When Cinderella Strikes Gold

Some years ago, a 20-year-old lady on a dating show in China said 我宁愿坐在宝马车上哭,也不愿意坐在自行车上笑. In other words, she would rather be rich and unhappy than to be poor and happy. Wealth has become the sole indicator of a person’s worth in Chinese society. People are not ashamed to admit their shallowness.

In 2019, a convoy of luxury cars driven by Chinese protesters clogged the streets of Vancouver not long after Huawei’s princess Meng Wan Zhou was detained by the authorities. These protesters didn’t see it as a straightforward case of an executive of a company accused of breaking the law. They saw it as Westerners against ethnic Chinese. The legal system of any country governed by the rule of law will break down if all this is acquiesced to. That would be another story. People in China tend to look up to the wealthy and greet poverty with derision and mockery.

Nevertheless, a couple of years ago, there was a very popular social media star by the name of Li Zi Qi. She gained millions of fans by presenting rural life in a highly sanitised, aesthetic and romantic way. Many fans were attracted to this alternative lifestyle, unaware that it’s all unreal.

Li Zi Qi’s career came to a halt with a dispute between her and the production company supporting her. Gullible fans suddenly realised that the brilliant high resolution, superbly edited videos were all staged and scripted. The place where she did her cooking and harvesting was her stage and not her home. There’s a professional film production team behind her and there’s nothing artisanal about any of the products she sold.

When netizens realised that they had been fooled by Li Zi Qi, videos that did the exact opposite, showing the raw dirt, sweat and toil of the countryside quickly became popular.

卖惨 literally means sell misfortune. Well, misfortune sells if you know how to present yourself. I’ve said earlier how Chinese people despise those who are poor. Ironically, showing off one’s misfortune on social media is an effective way to gain attention and make money. Liang Shan is a remote location in Sichuan Province with sheer cliffs and rugged terrain. Most of the people living here are from the Yi ethnic minority group.

One of the most successful players in the field of 卖惨, is a 19-year-old girl who lives in Liang Shan and who is also from the Yi tribe. In her livestreams. She introduced her family of 5 orphans. She told her fans that her parents passed away when they were young. As the eldest child, she is responsible for her younger siblings. At the age of 14, she quit school and left the village to work in the city. There, she discovered live streaming as a way to make money. Thus, she opened an account with the profile name Liang Shan Meng Yang.

She returned to Liang Shan and used douyin videos to show her followers what life is like in her hometown. She would present herself as a gaunt and haggard girl with a mud-stained face, dressed in tattered clothes and with a carrying basket on her back loaded with hay, wood or potatoes. Sometimes she would show herself ploughing the fields with obsolete or even primitive equipment from a previous dynasty. Her videos also show her feeding pigs and preparing meals in the wilderness or standing in a field of snow. All in all, it’s a picture of a simple, innocent girl living a tough life that few people on social media had ever encountered.

In spite of the difficulties, Meng Yang appeared as if she didn’t know what the outside world looked like. Within days of the launch of her douyin account, she had over a million fans. When you have a number like that, there are bound to be suckers amongst them. Meng Yang then started selling products on her live streams. Instead of mockery, Meng Yang earned sympathy. Her fans sent gifts and bought goods from her. As it turned out, many of the goods she sold were not even from her area and were overpriced to boot. Meanwhile, her fans grew to over 3 million and she became flooded with orders.

Perhaps Meng Yang believed that her fans would always remain online. Who would bother to pay her a visit? Well, some of them did and they found to their surprise that Meng Yang is not as poor as she made herself out to be. For starters, she had lied about being an orphan. Her parents are still very much alive. Their family is actually one of the wealthier ones in that village. Just like Li Zi Qi, the crumbling hut which appeared to be her home in the videos was really her stage. Her family actually resides in a nearby house that is fairly well-furnished.

Yes, there are poor people in China who live a life similar to that of Meng Yang’s online persona, but they don’t draw much attention in their unattractive, unembellished state. It’s only people who have a talent to put up a good show who attract all the attention and sympathy. After her cover was blown, social media went wild with two factions, one which supported her and one which vilified her. Meng Yang tearfully denied that she had been untruthfully but the authorities stepped in and had Meng Yang arrested.

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Prior to being busted, she was earning at least 6 figures from every live stream. That’s many times more than what her sympathisers earned. Investigations revealed that apart from Liang Shan Meng Yang, she had another social media account in which she flaunted her wealth just like the other influencers.


As for the online persona of Liang Shan Meng Yang, the whole thing was scripted and produced by a video production team not very different from that which directed Li Zi Qi, except that their videos must be rough and rustic. Just like in Li Zi Qi’s case, distributors signed contracts with Meng Yang to promote agricultural products at inflated prices. The products are not from her village and have been made to look artisanal. No doubt, Meng Yang started off quite legitimate, but as her wealth grew, the former Cinderella had to put in greater and greater effort to maintain that piteous image.

Eagle-eyed netzens near her hometown had spotted her eating at restaurants. According to her close friends, she has a tattoo on her right shoulder. She was also rumoured to have many boyfriends.

So what’s wrong with all this? Don’t businesses employ actors to play a certain role to entice customers to buy their products? Why is Li Zi Qi’s modus operandi not considered criminal. Well, that’s because Li Zi Qi presented the kind of positive energy promoted by the government. The trouble with Meng Yang’s videos is that they actually threatened to debunk the myth of poverty alleviation which the Chinese government is so proud of. With the latest crackdown, the popularity of 卖惨 videos should fade away. What would they think of next?

Mighty Pocket

Member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Mr Zhang Tai Chao recently got married for the 5th time to a young and beautiful bride. He showed off their opulent bridal chamber with smart toilet, wardrobe full of designer clothing and most impressive of all, walls of premium Maotai which must be worth millions.

Screening For Marriage Chinese Style

Many of us will be shocked by this happening in modern China, but in a society where males exceed females by some 300 million, it’s not easy to satisfy the eligible women’s criteria. The encounters are probably staged in this video. Couples would have stated their criteria and chatted quite a bit online before actually meeting up.

My mother is a firm believer in 相亲. She believes that compatibility is everything and “children” don’t know what’s good for them. Similar to arranged marriages, prerequisites set by both parties decide whether the blind date is going anywhere. This video mocks the unrealistic expectations of Chinese women who are well aware that there are not enough of them to go around.

Below is a video shot by a matchmaker. Some women actually see marriage as as a means to raise their social and financial status. If they have no money, they want a rich man. If they are not well educated, they want someone well educated. How convenient.

5 Magical Cows

Gold Plated Cow

During the period of the warring states in China, the ruler of Qin was almost at his wit’s end after repeated failures to come up with a workable plan to conquer the state of Shu (Sichuan) which was surrounded by mountains in almost every direction.

An advisor by the name of Zhang Yi came to his rescue. Zhang visited the ruler of Shu and presented him with a few gold nuggets, claiming that they were the stools purged by 5 magical cows. Zhang offered to present one of the cows to Shu as a token of friendship between their states.

The ruler of Shu got excited, but Zhang Yi informed him that the cow was as brittle as stone and a smooth road had to be built to ensure its safe transportation. The ruler of Shu immediately ordered the construction of the road.

Once the road was ready for the cow, Qin soldiers marched in and destroyed Shu, bringing it another step closer to unifying China.

The legendary 金牛道 is a tourist attraction today.

Beyond Read To Eat Meals

For the longest time, public schools in China have been providing lunch for students. Recently, school kitchens have been closed down. Food is now catered by commercially-run central kitchens. Since then, several incidents have occurred; including one in which a rat’s head was found in the catered food.

Not long after the video went viral on social media, experts jumped out to refute the claim and insisted that the alleged rat’s head was actually duck’s neck. Through coercion and enticement, the victim was also forced to admit that it was actually a duck’s neck.

From duck’s neck, school lunches have moved to the next level. What the students are having for lunch are now ready to eat meals like those sold at convenience stores and issued to soldiers in the field. Parents have complained. A few schools have relented when parents staged street protests, but for how long can parents keep the pressure on these well-connected businesses?

It’s difficult to trace all the stakeholders in the school catering business. Most of the publicly known ones care probably “white gloves” 白手套. It should also be noted that the meals served at “elite schools” that CCP cadres send their kids to, are culinary delights rafted by chefs.

In the following video, Chen Qiu Shi points out that the real problem does not lie in the ready to eat meals but in the acceptance and acquiescence of such inequality and all kinds of misinformation in a supposedly socialist state.

The folks who sell the meals to schools and the schools that indoctrinate the students all aim to let children of “plebeians” remain “plebeians”.

Justice Be Damned

You can read more about Nie Shu Bin’s 聂树斌 case here. Not mentioned is the hero who played a major role in Nie’s exoneration Zheng Cheng Yue 郑承玥. As recent as 12 years ago, I could still watch such investigative documentaries in China. That’s how Zheng could get interviews with the media. No TV station would dare to interview whistleblowers anymore. Even a police chief like Zheng Cheng Yue could get tortured and his family punished by familial association 连坐, a practice that goes back thousands of years.

Every time I see news like this, I can’t help feeling a deep sense of sorrow and indignation. Do courts in developed countries make mistakes? Of course they do, but when questioned or audited, glaring mistakes and cases of miscarried justice are exposed and amid public outrage, the perpetrators punished. Do we see that happening in China?

So why was Nie Shu Bin so hastily convicted and executed? Insider’s rumour had it that his blood type matched that of a certain leader waiting for a kidney donor. Meanwhile, people in China just servile and try to stay out of trouble, hoping and praying that they won’t end up like Nie Shu Bin.

Du Fu

The greatest Chinese poet Du Fu failed the imperial examinations. Was it because he was not good at writing essays? Or was the reason political? Did Du Fu lack the acumen to be a bureaucrat?

Sleeping For The Country

Prostitution can get both the customer and the prostitute imprisoned for up to 15 days. It has been used as an excuse for arbitrary arrests and detention of dissidents. I have noticed the same sort of spam on Twitter. Every time some dissident tweets something unflattering about the CCP, it gets spammed by “replies” advertising sex services or pornography to draw people away from the political issue. I have no idea whether those are “legitimate” sex services. They probably aren’t. Doesn’t matter. The credibility of the tweet is compromised.


Luckin Coffee is a Chinese coffeehouse chain selling not only coffee but other beverages like tea, juices as well as food. It appeared aggressively like another Alibaba, expanding at a rate of 6 outlets a day, threatening to dethrone Starbucks. Luckin Coffee went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange in May 2019, attracting huge investor interest.

Using the strategy of predatory pricing (perfectly legal in China), their sales outlets and sales figures quickly exceeded Starbucks’. Investors were ecstatic. However, in 2020, it was found that the company’s executives had inflated 2019 sales numbers by more than $300 million, causing a delisting of its stock in June 2020.

Did Luckin go bust? Well, no. Luckin’s story begins with Director 陆正耀 who ran 神州租车. Facing bankruptcy, Lu received a life-saving infusion of funds from Li Hui from Hua Ping Finance. His car rental company continued running on empty. Soon after that, Lu backed his crony Qian Zhi Ya in setting up Luckin Coffee. His aim was to let Qian build up the company, then feed his loss-making car rental business with hidden franchise fees. Franchise revenue earned by Luckin kept 神州租车 in business.

While many patriots cheered for Luckin Coffee, hoping that they would put Starbucks out of business, Lu and Qian never had the intention of running a legitimate bistro. After being exposed by Muddy Waters, Lu and Qian made COO 刘剑 the scapegoat. To get out of the limelight, Lu and Qian resigned, appointing another crony 郭谨一 as CEO. Guo is still the CEO today. Its shares are still trading.

It should be known that Lu, Qian and other shareholders at Luckin Coffee had upon IPO, made a stock pledge and “borrowed” from US financial institutions. A stock pledge is used when a party wants to use shares he owns as a collateral for a loan. Of course, Luckin’s shares were worth a lot when the money was borrowed but became practically worthless when the fraudulent practices came to light.

After Guo took over, Luckin Coffee miraculously survived. They have even come up with a new product – Mao Tai coffee, China’s answer to Irish coffee. Initial sales figures were very impressive.