Rational Patriotism in the (Canned) Air
Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao leapt into action after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, travelling to Japan to distribute food, blankets and good wishes from China, and personally—according to one Chinese newspaper—pulling three survivors from the rubble. Even then, Chinese reactions were coloured by nationalism, with one netizen suggesting that the billionaire “must have been kicked in the head by a donkey“.
Now, amid the ongoing dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, Chen has tried to encourage “rational patriotism” by offering to replace his microblog followers’ cars destroyed in recent anti-Japan protests. On the arguably less rational side, he has been selling cans of ‘Chen Guangbiao: Nice Guy’-branded fresh air to raise money for the Chinese military. From Tea Leaf Nation’s Liz Carter at The Atlantic, with pictures:
Recent tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands have brought out the best and worst in Chinese society. They’ve also led to some unusual displays of patriotism. Recycling tycoon and eccentric philanthropist Chen Guangbiao, known as “Brother Biao” (标哥) by his fans, announced on September 18 that he would personally replace any car damaged in acts of “irrational patriotism.”
[…] This offer encouraging “rational patriotism,” as promoted by Chinese authorities in the wake of violent protests against Japan, comes on the heels of Chen’s announcement that he followed through on his plan to sell canned air (see pictures — lots of them — below). Chen claims the air is not only more pure than that in cities, but reportedly also comes from “revolutionary” regions. Proceeds, Chen says, will go to Chinese military efforts to defend the Diaoyu Islands. The canned air sold out in just a few days, and Chen told his social media followers to hold on to the cans, promising to buy them back for 40 or 50 RMB (about US$7) in ten years.
Global Times gives more details on the air cans and their reception by the public:
The air is collected from revolutionary regions, including Jinggang Mountain in Jiangxi Province, some ethnic minority areas and Taiwan, and sells for four to five yuan each, he said.
“One only has to open the can, directly ‘drink’ it or put the nose close to the can to breath deeply,” said Chen.
[…] Residents were cautious over Chen’s claims.
“Who can ensure the air was collected in Shangri-La?” said resident Shi Tingting, 27, from Chaoyang district.
“Is the fresh air really better than what we breathe every day?” said Wang Fu, a Beijing resident.