It’s been one hell of a year to say the least, particularly for those of us based in China. We’ve seen ‘The Tweeter in Chief’ launch (and then halt) a trade war between the world’s two leading economic powers, Fan Bingbing disappear and then reappear (with a major fine to pay) and another record-breaking Singles’ Day haul for Alibaba. To wrap up 2018, our editorial team has put together a list of the year’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major occurrences that defined the worlds of sports, tech, arts, fashion and food. Here’s to another year of eclectic, weird and wonderful life in China, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another year, more badly behaved laowai. We've counted down some of China’s naughtiest foreigners of 2018.
Image via @starburymarbury/Instagram
Stephon Marbury’s relatively quiet retirement from basketball took a bizarre turn this year when he published an image of a young boy sleeping in the nude on his Instagram account. In the controversial photo, the child’s lower half is obscured by a glowing Starbury-brand basketball. The strange social media post was allegedly a poorly thought out marketing ploy, with the image captioned “It begins #starbury #globeball #austin #yiyi #china.” Whatever the reason behind the image, it resulted in online accusations of pedophilia against Marbury, accusations the former NBA and CBA star denied.
Marbury eventually clarified online that the boy in the image is his ‘nephew’ (in reality: the son of Marbury’s Chinese translator) and that the photo was not taken by him, but by the young basketballer’s mother. Apparently, the boy was so enthralled with the basketball that he wouldn’t part with it at bed time. While we’re inclined to believe Marbury on this one, it doesn’t change the fact that this entire episode was – and remains – bizarre.
Image via @波兔儿师父名叫卡拉扬/Weibo
Brazilian Shandong Luneng footballer Diego Tardelli was fined for rubbing his face as the Chinese national anthem played before his team’s match against Shanghai SIPG earlier this year. Though some viewers felt that the gesture was harmless, the CFA felt otherwise and suspended the Brazilian footballer for his club’s next match against Changcun Yatai FC, as well as slapping him with a RMB40,000 fine. Ouch!
Screengrab via ESPN2/Youtube
Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios found himself in hot water yet again this past October, following a bizarre outburst at the Shanghai Rolex Masters... for the fourth year in a row. Kyrgios’ latest round of unsportsmanlike antics took place on the evening of October 8 at Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, where he suffered a stunning defeat to American opponent Bradley Kahn. During the match, Kyrgios exchanged verbal jabs with French umpire Damien Dumusois, who had called out his lackluster performance. Kyrgios threw a mini temper tantrum in response, telling Dumusois: “I don't care, bro. You have no right to tell me that it's poor.”
Image via Wikimedia
On October 19, a video showing three foreigners causing damage to a temple wall at Beijing’s Summer Palace went viral on Weibo. The men dislodged several tiles while perched on top of one of the palace’s old walls. The woman who recorded the video, surnamed Wang, tried to persuade the foreign tourists to come down from the wall but her pleas ultimately fell on deaf ears.
The incident touched a deep nerve with netizens, most notably because of the location in which it occurred, the Summer Palace, which was the site of military destruction during the Second Opium War in 1860. That year, Anglo-French expedition forces looted the Summer Palace and also completely destroyed the Old Summer Palace. Both sites were renowned for their beautiful art and architecture, much of which was destroyed or taken by soldiers.
Netizens flooded the comment section under one particular Weibo post to express their anger towards the foreign tourists. One user commented: “You burnt down our Old Summer Palace and now you’re stepping on the Summer Palace?”
Images via Reddit
Footage of a fight among foreigners in China was a hot topic online back in May, though not for the reasons you might think. That’s partly due to the setting – a McDonald's in Shenzhen – and also because all four participants were apparently intoxicated. Amused netizens took shots at the slapstick silliness of the bout, from which the combatants emerged mostly unscathed. Among the numerous highlights of the fight video, at one point a man in a white shirt attempts to separate the combatants by calmly repeating the phrase “I have chicken.” For some reason, this works and he eventually defuses the situation.
Screengrab via Youtube
Kanye West ranted about China earlier this year to United States President Donald Trump amid rising trade war tensions between the two countries. In a bizarre press appearance at the White House that went viral in October, the often controversial rapper spoke with Trump about everything from the US criminal justice system to North Korea. All while wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, of course.
Shortly after proposing replacing Air Force One with an Apple-designed ‘iPlane 1,’ Yeezy switched the topic to China:
“We have to bring jobs into America, because our best export is entertainment and ideas, but when we make everything in China and not in America, then we’re cheating on our country. And we’re putting people in positions to have to do illegal things to end up in the cheapest factory ever, the prison system.”
Clearly no one informed Kanye that his famous Yeezy sneakers from Adidas are, in fact, produced in China.
Image via @lilpump
In the wake of a very badly worded lyric by US rapper Lil Pump, famous for songs such as ‘Gucci Gang’ and ‘Eeskeetit’, Chinese rappers and musicians came out in force to fire back at the song in question, ‘Butterfly Doors.’ The controversial line states, “They call me Yao Ming, coz my eyes real low (ching chong),” while the Floridian pulled his eyes back in discriminatory fashion. Amongst those taking offence to the mumble-rap star’s offensive comments were CD Rev (again), China Mac and Higher Brothers, among many others. Pump later issued an apology via his Instagram.
Image via @brooklynbeckham/Instagram
Brooklyn Beckham, eldest son of football superstar David Beckham and Spice Girl Victoria ‘Posh’ Beckham, landed himself in trouble with Chinese netizens in October after posting two photos on Instagram that were deemed racist. The 19-year-old captured the images while vacationing in Venice, according to Daily Mail. The first of the controversial images showed an Asian woman walking down a supermarket aisle, while the second featured a group of Asian people (ostensibly also tourists) on a canal boat. Both photos were posted with the caption “no place like Italy innit,” the last word being popular British slang for ‘do you agree?’
Netizens were quick to pounce on Beckham’s post as an example of racism against Asian people, with one social media user telling him to “never come to China to fish for money again,” presumably a reference to his 2016 Huawei ad.
Image via 高岩Master Gao/Weibo
Two expats in Shenzhen found themselves in trouble with police after making insensitive comments in a WeChat group on September 27. The foreign men (one of whom was using the WeChat name ‘N*gger Jim’) made multiple derogatory remarks within the chat group of 88 people organized by a small restaurant in Nanshan District. The conversation started when one of the expats used the offensive term ‘chink’ when referencing a story about Chinese rapper Pissy’s diss track against Sweden. One of the group’s members, a Chinese man using the alias ‘Master Gao,’ responded by commenting “Wow, since when this group turn racial? Calling chinks will get you arrested in the US.”
From there, things spiraled out of control, with the racist expats making mocking references to the Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese forces committed a number of horrifying atrocities against Chinese citizens during World War II.
Photos of the online conversation quickly went viral on Weibo and WeChat, with many rightfully outraged at the behavior of the two men. Some called into question how the duo could teach young children in China (although it is unclear whether the two men were teachers), while others called for their hasty deportation.
Screengrab via 网易娱乐
A promotional video released by Dolce & Gabbana three days before their November 21 Shanghai show turned into a PR nightmare for the Italian fashion house. In a three-part video series titled ‘Eat with Your Chopsticks,’ a Chinese woman in a red sequin dress and jewelry is seen struggling to eat pizza, pasta and cannoli with the traditional eating utensils, but eventually figures out her own way to enjoy these classic Italian dishes with them. Many viewers saw the ads as an offensive portrayal of the Chinese people, and the videos were promptly deleted from the brand’s Chinese social media accounts after some serious backlash and calls for a boycott.
The drama didn’t end there, however. Days after the original ad was released, IG user @michaelatranova posted screenshots of an alleged argument with D&G cofounder Stefano Gabbana via direct message, where the 56-year-old designer was seen calling China “the country of (turd emoji)” and its people “ignorant dirty smelling mafia,” while also saying that the videos were only removed because their Chinese office decided to do so.
Stefano Gabbana and the Dolce & Gabbana brand lost major face in China as a result of the scandal (the brand also experienced a boycott and the cancelation of its Shanghai show) and, on November 23, D&G founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana went on camera and apologized. But was it too little, too late? We’ll find out in 2019!
For more 2018 Year in Review coverage, click here.
[Cover image via 网易娱乐]