Tag Archives: Black humor

“The Sound of Rising Prices”

It may not be as well-produced as the Chinese song about rising housing prices ((For more on how crazily expensive houses are, see this Danwei post.)), but rising inflation has finally inspired its own song.

The song is a parody of an already well-known tune called “The Sound of Applause” (掌声响起来, listen here). The parody version is called 涨声响起来, roughly translated as “The Sound of Rising Prices.” Here’s one of many videos that’s been made already:
(direct link to Tudou)

Here are the lyrics used in the video (note: the following translations are especially artless as I am exhausted and over-caffeinated, but you get the idea):

Standing at the counter of the supermarket,
Seeing how all the [prices] are rising,
I only feel like sighing,
There is nothing inexpensive,
So many prices have been changed,
Now regular people can’t afford to buy vegetables.

Thinking back on Chinese cabbage when I was young,
When 20 cents bought a big bagful,
I can’t keep from crying,
So many big buildings being constructed,
So many new cars being sold,
But I still have to tighten my belt.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
My wages aren’t rising as fast as the prices,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
From now on I may have to eat [only] pickles ((咸菜 could be translated variously as pickles, salted veggies, salty food, etc. I’ve mixed and matched here for variety’s sake, but the point the songs are all making is that 咸菜 is relatively cheap.)).

Living in these times,
Are we lucky or is it tragic?
I feel even more like sighing.
There’s no such thing as “good quality goods at fair prices,”
Food, clothing, shelter, and transportation [costs] have all gone up,
I suffer each and every day,
Waking and hurrying to work,
Busy making money and paying off [housing] loans,
My happy carefree life is long gone,
So many second-generation rich kids are buying nice cars,
So many second-generation poor selling things off of blankets on the street,
The gap between rich and poor is getting worse.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars.

[Cue dramatic key change and female vocal harmony]

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars!

However, netizens are so enthused about this song that there are already a bunch of versions (all share the same melody and, generally, the same rhyming sounds). Here’s are the lyrics as written in the image posted above, which we found being passed around on RenRen:

Standing at the supermarket counter,
Seeing [the price] of everything rise,
I feel unlimited helplessness in my heart,
So few inexpensive options,
So many prices have changed,
Common people can’t afford to buy vegetables!

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Prices are rising faster than salaries,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
There’s no industry that isn’t tainted by corruption.

And here’s still another version of the lyrics we found here:

While eating bread and pickled veggies,
I heard the sound of prices rising,
And I suddenly feel like sighing,
Every day it’s radishes and cabbage,
Looking forward to when housing prices drop,
Waiting for my wife to “say bye-bye,”
The floor covered in instant noodle packaging
Is a record of my helplessness,
And I can’t keep from shedding a tear.
I was once confident and bold,
I was once strong and patient,
But in the end I was defeated by rising prices.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
Some people laugh and some people are full of sorrow,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
I finally understand the great importance of money

There are actually a lot more versions of this song, but we’ll leave it at that as they tend to be fairly similar. The phrase “the sound of rising prices” has even become so widespread that it’s referenced in news broadcasts, such as this story about the rise of “group purchasing” websites:


The Chinese government, of course, is busy throwing an absolute fit about Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize, and doing everything it can to appear as petulant and immature as a three-year old.

I think, though, that if the government is really concerned about things that “subvert state power,” they should lay off Liu and address the rising discontent with housing and commodity prices and the atrocious gap between rich and poor, which is manifesting itself in all kinds of ugly ways.

The incident I’ve linked to there, in which a police officer crashes his car into an old woman and then gets out to beat her, shouting “What I’ve got is money, so I’m gonna beat you today!” is just one of a number of recent rich-people-play-with-the-lives-of-the-poor stories that has incited outrage and violence.

Personally, I see this as the biggest challenge to state security that China currently faces. Unfortunately, it’s a tough one to blame on the West, so it looks like for now China’s government will be content to shriek their Liu Xiaobo conspiracy theories in increasingly-shrill editorial pieces that no one reads (except, of course, when they’re looking for a laugh).

Of course, why should the government care if “Kart-like” Westerners laugh at their ridiculous propaganda? They should, however, be concerned with the tone of public opinion in China, especially on the internet, where a recent Global Times op-ed noted (without a hint of irony):

[There is] a [sic] extreme lack of tolerance for dissident public opinion on the Internet where there is almost no room for opinions that favor the government.

Note that here, by “dissident,” they mean people who support the government. Yeah. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

Good luck, Zhongnanhai. Your preposterous “Confucius Prize” stunt might succeed in distracting people from the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony (at least for as long as it takes to laugh, snort derisively, and change the channel), but I’m not sure it’s going to distract Chinese people from the fact that despite China’s powerhouse economy, living here seems to be getting harder and harder.

Ai Weiwei Updates: Two Posts

UPDATE: (via CDT) Ai Weiwei has now launched a new blog, here. He’s obviously found some hosting and built it himself, which means he won’t be subject to the whims of Sina’s censors anymore, and hopefully means it will be impossible for the government to block (assuming he’s found a host with servers outside China). He’s also on Twitter and Fanfou, where he’s currently engaged in proving his identity by posting …pictures of himself jumping around naked? Yup.

Original Post:

In the interest of finding out what’s happened to Ai Weiwei, we’ve been checking his bullogger site (the only one left unblocked, although it is blocked within China) somewhat frequently. While there’s no concrete news about his situation, two new items were posted today (June 1st), although they are listed below an older post on the main page. The first is a short piece about the Deng Yujiao case, which you can read some background on here if you aren’t familiar already. As far as we can tell, this post is Ai’s own personal (and rather sarcastic) take on the situation, which indicates that he’s still free and writing. It’s also quite funny, in a black-humor sort of way. We own some thanks here to Alice Wu for helping to translate a few difficult bits, but any mistakes are ours, not hers.

The second piece is a longer one by one of his volunteers about an arrest that contains some of the most terrifying propaganda-speech we’ve yet seen (rest assured, it’s just as crazy-sounding in Chinese as it is in English). Li Xin, the author, is arrested and forced to sit through a class on patriotism where, among other things, the “teachers” tell him that he’s being used by bad seeds like Ai Weiwei and “foreign anti-China forces”. It’s also got some black humor in it. Enjoy!

Ai Weiwei on the Deng Yujiao case: “China’s Two Knives”

With more argument, Deng Yujiao could have avoided a death; “the government official stabbed by Deng was stripped of his post excepting his Party membership [for past offenses, apparently], but was only penalized by public security and was not investigated for criminal charges.”
The conclusion:

  1. When being raped or arrested without proof of a warrant, and going beyond normal defense to kill you must definitely kill them, leaving one means future trouble. They can be reinstated in their job and enter the Party again, or the underground Party, or become a ‘non-Party personage’, at worst they will become a common person, a laborer, your coworker.
  2. Expelling hoodlums from the Party is an insult to people not in the Party, in the future [I] strongly request this kind of person be kept in the Party. For the sake of differentiating it [for] the masses, the Party should establish internal departments such as “Rapist Department”, “Aborted Department”, to be differentiated from the “Corrupt Department”.
  3. Officially entitle the deboning knife and the pedicurist knife “China’s Two Knives”. Everyone should practice using these knives, and a lucky day should be chosen to apply for a World Legacy.
  4. Improve the training procedures for Party cadres visiting prostitutes, we must really do this with no “pushing or shoving”, and complete the transaction with grace. For training, [they] might as well look for an instructor from the People’s Congress and CPPCC.
  5. Don’t get caught committing a crime before a sensitive anniversary, you can hold out, don’t make things difficult for everyone.

Volunteer: “This is How I Fell Apart”

At half past eight in the morning, I saw my phone had several missed calls from a number I didn’t know in this area code.

At nine, I got an anonymous text message saying “In the 5.12 earthquake [affected] Shifang municipality, Luoshui town middle school there is serious corruption, the government treats human life as worthless, it is an intolerable injustice. I want justice for my daughter!”

I responded: “Please, who are you? What information do you have there?”

“We have all the information? Can you tell me your real identity?”

“I’m just a common volunteer. Can you describe in detail what information you have please?”
No response.

Around ten in the morning, a strange number called: “I’m Chen Youjun, where are you, let’s meet up.”

Chen Youjun was the first parent of a deceased student I met after getting to Luoshui, but because he was pressured, he later refused to meet with me. Last night, I met with several parents and got some information from them. I was very happy, thinking, they must have exchanged information [with Chen] and [he’s] decided to meet with me. I said: “Shall I go over there or shall you come here?”

“I’ll come find you. Where are you?”

“I’m in the neighborhood of the public square.”

“There is a Dico’s [fast food chain] there, you know it? Let’s meet there. What do you look like? Approximately how tall are you? What are you wearing? What’s in your hands?”

I told him each thing, one by one.

Hanging up the phone, I felt a bit uneasy, and gave Xu Ye a ring, I was afraid there might be a problem, and additionally wanted to ask about the closing of Ai Weiwei’s blog.

I waited behind the stand of a florist next to the Dico’s for someone to come.

A half hour later, a short-haired young man in sports clothes sat next to me and asked me for a light, chitchatting: ‘where is there a public phone nearby, my phone’s been shut off.’ I said I wasn’t from there and didn’t know. He asked if I’d come as a tourist, and whether I’d been to the heavily-affected disaster sites. I said I’d been to all of them. Then he got up and left in search of a phone.

A quarter hour later the young man came back and sat next to me, pulling out a cigarette. I asked if he needed a light, he said he’d bought a lighter, thanks, and asked if I wanted a ciagrette. I politely declined. Five minutes later, over came a small middle-aged man in an orange t-shirt, holding a police ID out towards me: Young fellow, I’m looking for your help understanding something, and need to take up some of your time.

I said OK, what do you want to understand? He said come with me back to the police substation. I got up to go with him, and about six people around me who looked identical to other pedestrians got up at the same time and surrounded me as I turned the corner towards two police cars. I got in the car, and the short cop and the young man I’d just been talking with sat down on either side of me.

I smiled at the young guy: “Actually you don’t need to do this, just coming directly to get me would be better, why the need to trick me?”

The short cop forced a smile and said, “No, no, we just need to understand something.”

“What thing do you need to understand?”

“This, we all know. Heaven knows, earth knows, you know, I know.”

“I really don’t know!”

The short cop said: “We don’t have to go down this winding road” [Here he’s speaking metaphorically, not referring to the way the car is being driven]

I said, “Yeah! You’re still doing this kind of stuff, just coming directly to get me would have been fine,. I didn’t do anything illegal.”

When we got to the Western substation, they took me to the security office and let me sit a bit, poured some tea and offered cigarettes. They asked me where I lived, my apartment number and ID number (earlier they had asked if I had ID on me, I didn’t).

I said: “If you go [to where I live], shouldn’t you take me? Those are my private things.”

They said, OK, we’ll ask some more questions before going out.

Another young police officer did some ideological work with me, and a little while later, my things [from my apartment] were placed in front of me.

I said, please don’t embarrass the owner of the guest house?

They said how could we, we’d never embarrass anyone!

Then they spread some newspaper out on the floor and made me take everything out and spread it out over the newspaper, they said it was to allow me to check whether or not anything was missing,

“You guys must have dropped my slippers, I just bought them a few days ago!”

They took away the list of names and CD of information that had made me so happy the night before, took away my diaries from the last few days. I didn’t call this into question; I knew that was useless.

We switched rooms and recorded a confession, which was nothing but a few questions and answers everyone is familiar with; I signed and was photographed. It was clear the Shifang police were had lots of experience [dealing with this kind of thing].

What was different from before was that they added on a Patriotism class, an hour or so in length, with two teachers, a fat one and a skinny one, both pretending to be something they were not. I asked, “What are you two doing?” They responded vehemently, “We have no posts or duties, we just represent the people of Shifang. We Shifang people do not welcome your group’s people, destroying stability and damaging people’s rebuilding work! You can see, in the face of disaster the people of Shifang are tenacious, and under the great leadership of the Party, the rebuilding process is flourishing! Mr. Li! You once were a member of the Communist Youth League, and grew up accepting the education of the Party. Wherever the Party says we should go, we should follow! Don’t fool around all day with people like this Ai Weiwei! You’re being used by Ai Weiwei and foreign anti-China forces…You’re still young, a pillar of state and the hope of the nation. The nation still needs people like to to create values…”

Perhaps some people will think those words above are exaggerated, but I have already considered this. It is very difficult to recall some of these words because it was like a dream.

That was the first time for me. Two people face to face with me, anxious to reveal their hearts to me, passionately saying things to me that only people at all-school assemblies and in the news broadcasting machine say.

That was how I fell apart.

-Citizen Investigator Li Xin

Our Thoughts

In many ways, these pieces speak for themselves, but it’s interesting that the speech given by Li Xin’s ‘teachers’ bears more than a passing resemblance to the kind of ideology satirized in the piece we posted yesterday. Anyway, if nothing else, it’s good to see some evidence that Ai Weiwei is still out there, and Li Xin’s response to his captors question about whether or not any of his personal items were missing is a classic I won’t soon forget: “You guys must have dropped my slippers, I just bought them a few days ago!” I suppose as long as you’re getting arrested anyway, you might as well have a little fun.

For more background on Ai Weiwei’s recent trouble with the law:
Coverage and translations on Danwei
Coverage on TIME’s China blog
Coverage and translation in China Digital Times