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BBC Documentary Saying Chinese Accept Their “Lack of Freedom” Incites Lively Online Debate

"If your ideals are not mainstream, then you're wrong"

wang sicong

The BBC documentary Secrets of China is making waves in the UK for showing what it’s really like to live in China these days, but it’s also become controversial inside China after translations of the show circulated online.

One of the flashpoint surrounds an interview with 27 year-old Western-educated Wang Sicong, the owner of a large online gaming company in China. Wang was unusually frank in his replies to the BBC over the state of Chinese society. Wang admits that video games made by his company serve as a temporary escape from society, but that Chinese are stuck within this construct because “there is really no way of succeeding outside the system.” When asked about how Chinese adults become individuals, Wang answered:

The state chooses what’s mainstream, and you have to conform to that. If your ideals are not mainstream, then you’re wrong. But of course, everyone has their own ideas, so what they do is they put on a mask and they go forward in life with the mask. Why is online gaming becoming so popular in China? Because once you go online you can take off that mask and say whatever you really think instead of what is mainstream.

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Then he was asked if the lack of freedom in China makes people unhappy:

I think at some point you just accept it. That’s why you don’t see many people protesting in China, I suppose… because they realize… some point in time, some point in (their social) class, that even by protesting they can’t change much. They could arrest you for that, so it’s… I mean, in China, where the line is really quite questionable. We don’t really know where the line is. The laws are not very explicit.

Chinese netizens got a taste of Wang’s brutal honesty through translated videos and screengrabs of the interview. But while Wang was discussing the core of what it means to be living in China today, it’s his status as the son of one of China’s most powerful men that has drawn the most attention.

Wang is the son of China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, the head of China’s largest property developer, the Dalian Wanda Group. Many netizens focused on his position as a fuerdai (富二代), meaning a “second-generation rich child” and a term that has a negative connotations in China, rather than the controversial remarks he made in the interview.

Here’s some of what netizens had to say:

European and US reporters are always criticizing from their high horse, talking about universal values.

He spoke truthfully without an extreme tone, and wasn’t lead on by the BBC reporter. And yet, people still think that he is this successful just because of his father’s money?

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Don’t just say he is just a basic fuerdai. This guy is an exceptional fuerdai, he has his own company with its own high salary. Some people are saying that he would be nothing without his father. Please! Without his dad, this guy would be the father to a fuerdai of his own. Terrifying…

Having money is not as good as having rights.

This reporter is not professional. Her questions are so subjective and biased. You can see she has already made her mind up about China, and that she is looking for answers that she wants to hear. And the questions she asks are so long, how can the interviewee remember what she asked in the first place? 

I really feel that Wang Sicong is a talented and capable fuerdai.

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All those people saying that Wang Sicong is only successful because of his father being rich is just a case of sour grapes. I’ll give you RMB 500 million, and lets see if you can pass the national examination. Would you set up your own online gaming platform? Would you invest your money? He did, and what’s more he was a poor student that attended Oxford on a scholarship. Have you done it? If the father and mother aren’t able to do it, you won’t be able to do it either. All those people who have come here to voice their grievance at Wang Sicong, what are you going to do, beat the computer screen in front of you?

I just wanted to say that the foreign reporter (spelled with the characters for “prostitute”) is a stupid cunt! It’s does not make a lick of difference to foreigners if we have freedom, or how we are doing! Always coming to China to interview Chinese, can you handle it?

My cultivation is not high enough, apparently. I don’t think his answers are all that illuminating.

Even though it’s clear that (Wang) is a thoughtful man, I still have the feeling that his words are the result of a trap set by the BBC.

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Quit kneeling and kissing ass. Why is it I get the feeling that this malicious reporter has set a trap for Wang Sicong, and that he’s fallen into it face first?

This is why among entertainment circles, you can only trust Sicong. His stature and position are fixed, and so there’s no need for him to lie whatsoever.

After watching, I have no idea what he’s talking about… 

Actually, Wang’s thinking is quite clever. 

This reminds me of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

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How ironic. However, what (Wang) said is a fact. If you don’t want to comply, there’s no way for you to not comply.

Just listen to (how good) his English is. 

He is, in fact, saying the truth.

I think that for some of these commenters, the only proper reply Wang Sicong could have answered with is: ‘Screw you! China is great! Ask me again, and I will beat you! Also, Chinese video games are the best, as are their physiques! Long live China!’ Only an answer like that would constitute a proper response.

There was a scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption in which the librarian of the prison discovered that he wasn’t able to leave the system of the prison when he was to be set free… and so he killed himself by hanging.

You can choose freedom, but the government is able to define what “freedom” means.

This guy has enjoyed the prosperity of the system. And going by his words, I’d reckon that the Wang family is going to go the way of the Qing Dynasty and have their lineage terminated just two generations in. Hey, Wang Junior: I hope you had a blast when you were young so that you’ll have something to remember when you’re old and have no money.

This is something that all rational and mature adults know. However, there aren’t many willing to say it in a public forum.

I have to applaud a fuerdai product made by the system that is speaking the truth to a foreign audience.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor