Author of hit ‘faking a life in Beijing’ article apologizes, sorta - SupChina
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Author of hit ‘faking a life in Beijing’ article apologizes, sorta


As we noted yesterday, the caustic essay “In Beijing, 20 million people are faking a life,” which became a controversial and viral sensation in China in the last few days, also provoked an unusual reprimand from several state media organizations, including the People’s Daily and Xinhua. Now the essay’s author, Zhang Wumao 张五毛, has apologized for not being discreet enough when writing the essay, and begged media “not to magnify my mistake into a matter of principle” in an interview (in Chinese) with The Economic Observer.

“This is an article with many problems. In fact, I didn’t intend to express anything. I was just being contrarian and trying to amuse readers,” Zhang said. “I didn’t realize that I was wrongly contrarian and trying to amuse wrongly. I don’t want to cause more troubles and make anyone upset about it.”

When asked for the exact meaning of “faking lives,” Zhang replied, “It means lives in Beijing are hugely different from traditional lives in small cities. People tend to think negatively when they see the word ‘fake,’ but their interpretation is against my intention.” As for the controversial claim that rich old Beijingers all have “five apartments under their butts,” Zhang admitted that he made the claim merely based on the fact that one of his Beijing friends owns five apartments, and he should have been more careful with his writing.

On the social media platform Weibo, most internet users found Zhang’s apology unnecessary and came to his defense. “Why you have to apologize? If the article was full of lies, it wouldn’t have resonated with so many people,” one commenter wrote (in Chinese). “Is it because the author ruined some people’s dreams by telling the truth?”

On the other hand, despite his apology, Zhang did not actually say the picture he painted of Beijing is wrong. He writes:

Many media people have analyzed the problems in this essay, but none of them have really understood what is wrong with it. I think the first problem is that number in the headline (20 million people) is not accurate. Secondly, there is no central argument, and thirdly, the structure is messed up and illogical.

—Jiayun Feng


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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.