Icicle Boy epilogue, involuntary car chase, Hawking’s death, and snow (finally) in Beijing—it’s Viral Week
Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the previous week’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are chatting about. Think of this as a pristine patch of snow preserved from over the weekend, not yet melted and mixed with the muck beneath…
Coming up today, we bring you Snow Day, the new constitutional pledge, how celebrity deaths sell books, and the car chase no one wanted. But first…
Ice Boy frozen out
In January, a picture of a 10-year-old boy with a head full of icicles, accumulated on his 4.5-kilometer trek to school in rural Yunnan, thawed frozen hearts everywhere.
Since going viral, the boy has attracted 300,000 RMB in donations to his school—as well as more controversy, as it was reported each student only received 500 RMB at the start. In the new semester, the so-called Ice Boy began to attend private school in a local city.
Unfortunately, it was reported last week that the boy was no longer able to due to, ironically, excess media (and official) attention. The boy’s father has since told Xinhua that the boy simply returned to his old school and had “not dropped out.”
Cruise out of control
Last Wednesday evening, a cruise-control malfunction led to an hour-long, involuntary chase down a highway. A Mr. Xue of Henan found his Mercedes-Benz traveling 120 kilometers per hour (74.6 mph) for more than 100 kilometers, requiring police to open up emergency lanes and toll stations ahead, until the remote machinations of Mercedes-Benz engineers disabled cruise control just past the Henan-Shaanxi border—or so he initially reported.
However, leaked WeChat transcripts have since revealed Xue had gotten the car to slow down by opening the door and unbuckling his seatbelt. Xue has announced he is cooperating with the manufacturer to figure out the cause, but is receiving attention from several high-profile netizens (such as Han Han and Li Xiang, founder of Autohome.cn), who have pointed out multiple inconsistencies in his story, and suspect he may be covering up some errors of his own.
Car fans have now taken to staging Mythbusters-like experiments to figure out exactly what went wrong. According to PCAuto.com, things that will not disable cruise control on a Mercedes-Benz C200L are: opening the door; unbuckling the seatbelt; and sending a SOS to engineers for remote assistance. Things that did work included: braking; putting the gears in Neutral; turning off the engine. Investigations are ongoing, as they say.
Xi Jinping took his oath Saturday as the re-elected president at the National People’s Congress, and along with many of China’s other highest leaders, a new Pledge of Allegiance to the Constitution of the PRC, added to the newly amended version of said Constitution earlier that week.
It was the first time that a president has taken a public oath of constitutional allegiance when taking office, though other officials have done so since 2015, saying:
I pledge my allegiance to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to safeguard the Constitution authority, fulfill my legal obligations, be loyal to the country and the people, be committed and honest in my duty, accept the people’s supervision and work for a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful!
The news of the passing of British physicist Stephen Hawking on March 14 received at least 500 million clicks on the Chinese web, according to estimates. A Chinese publisher reported receiving 1 million new orders of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, a long-time bestseller in the country, within a day of the scientist’s passing, and more than 5,100 people are currently reading the book, according to book-review website Douban.com.
Hawking’s Weibo account, started in 2016, has more than four million followers, and more than two million users followed his last Weibo exchange, answering a question from TFBoys singer Wang Junkai (who seemed to completely misunderstand the answer).
Netizens are also mourning the passing of Taiwanese essayist Li Ao on March 18. Controversial in both his political views (which earned him a prison sentence in Taiwan in the 1970s) and personal life (with around 10 romantic affairs and various #MeToo-style allegations), Li is known for his outspoken views and vernacular writing style. Humorously, he seemed to be prepared for how the public treats celebrity deaths—in an open letter written shortly after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor last June, he wrote, “In the time I have left, I’d like to add the volumes 41 – 85 to the Complete Works of Li Ao.”
Fun in the snow
After a record 145-day dry spell, snow (mixed with rain) finally descended on China’s capital on Saturday. Here are some pictures that showcase netizens’ new adage, “There is far more snow in my WeChat feed than in the actual sky.”
Ice eating a thing?
On the further subject of all things ice, BuzzFeed reports on a new trend—or perhaps the word should be challenge—that’s sweeping the feeds of Kuai Shou, a live-streaming app popular in provincial and second and third-tier China: Eating ice or 吃冰. Users are reportedly delighted at the ensuing noise and discomfort; we guess when you live in, say Hefei, you take your distractions where you can…