China's New Unofficial Currency: Panbi(潘币)

As Steve Jobs’ death triggered enormous reactions from Chinese netizens, the Beijing real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi has also joined the wave by posting the following tweet on his microblog:

@Pan Shiyi: Apple’s board of directors should make the following decision: To immediately manufacture iPhones and iPads that are under 1000 Chinese Yuan (about $157 U.S. dollar) so that more people can afford Apple products. This is the best way to commemorate Jobs.

@潘石屹:“苹果”董事会应该马上做一决定:大量生产1000元人民币以下一部的iPhone手机和iPad,让更多(人)用上“苹果”,这是对乔布斯最好的纪念。

The following response, which focuses on China’s surging housing prices rather than Jobs’ death, has apparently caught many netizens’ attention and been widely re-posted:

@Tang Rouding 9983: When Mr. Pan passes away some day, your company should offer homes that are under 1000 Chinese Yuan per square meter. Over a billion people will commemorate you by then.

@唐若丁9983:潘总哪天要也去世了,也请贵公司推出1000一平米的房子吧,十几亿人民都会纪念您。

Pan soon deleted the original tweet. However, his new title, “the 1000 Pan,” has been spread all over the cyberspace. Meanwhile, a new form of currency named “Panbi,” has also been created by netizens ["bi" means money in Chinese]. According to netizens’ definition, Pan is the base unit of Panbi, and one Pan equals 1000 Yuan/sq m. Thus, an apartment home that normally costs 24,000 Yuan/sq m would only cost 24 Pan/sq m in the world of Panbi. Here, netizens have turned their frustration at China’s housing bubble into a humorous yet sarcastic joke.

Below is a sample of a bill of one Panbi which features Pan’s portrait:

On top of the bill it reads “SOHO Bank of Real Estate of China.” Pan Shiyi is the founder and president of SOHO China, the largest real-estate developer in Beijing.

Netizens have also made a chart comparing major cities’ average housing prices by using Pan as the currency unit:

Following are some more examples of netizens’ responses that explain why there would be a joke like this in the first place:

@Jiafu Erxiaojie: It’s not that we don’t like the 1000-Yuan iPhone4s, it’s just that we’d prefer 1000-Yuan homes a lot better.

@Yezhiyexing: Mr. Pan’s hoping that we’re playing with our new iPhone4 so that we can temporarily forget the pain of having to pay dozens of Pan for our homes.

@Post-70 Xiaoheizi: It’s not just a random saying or whatever Pan was trying to justify–People are complaining about the skyrocketing housing prices with contempt and frustration.

October 17, 2011 10:25 PM
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