By: Li Chengpeng

Editor’s Note: Li Chengpeng (李承鹏) is a prominent writer and social critic in China. He has frequently been banned and censored by the CCP for his outspokenness. In recent years, his articles describing the widespread pessimism among the Chinese people have been shared by tens of millions of Internet users, earning him the reputation of someone who consistently identifies the grievances of contemporary society. This piece has been slightly edited for clarity.

The opening chapter of “The Smiling, Proud Wanderer” [a martial-arts novel first punished in Hong Kong in 1969] is a classic scene that embodies the character of the rich of today’s China.

One day, the son of Yu Canghai, the leader of the Qingcheng faction, led his men to Fuzhou and entered a restaurant in the woods. He ordered just a plate of shredded potatoes and saw that the waitress was attractive, so he reached out and touched the woman’s chin. Mr. Yu’s business logic and mental process were very clear: “I’ll give you the money, I’ll touch you, and let you smile at me. No problem, OK?” But she resisted, and the son was attacked and killed by Lin Pingzhi, who had some martial-arts skills.

Yu Canghai’s son never understood until his death that the restaurant was just a restaurant. What he had paid was for a meal, not to spend the night with a woman in it.

There is recent news that is quite similar to “The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.” A few days ago, Hong Kong placed an order for the Miami soccer team Inter Miami to play a match. They paid for the potato shreds, but wanted Lionel Messi to come out and let the leaders touch his pretty hands. Messi quickly put his hands in his pockets and walked away. There was a lot of petty dispute online in reaction, and people discovered that there was something fishy about the contract, which didn’t prohibit such a choice by Messi…

Seeing that they were about to be the victim of a counterattack, the organizers had to divert their attention to “the feelings of the Chinese people.” In an era where idiots all over the country use their smartphones to express their logic-deprived opinions, even as their knowledge extends only to the edge of their little mental villages, this trick is like mobilizing the old bachelors in the village to tease newlyweds on their wedding night, when the couple can finally be legally harassed, or like people who made a down payment on an Evergrande building, bought a financial product from Henan Bank, traded in A-shares on the collapsed stock market, or were blocked on the snow- and ice-covered highway in Hubei for six days and seven nights, each of these people being given an inflatable doll to vent their anger on.

“Messi owes Hong Kong an apology!” “Messi has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people!” Presumably Yu Canghai would have been insulted after hearing such logic. His son bought a portion of fried potato shreds, touched the waitress, and was attacked in retaliation. The event made them lose face, but even if the Qingcheng faction retaliates, it would still be shameful to come out and say that you have hurt the feelings of the people of Sichuan, Laozi, and you owe an apology to the Nine Peaks and Eighty-one Views of Mount Qingcheng. If you are part of the underworld, you subscribe to the underworld’s rules. What about the feelings of family and country? Do you think you are Chen Jinnan [a fictional martial-arts hero who fought for justice]? No, we are actually all Feng Xifan [a Qing-era aristocrat who helped engineer a coup against a righteous government, leading to defeat his faction, although ultimately a sinecure for him].

This matter is too inconsequential to be discussed further. But what is really needed is some psychology. I suggest Ms. Li Meijin [a Chinese psychologist who has written about the psychology of criminals] present for us a phenomenon called “hate transfer,” the idea that when you can’t actually resist the person who damaged you, you will harm the person who originally harmed you needs you to hurt. Don’t think this paragraph is convoluted, the thinking of ​​these people is as tangled as Xizhimen Panqiao [a “spaghetti bowl”-like freeway interchange in China]. As smart netizens increasingly came to understand the actual details of the contract, pitiful nationalists had no shelter to retreat to, and played their last card. As they rolled on the ground, their noses pouring with blood, they said that “even if Messi doesn’t play in the game and doesn’t let the leaders touch his hands, can’t he at least wave and smile to the fans in the stands? That he failed to offer even a single smile has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

And so after all this clamor, in the end all we are left with is “give us a smile.”

I understand the disappointment of those fans who spent money and didn’t get to see the heroic football king, but this has to be settled with the organizer, and it has nothing to do with Messi’s potato shreds. It is basic common sense: no matter whether the team is Brazil or Germany, no matter the player Ronaldo or Beckenbauer, if they don’t sign a contract saying they must, they don’t even have to enter the stadium. If Messi even does just that, think of it as a free gift to you, paid for by charging your phone bill.

There was a man who came to me during the Chinese New Year, and spent half the night chatting, saying that he had discovered some “invisible contract,” and said that in addition to his commercial contract, Messi is a celebrity and therefore has responsibilities to the public, so that even if he has not signed a contract to do so, as a celebrity he must meet and smile with so-and-sos. These people have no sense of boundaries. Players are paid for their skills, not for their smiles with you. If you advance like this step by step, the next step will be to force Messi go to bed with you.

It seems that these big crybabies regard a professional football team as some kind of cultural troupe. Come on, give Mr. Chen a smile. Come on, let Minister Zhao touch your little hand. It can be seen that the ultimate goal of some Chinese men is to go from working hard to becoming a leader and then meeting celebrities. The so-called patriotic enthusiasm, national sentiment, and defense of dignity have nothing to do with modern civilization. In the end, it always ends up being “come on, young lady, give me a smile.”

A professional athlete should be free. This is an idea set forth in the football constitution promulgated by the British in 1848, known to history as the “Cambridge Rules.” One day, Cruyff [a star Dutch footballer from the 1970s], with his Beatles haircut, suddenly got fed up and quit the national team. Later, the Queen of the Netherlands carefully wrote a letter asking for his return. Cruyff took one look at it and threw it into the wastebasket, saying, “”Who are you, ma’am, who gets to decide whether I play in the World Cup or not?” Camus, yes, the Nobel Prize-winning Camus who gave us so much great literature, was also an excellent football player. He led the Algerian Athletic Team to two football league championships. After recovering from tuberculosis, he didn’t want to play football or be a coach. He just wanted to write. Yet I do not know of any fans in response crying and shouting, “You’ve hurt the feelings of the Algerian people!”

Free athletes can create so many miracles. Haven’t we so frequently read “Slaves can’t build pyramids”? If you want to see a team populated by slaves, turn left when you go out, and you will see a sign on a Chinese public toilet with two words written on it in shiny golden piss, “National Football Team”…it’s that one.

At first, I thought that China’s failure to progress in football was due to poor physical fitness, but later I thought that it was due to the country’s bad system, and then later still I thought out that it was due to the inherent shortcomings of its broad and profound culture, and perhaps all three.

Acting as the perfect combination of subject-changer and wannabe bully, the Chinese Football Association ended its cooperation with the Argentina team, Hangzhou canceled Argentina’s match in China in March, and the Jitu Express express-delivery company was investigated for supporting Messi. CCTV World Football deleted Messi’s classic goal from its opening video. Will all Messi’s goals be deleted next? Recalling the time when a German football star was banned for insulting China, the Chinese company gave the player’s endorsement contract to Philipp Lahm. Little did the idiots know that Lahm had made even more shocking remarks about an incident that cannot be spoken of in our country. Taking this approach, in the future there will not be many goals that can be broadcast on CCTV World Football, except for those of the national football team.

“Stop, don’t move, I am the dignity of the Chinese people!”

Those who are not free will never understand the heart of those who are. Playing Cuju [an ancient Chinese game also played primarily with the feet, said to have started as military training before changing into a game emphasizing flashy dexterity] will never let one understand modern football.

Let us say a bit about Kenneth Fok [a nationalist Hong Kong legislator and son of a tycoon, who criticized Messi, the team and the Hong Kong firm that sponsored the match]. In fact, it would be great if Young Master Fok were like Wang Sicong [the young, handsome son of a currently successful Chinese businessman], who has a way with women. As long as he doesn’t forcefully touch the women’s chin, touching it is what a rich Chinese gentleman will do. But ever since becoming intoxicated by the medicine he has gorged upon of being hailed as someone standing up for the dignity of the nation, Fok has hallucinated that he has become Huo Yuanjia [a Chinese martial-arts master of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who fought for good]. The medicine was so strong that it caused him, after going back to his hometown in the UK with his whole family to celebrate the New Year, to insult Messi for insulting China, and to call on the Chinese people to have dignity and adhere to their “national duty.”

I was so agitated…I even momentarily felt sorry for Guo Jingjing [Chinese, most-decorated Olympic diver in history, and Fok’s wife]. You can suppress the waves in all the swimming pools in the world, but you can’t suppress your husband’s brain.

It’s not necessary that Fok know all the details of this commercial contract. It’s just that in any sophisticated country, there are rules of behavior known to all. Eight years ago, I angrily scolded a film and television investor: whenever I talk business with you, you talk Jianghu about the world, I talk with you about Jianghu, you talk to me about politics. But when I talk to you about politics, you say, “Don’t talk about that! I treated you to dinner…”

They are all Yu Canghai’s sons, thinking they are Linghu Chong [a hero of modern Chinese martial-arts fiction], causing trouble through their arrogance.

One year, the Great Wall Hotel held its annual meeting. When the host saw Hou Baolin [a legendary performer in a traditional Chinese comic-art form] sitting below him, he immediately shouted, “I would like to invite Master Hou Baolin to do a bit for us.” The old man was confused, saying “When I was invited, no one told me that they wanted me to do a show.” The host refused to give up and said, “Come on, come on,” and started making noises, causing Mr. Hou to leave with a dark expression on his face. The host was left to stand and condemn “Hou Baolin’s disregard for the feelings of the broad masses of the people, his identity as a master, and his disrespect for traditional Chinese folk arts…”

When Wei Xiaobao [a character in “The Deer and the Cauldron, a comic novel set in the early Qing] was posted to Yangzhou as an imperial envoy, the local government specially arranged for a famous Yangzhou artist to sing him a song as a sign of respect. The singing skills of that famous artist could be described as “when he plays a string, it is like a jade ring, a leaping pearl, or a singing oriole.” But Wei Xiaobao was uninterested in any of that and asked directly, “Can you sing Eighteen Touches [a vulgar folk song]?” This stunned the famous artist, and he collapsed for three minutes, and left his lute behind as he ran away crying.

“Smile for me, because I expect you to” is actually a Chinese cultural treasure. Whether it is kneeling down to receive red envelopes from the elders during the New Year, scolding the delivery boy, mocking the little girl selling roses in the bar, or kidnapping Hou Baolin or Lionel Messi, the inner motivation is the same. During this quintessential Chinese sequence, acting like a hooligan is inevitable, just like Sun Yang [a Chinese Olympic diver banned after testing positive for multiple offenses involving g performance-enhancing drugs]. His reaction was, “They look down on us Chinese.” Just like when rogue mobile-phone companies steal technology everywhere and copy it. If they are caught, they will say that foreigners insult China and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

The problem is, you are a habitué of places like a private cruise ship in Victoria Harbor (which will probably be called Red Flag Harbor soon enough) and five-million-dollar mansions in Vancouver. You never thought of us as members of the same group. But if you get into trouble out there, you will run back and yell that so-and-so offended the Chinese people, so that all of us pay for your rogue behavior.

Remember, all such stories begin with asking people to “give me a smile” at the restaurant table out in the woods, and end with “insulting the dignity of the Chinese people.”

This piece was translated from Yibao Chinese. If republished, please be sure to add the source and link before the text when reposting.

The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of this journal.