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Controversy over Mobike Co-founder Hu Weiwei Reveals an Anxious China

2018-04-13 14:37:49 Beijing Editorial Department

The world is never devoid of the pursuit of wealth, the only problem is how. Lately Hu Weiwei, one of the co-founders of China's largest bike-sharing companies Mobike sold the unicorn and joined the millionaire club. Also in an attempt to get rich, a self-media writer published an article about Hu that warned his readers they were falling behind in life. The article was criticized afterwards for "selling anxiety and spreading panic.

The article themed "Behind the 1.5 Billion RMB Mobike Co-founder: You're Falling Behind in Life" flooded China's social media on April 4th, the same day that the 30-something Hu announced that Mobike was acquired by Chinese food-delivery giant Meituan Dianping for $2.7 billion excluding debt. The writer Mr. Wang Ear estimated that Hu could personally receive 1.5 billion RMB.

He then depicted the life of the average post-80s generation: he may just have been promoted as a director but sat in an office building without passion because the only reason why he had not resigned was that he could not afford a mortgage on a house. A bigger cause for concern was that his belly started to swell. It went on with sentimental sentences such as the following:

“Like it or not, you WILL be middle-aged someday."

"People advance at different paces, either lead or fall behind."

"Growing organically is a recession."

Shortly after its publication, the so-called "poisonous chicken soup" went viral on China's social media. So far the hashtag #Youarefallingbehindinlife has been viewed some 32 million times and reposted 17,000 times.

Despite its popularity, not everyone is a fan of the pessimism displayed. Han Han, a Chinese best-selling author and the most popular blogger lashed out at the article, saying it was "not only selling anxiety, but creating panic".

"What's wrong with the director with protruding belly? What's wrong with not resigning when under the pressure of a mortgage? What's wrong with living in a third-tier or fourth-tier city, leading a life without too many changes?" He wrote in his Weibo post that success was not measured in the amount of money you make. He added that this may bring some people comfort, but should not be taken as an excuse for idleness.

Netizens showed mixed feelings towards Han's post. Some expressed gratitude to him for letting the voice of ordinary people be heard. One Weibo user said he was about to complain about the article as well, because there were many ways to define success. Another wondered how an article selling anxiety could flood social media, "I hate it when people judge a person by the wealth they possess." Others admitted the article may be selling anxiety, but that was how self-media attracts readers and it was totally understandable, "there's no need to be so mean."

Some were simply busy cracking jokes:

Puyi became the Chinese emperor at the age of 3, and you're falling behind in life; Chinese Singer Karry Wang had a net worth of 10 million RMB at the age of 17, and you're falling behind in life; Zuckerberg had a net worth of 400 billion RMB at the age of 34, and you're falling behind in life; Sir Ka-shing Li has a net worth of 200 billion RMB at the age of 90, and you're falling behind in life.

Although the article is controversial, the tone sounds familiar to many because it was not the first time that public anxiety has been stirred. Celebrated Internet investor and former news anchor Zhang Quanling said in January that "the time wouldn't even say goodbye when abandoning you." And people have read way too many headlines like "the post-2000s startup CEO criticizes the post-1990s generation for ordering delivery and playing computer games", or "are people with a monthly salary of 3,000 RMB beyond remedy".

Nowadays many Chinese citizens are plagued by a constant undercurrent of stress and anxiety. China has accumulated considerable wealth after decades of development, but the ongoing economic restructuring makes people increasingly anxious about housing, air pollution, education, cultural identity and social ladder, noted by Beijing Business Today. As the person who is not "falling behind in life", Hu responded to the storm of controversy by asking the author of the article "not to distort moral values and a beautiful life merely to attracting readers".

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