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Viral Week Ep. 151

Mystery outing of the aircraft carrier, catkin on fire, war over Avengers, and the birth of China’s jumping master—it’s Viral Week

Viral Week is our weekly round-up of the previous weekend’s trending memes, humor, rumor, gossip, and everything else Chinese netizens are chatting about. Think of this as discovering a spare, warm jacket you haven’t yet packed away—how were you supposed to know you’d need it again?

The US-Sino trade war may be heating up, but that’s not all that’s trending. This week, we look at the possible, maybe, actually very likely sea trials of the latest aircraft carrier, a vengeful conclusion to Shanghai’s Avengers event, and the crowning of WeChat’s jumping bean. But first…

Catkins cause chaos

Beijing’s Daxing district fire department posted its re-creation of a perennial favorite fire-safety video today—demonstrating a staged blaze, started by a small batch of catkin fluff (and also some newspapers), which amazingly burned an empty car in just a few minutes.

Previous years’ experiments have declared that catkins can be ignited in under a minute and cause a theoretical vehicle to explode in just two minutes. Out of 686 cases of fires reported over two days in Beijing, the Paper reported last April, 50 percent involved catkins mixed with trash and other garbage. Last year, a massive blaze that destroyed dozens of buses in Shunyi was blamed on catkins.

According to the People’s Daily, the pestilential fluff that Beijing sees every April and May come from the large amounts of willows and poplars planted during urban greening projects in the 1960s and 70s. These trees were chosen for their low maintenance requirements in Beijing’s climate, but now, the city is exploring methods like genetic engineering and planting assorted other vegetation to absorb the pesky pollen—but officials have begin by sterilizing 300,000 trees. Other cities afflicted by the plague include Xi’an and Shanghai.

Aircraft carrier on trial (maybe)

China’s first domestic-made aircraft carrier made a ribbon-festooned departure from its manufacturing site in the port of Dalian today, also known as China’s Navy Day. It may be sailing for the open sea, when it will begin sea trials—or perhaps it’s just getting towed to the shipyard to get cleaned; who really knows?

A lot of different people are certainly trying to find out. So far, what’s been reported is that the Maritime Bureau of Liaoning province has declared a restricted area in the Bohai Strait around Dalian from April 20 to 27, during which time no non-navy ships will be permitted to sail. Areas in the Bohai Sea near Qinhuangdao are also closed between today and April 26, meaning there could be sea trials later this week if not today. Maybe.

Today is also the 69th anniversary of the founding of the PLA Navy, which many feel is apt for starting sea trials for the Type 001A, which despite the name, could be considered the PLA’s second aircraft carrier after the rebranded Soviet vessel the Liaoning. This first (or second) vessel could be later renamed the Shandong, since according to CCTV, “the method of naming aircraft carriers after provinces has a relatively high possibility.”

It may also be China’s only functional aircraft carrier, as CCTV has reported pilots being unable to land planes on the Liaoning. The Global Times has quoted a few unnamed experts saying the sea trials may include “air defense, ship and submarine deterrence, early warning helicopters, shipboard fighter planes, and information systems.”

Infinite wars over Marvel’s Avengers events

Online criticism over a Marvel China promotion for its upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars sequel has erupted into a full-blown nationalist controversy involving accusations of treachery, incompetence and jingri, or “spiritual Japanese” worship.

The spat started after an event held Thursday at Shanghai Disneyland to mark the 10-year anniversary of Iron Man—and attended by MCU actors Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, and Tom Hiddleston—was allegedly hijacked by “irrelevant” local pop stars Zhang Jie and Eason Chan.

Fans who’d queued for over a day to meet the Hollywood stars who play Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Loki were first infuriated by the vast crowd size and lines to enter the event. But insult was added to injury when CCTV host Natalie Wang insisted on promoting Chan and Jie to the perceived detriment of the Americans. The singers each performed a number of their own hits that have nothing to do with the MCU, leading disgruntled Chinese fans to brand the event a “disaster.” Demands for an apology soon began trending, while nationalist netizens branded critics of the event as “unpatriotic.”

One victim of the backlash was an anonymous straight-A student and Party member at Xiamen University who, under the online handle Jiejieliang, called fans who left behind trash and jostled to enter “uncivilized.” In response, several Weibo users called her a jingri, and snitched her to university authorities, who—being true defenders of free speech—immediately placed her under disciplinary investigation. The school “has given its utmost attention to netizens’ reports about the irresponsible remarks” and “will deal seriously with the student according to regulations of the Communist Party of China and the university.” Avengers, assemble!

Are you the next jumping master?

WeChat’s mini-game Tiao Yi Tiao, literally “Have a Jump,” has been experiencing great popularity. The game is simple, to the point of being dull: Users charge up their “jumping power” and aim to make it to the next level, racking up points in the process. Nevertheless, according to data analysis firm QuestMobile, this game has accumulated 389 million users and occupies the No. 1 spot on the Top 100 most popular WeChat games. The reason may be down to the cash incentives.

On Saturday, 30 players competed at the Tiao Yi Tiao Master Cup in Guangzhou, with one player named Xu Wei winning the 100,000 RMB cash prize by racking up 14,237 points. Xu is also the current Have a Jump record holder, with 54,594 points. Netizens are wondering “whether [the game] lets you see anything new after so many steps.” Others speculate if Xu just has a lot of free time or extremely steady hands. None of us at TWOC are jumping at the chance to find out, though…


TWOC‘s editors are a bilingual, international team that is always on the lookout for original and human-centered stories to share with our readers. We are dedicated to accuracy, objectivity, and looking at each of China's stories through the eyes of its participants. Get in touch through our About Us page if you have a story to pitch!

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