The Null Device
In China, what could be the world's largest lynch mob is gathering and hunting for one "Chinabounder", a particularly gormless expatriate Briton who kept an anonymous blog recounting his sexual conquests in China. That is how it started, anyway; with him apparently coming to China to teach English, taking advantage of the huge dating pool available to exotic foreigners and then, perhaps seeing himself as a combination Neil Strauss and Belle Du Jour, writing up his conquests, in detail, in a blog, often posting entire chat transcripts. Then, he decided to start posting political screeds ridiculing Chinese culture, politics and masculinity, and soon, the hunt began:
Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog has surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners. The author, who calls himself Chinabounder, introduces himself as a wastrel, "lacking in moral fibre, but coping with the situation". According to the posts, he is an English language teacher at a university.
The campaign against the blog was launched on Friday by Zhang Jiehai, professor of psychology in the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences under a post titled The Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner. "I have something to tell Chinese men: please think about how these foreign trash have dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence," he wrote. "This piece of garbage must be found and kicked out of China!!!"
"Trial by virtual lynching has become the norm in China's cyberspace," Raymond Zhou wrote in a comment article in China Daily after previous mass campaigns. He added: "Online 'flaming' wars exist everywhere, facilitated by anonymity. But in China they may have a self-propelling force that sweeps thousands, sometimes millions, into a frenzy. It is nearly impossible, even for the most respected scholars, to give voice to dissension."The ever-entertaining Maciej Ceglowski (now also resident in Beijing), has written about the story:
He was not the first Western guy to treat China as his own personal sexual buffet. To put it in the D&D terms that many of the guys who benefit most from the effect will readily understand, living in China gives you +4 attractiveness. The love handles (metaphorically) shrink, the hairline advances, teeth straighten, previously soupy eyes blaze with a new rakish light. You are in a country where people actually *choose* to have brown hair. You find that things that are off-putting back home have magically transformed into positive attributes in your new environment. You're a computer programmer? You're quiet and like to read? You live with your parents? You never drink? You are sexually inexperienced? HEARTTHROB!
A Blogspot site called whoischinabounder was launched, with the goal of unmasking chinabounder's true identity based on details culled from his blog posts. This site was so successful that by the first day they had already found three of him, with signs that more were to come. English teachers in Shanghai had reason to be nervous.
Net culture in China works a bit the way television media works in the States. People fix on one or two big stories of the day, and these get a national audience. There is also a tradition of online vigilantism in cases where someone has done something particularly vile - had an extramarital affair within the World of Warcraft online game, for example - and people will readily mobilize to defend good morals and the national honor. Chinabounder's case, which hits the trifecta of national pride, sex and Japan hatred, will be interesting to follow.