Every now and then, the Chinese government would declare war on the spread of porn on the Internet. They never succeeded, but they fight on nevertheless. Last Sunday, China launched yet another online raid, and this time it has a fancier name “Cleaning the Web 2014.”
The campaign is aimed to “create a healthy cyberspace” by doing “thorough checks on websites, search engines and mobile application stores, Internet TV USB sticks, and set-top boxes” for pornography. But one particular form of sexually explicit content seems to have received special attention from authorities – slash fiction.
Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on the interpersonal attraction and sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex. In China, slash, or dan mei (耽美) in Chinese, goes beyond fan fiction, and is used exclusively to refer to male-male slash. Believe it or not, slash is more popular than one would expect in China, and sex scenes are a big part of Chinese slash stories.
In light of the new online porn-cleaning campaign, many Chinese book-sharing or book-hosting websites took off their slash collections, including jjwxc.net, the biggest and most popular self-publishing website in China. Websites dedicated to slash content, such as dmxsw.com, were shut down entirely. Twenty or so writers of slash fictions were reportedly taken away by police, all of whom were female.
Yes, female. The majority of readers, as well as writers, of slash in China are straight young girls who identify themselves as “rotten women (腐女).” A popular saying among netizens goes “The one who can win over rotten women will rule the world of online publishing” – that’s how big and important the group is.
Why young and straight girls in China love erotic stories between men is a question worth its own extensive study, but what we are sure about now is that the latest crackdown on slash has led to an outcry among China’s passionate rotten women. “Why pick at slash while there are far more sexually-explicit romance fictions about heterosexual relationships? Why target at slash while gaming companies are showing semi-porn pop-up ads? Why close slash websites while AV sites are everywhere?” Many of them angrily asked.
In their eyes, slash is but a victim of the country’s system-wise discrimination against homosexuality. As one female netizen 咖啡呆丶LM commented: “This is not cleaning the cyberspace. This is pure discrimination. I may never see a rainbow flag fly above China in my life time.”
Absurd as it may sound, the gap between mainland China and Taiwan as manifested in recent online chatters about tea eggs is probably wider than the Taiwan Strait.
These slightly-tanned and savory eggs take center stage of how Chinese netizens react to the on-going anti-China protests in Taiwan against a controversial trade pact that looks to open up dozens of service sector industries from both sides to each other.
No one ever imaged that this humble snack pickled in tea leaves, spices and soy sauce would one day become China’s latest Internet meme, ranking among the top 10 most-searched keywords on China’s leading social media Weibo.
The origin can be traced back to a Taiwan TV show clip that went viral at the end of last year. In the clip, in response to the observation by a Taiwan snack shop owner that she seldom saw people eating or selling tea eggs during her visit to the mainland, a “retail expert” and “professor” Gao Zhibin, from Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor, explained that it was because tea eggs are too much of a luxury for mainland Chinese.
“Speaking of tea eggs, an ordinary mainland Chinese simply cannot afford them. China has very low per capita income. What we see here in Taiwan are mainland tourists. But China has 1.4 billion people; those tourists are the wealthy few. China has a lot of poor people, even in big cities.”
To put the conversation into context: 1) Chinese does have a lot of poor people. A GDP per capita of $9100 in 2012 puts China at the 120th globally; 2) a tea egg sells at about 25 cents or less in China (US cents).
Some other things that mainland Chinese cannot afford, according to the show, are frozen dumplings, instant noodles, washing machines and fridges.
If this is how an average Taiwanese pictures their mainland counterparts, no wonder that one of their biggest concerns of the controversial trade pact is a pouring influx of mainlanders. After all, according to another expert in the Taiwan show, “the life dream” of many mainland Chinese is to “save enough to go to Taiwan for once.”
On the other side of the strait, mainland Chinese netziens are letting all mockery out. Tea eggs are apparently the new “symbol of wealth” now: “Two kidneys for one tea egg”.
“I’ve been saving for the better half of my whole life before I can finally afford some tea eggs,” one netizen Fashion-Planet joked. Another netizen 请叫我东亚小醋王 : “OMG, I just ate two tea eggs today. I need to see whether I’m on Forbes Billionaires list.”
The meme is a direction reaction to the anti-China protests in Taiwan. The Taiwan public fear that the trade pact will lead to increased mainland influence over the island’s economy, which, in turn, will lead to tighter control from Beijing.
Many mainland Chinese, however, believe that Taiwan’s protests stem from a fear of competition with mainland businesses, and more importantly, a lost sense of superiority – the once poor mainlanders who cannot even afford a tea egg are now the nouveau riche.
While making fun of tea eggs, one netizen 武功山小裁缝 pointed to this subtle “superiority complex: “The pro-democracy movements in Taiwan are all about tea eggs. They thought that no one from mainland can afford to eat tea eggs. Therefore, many of them have been stocking up tea eggs all their lives. Now all of a sudden, their stocks of tea eggs are worth nothing because they finally realize that tea eggs are cheap in China, and that mainland China is just as opened-up as Taiwan. Their life savings go to waste. What now? Occupy the legislature and oppose the trade pact!”
In an attempt to directly speak to protesters in Taiwan, mainland Chinese netizens are mobilized to use tea eggs as a symbol of their stance.
"Without the trade pact, [Taiwan people] still have tea eggs, and frozen dumplings and instant noodles."
"No matter how poor the motherland is, we will keep feeding you tea eggs."