you want a son, give me 10,000 liang of silver, I will give my blessing to your wife, to assure you have a son. If you finally have a daughter, I will return all the 10,000 liang of silver.
That’s not all. An article from huxiu.com criticizes Mi Meng’s course from a moral aspect, saying, “Hawking shortcuts is the most shameful business…This kind of business takes advantage of the anxiety of the weak, fostering their laziness and opportunism. I strongly suggest that bosses not to hire employees who take Mi Meng’s career courses. They think about soaring in the workplace all day long, but I am afraid their ability is far from enough.”
So far, so Trump University. But this is not the first time that Mi Meng decided to give some hard-nosed career advice. Last year, Mi published an article titled “The workplace doesn’t believe in tears! If you cry, cry at home!” In it, she told a story about an intern working in her company. The intern complained to her parents that she was always asked to pick up takeout food for her boss (Mi Meng), and felt that it was not what she was supposed to do.
Mi got wind of the whingeing, and wrote an article arguing, “The boss’ time is supposed to be the most valuable, and shouldn’t be spent on trivial things. But the rookies should begin with these ‘trivial things’…If a boss picks up the takeout food by themselves, you should quit your job, because the boss doesn’t even know the basic division of labor.”
Sound like a tyrant? Yeah, that’s what netizens thought. Mi’s supporters said it’s just revealing the reality of the workplace, and young people should learn about the survival rules. But opponents criticized Mi for her condescending attitude and ignorance of the rights of interns. The war of words lasted a long time, but it over 100,000 views to the original article, and made it one of the most popular posts on Mi’s account.
As one of China’s most successful online celebrities, Mi Meng clearly knows how to capitalize on controversy—much like a certain orange-hued current president. Holding a master’s degree in Chinese literature, and having worked in traditional media for more than ten years, Mi Meng has good writing skills, and has written some decent works about history, life, and education. She later founded a film production company and became an entrepreneur. The company produced an internet TV show, but it wasn’t successful. Then, Mi Meng picked up her pen again and returned to the battlefield—on social media.
Her writing style changed; she became acerbic, vulgar, and aggressive. “People always say…but it’s just bullshit,” her columns would often begin, followed by “a friend of mine once…” and ending with advice: “Don’t […] any more. Only when you…, you can…” She chose provocative topics—relationships and sex, hated coworkers, and annoying people in life— and wrote in easy, short sentences, with self-help advice about dealing with enemies.
Mi Meng gained fame due to two hit articles, respectively titled “To the Bitches” and “To the Losers” in which she depicted various representative “bitches” and “losers” in life. By bitches, she refers to someone feeling entitled to others’ time and assistance, and losers are those who are insecure and jealous of others (and also comparable to a part of the female anatomy). It’s almost like another businessman who denounces “haters and losers.”
Both articles went viral online, with many netizens joining her to vent. But readers were quick to point out contradictions in Mi Meng’s claims. In “To the Bitches,” Mi Meng raged against annoying help-seekers: “Why am I supposed to help you?”But in another article, she recounted a story about asking another successful blogger for advice, who casually told her “I didn’t do anything special.” Mi Meng then wrote that she felt the blogger was pretentious (she used a less G-rated term).
Gradually, more noticed that Mi Meng’s tone was too mean and her content nothing more than a channel to vent. Some even wrote back, saying “You finally became the bitch you talked about.” Mi Meng’s articles were called “poisonous chicken soup.”
It’s all starting to sound horribly familiar. As the negative feedback mounted, Mi Meng accumulated more and more followers, allowing her to makes money through advertisements on her WeChat account. It’s said that Mi Meng’s price for one set of ads is about 50,000 RMB. Even the haters admit that she is a master of communication science, and media manipulation. But there are also someone who sees more in Mi Meng’s success. A user on Zhihu comments:
I am very sure about one thing, considering Ms. Mi Meng’s age and background in literature, even though there are only terms like “bitch, losers, man whore, none of your f*-ing business, slept with him, low ugly people, f*, trendy [articles], 100,000 plus views” left in her essays. When she was young, she must have spent her years reading Milan Kundera, Kafka, and Ayn Rand.
Unfortunately, the fragmented terrible times and the attention-comes-first market economy has failed those writers and artists with awe and dignity. Young people’s increasingly short-term concentration and preference for amusing themselves to death make it impossible for the artists to live a decent life or pursue dreams.
An eloquent and well-learned troll, it would seem. So not completely like Donald Trump, at least.
Cover image from Weibo