The new year is just around the corner, but first it's time to look back at 2017
This year was quite an eventful one, so before we dive head-first into 2018, it’s time to look back over the year that was.
What better way to do that than revisiting some of the things I discussed in this very column over the past 12 months?
Hongbao records broken, but the culture confuses
For the past Chinese New Year, as is the case every year, the amount of hongbao (red envelope with lucky money) sent and received far exceeded the previous year, with an amazing 14.2 billion sent electronically over WeChat alone.
Back at the start of this year, I was flabbergasted and dumbfounded by what I call hongbao wenhua (red envelope culture), which as I outlined is a complicated system of reciprocal guanxi (connection) building and maintaining.
Nearly a year later I’m still just as confused by it all, but over the span of the last few months I’ve become a little more confident sending and receiving hongbao, even going as far as refusing friends who make cheeky requests (just this week a friend said, “I’ve received so many hongbao today for my birthday, where’s yours?” — I told him it must have been lost en route and left it at that.)
I’ll be watching to see how many red envelopes are sent the coming Chinese New Year’s Eve.
Smoking ban comes into force
Shanghai has tried out smoking bans before in the past, but on March 1 the most serious ban on smoking in public places came into effect, and it seems to have largely worked!
Smoking bans in the past just worked as lip service, one business manager told me, and she was surprised herself by the success of this year’s smoking ban.
As I mentioned in my column at the time, one of the great things about this particular ban is the hotline, 12345, which was promoted for members of the public to call whenever they see the new law being flouted.
Individuals can face a fine of about 200 yuan (US$30) per offence, while companies can be slapped with a whopping 30,000 yuan fine.
On March 4 I asked whether or not the new smoking law would work, and 10 months later I have to say it has succeeded more than I would have hoped, even though it’s still possible to come across about one or two toilet smokers per week.
Chinese flex their keyboard muscles to chagrin of US airline
One of the biggest news stories in the world this year, let alone China, was the incident on United Airlines when an “Asian” man was forcefully removed from a plane, bloodied and unconscious.
The awesome part of the story, for me, was how Chinese netizens came together in force to make the lives of United Airlines managers and board members a living nightmare after word came out that the incident may have been sparked by racism, and that the man may be originally from China.
China’s huge force of 700-plus million Internet users showed the world, and especially big companies, that China is a force to be reckoned with.
Overcoming fears about TCM treatments
July came around quicker than expected, and I was shocked to be assigned a gig as a traditional Chinese medicine guinea pig.
As a student of Chinese culture, I had always managed to avoid having to have needles stuck into my body or suction cups sucking up my blood. It took working at Shanghai Daily for my worst nightmares to finally come to fruition.
Thankfully, after all the worry, acupuncture and cupping and all that other stuff that makes TCM famous were actually more relaxing than anything else. I can’t say I really noticed any big benefits, apart from being able to wear my “I Survived Traditional Chinese Medicine” badge with pride.
If you haven’t given it a go, get to it!
‘Wolf Warrior 2’ and the end of ‘fresh little meat’
In August I was shocked at the huge box-office success of local film “Wolf Warrior 2” — not least of all because no one had heard of part one!
The type of male celebrity catapulted to stardom in China over the past few years have been what are known as xiaoxianrou or “fresh little meat,” because they’re pretty, young and fresh! They include guys like Lu Han, Li Yifeng, Yang Yang and, to some extent, the TF Boys.
That’s why it was a huge shock when “Wolf Warrior 2” hit the screens and dominated the box office, banking huge amounts of cash. I had to ask: Is this the end of xiaoxianrou?
It’s only been a few months, but I have to report that the anticipated shockwaves of muscular older guys, like the lead actor of “Wolf Warrior 2,” 43-year-old Wu Jing, quickly dissipated and were soon forgotten about.
Xiaoxianrou still reign supreme.
My New Year wish this year: Ban spitting on the streets of Shanghai
I’ll finish my wrap-up of 2017 with my New Year wish for Shanghai. I’ve mentioned this a few times, and it’s still a big passion of mine that I really believe will, if enacted successfully, raise the image of Shanghai in the eyes of international friends visiting here.
That is to ban spitting on the streets of Shanghai. I really hope this dream comes true.
I wish you all a happy and safe New Year, see you all in 2018!