Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Death, Ferraris and naked exotic girls: racism, politics and garbage data in China

The Western Press is following a mid-ranking story in Chinese politics with more than average fervour because it is so salacious.

Ling Jihua - an aide to Hu Jintao - it seems will have a hard time being elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee. Why? Because his son (Ling Gu) died in a high speed car crash in a Ferrari.

This post is about the propaganda part of the story as reported by the South China Morning Post:
The semi-naked passengers were ethnic Tibetan and Uighur students from Beijing’s Minzu University, one of whom was now paralysed.
Now a Ferarri Spider 458 is not exactly a big car. And playing with not one but two semi-naked students in such a confined space whilst driving at (say) 200 kilometres per hour stretches my imagination (but then I am a happily and conventionally married man so maybe my imagination does not go very far).

It seems significant that the other passengers were a Tibetan and an Uighur - their race matters.

Bill Bishop - a fairly astute China watcher - tweeted that he was sceptical of that detail - a detail released to cause maximum damage to Ling Gu's (and hence Ling Jihua's) reputation. Bill Bishop's scepticism is well-founded. If you are going to do a character assassination doing it in a race baiting manner works in China as it does in other countries.

That said, I asked the best connected China watcher I know whether he though the story as presented (two naked students of minority race in a small car) was plausible. This China watcher knew Ling Gu personally. And the response came back that that seemed just like the kid.

The death is real. But like everything else in China it all comes wrapped in a story where you have to question every detail.

And even when you question them its hard to decide what parts of the story are true.

That is how it is with most Chinese data. Spin beats truth enough of the time to make you question everything.





John

PS. I have been reliably assured that the Chinese gossip version of this story is that the women were high class hookers - and the deceased's dad is responsible for much Tibetan and Uighur policy.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...



I'm sorry for his loss. Must be devastating to lose a child, no matter how. Such an event can be so debilitating that it could be reason enough for his change in position.


Having said that, I'm glad the [supposedly] speeding car did not kill other people.

Kaiyuan Wang said...

am i missing something? the websites all say that the driver died, so if ling gu is it, then he's dead right?

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Thai heir to the Red Bull empire.. Just arrested for killing a policeman while driving a Ferrari this past week..

Looks like there was an attempt a at a coverup..

http://www.npr.org/2012/09/03/160515208/an-heir-to-red-bull-fortune-is-arrested-in-police-officers-death

John Hempton said...

I think death is a fact that is not able to be spun even in China.

But the identity of the girls? Well that is subject to much spin.

Anonymous said...

"mid level" politics?? Sure this is no BoXilai gets destroyed type of situation but this is a very real moving of chess pieces on the board. This guy isnt going to get his Standing Committee seat, undermining Hu at least somewhat.

After all, the big secret of Chinese politics is that the predecessor to the newly appointed President gets to put in at least 3-4 allies on the Standing Committee, which is why most actual reforms occur a year or two before the leadership does their generational shift.

Zeming was able to hamstring Hu, and even hold onto his Military Commission role, literally splitting the executive power, and Hu wants to do the same thing to the next guy.

Basically, had Bo Xilai not gotten himself Game of Throned out of power, this would have been THE story of Chinese internal politics for 2012.

Anonymous said...

John,
I kind of missed your point here - why the identity of girls matter?

I mean, in a story "one's son crashed an exorbitantly-priced car while trying to have fun with girls in it" is in my mind already reputation-damaging beyond nuances like girls race or whatnot. Isn't it?

Regards,
Dmitry.

Anonymous said...

John,

Your insight is 100% correct. Here is a link from an overseas Chinese website related to the accident:

http://news.creaders.net/photo/subject_details.php?nid=530504&id=506265

There is no transparency at all in China. Ordinary Chinese are not allowed to knows things within the corrupt Forbidden City.

EG

Anonymous said...

John,

I think we're witnessing the final death-throws of a dying regime in China.

This all sounds like the cry from the 1980's when we believed that Japan was going to take the top-spot from the US and we had many ostentatious displays of consumption. Today, substitute China for Japan, but the narrative is the same and the outcome will, at least, rhyme.

John.

Anonymous said...

Well, whatever caused the crash, it definitely wasn't the girls grabbing the wrong stick... The 458 only comes with paddle shifters.

Anonymous said...

if you trust your source so much, why not just ask him/her if ling gu is still around

Anonymous said...

Maybe its Ferrari that's the problem. Its happening in Singapore too.

At 4:09 a.m. on May 12, Chinese national Ma Chi sped through a Singapore stop light in his $1.4 million Ferrari 599 GTO and slammed into a taxi, killing himself and two others and sparking a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-25/ferrari-deaths-fuel-anti-foreigner-anger-before-singapore-poll.html

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