The Panama Papers leaks unveiled on Sunday have implicated “family members of at least eight current or former members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee” in the ownership of offshore shell companies obtained through the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Although such ownership is not inherently illegal and no other wrongdoing has been alleged, the issue is highly sensitive in China amid Xi Jinping’s signature anti-corruption campaign. As a result, authorities have dismissed reports as “groundless accusations” and tightly clamped down on the news and related discussion.
Cartoonist Badiucao responds with a new addition to the pantheon of mythical Chinese Internet beasts. He plays on the 404 HTTP error code for missing (e.g. censored) content, and the Chinese name for Panama, Bānámǎ (巴拿马), whose final character is also the word for “horse.”
The Elusive Pana-mare by Badiucao for CDT:
Badiucao explains on Twitter:
The Pana-mare, number 404. In the Celestial Empire today there are two kinds of horse. One is the grass-mud horse, which you and I both know. The other is the Pana-mare, very mystical, which can be neither searched out online nor seen on Weibo. It loves to dream, it loves steamed buns, it loves to serve the renminbi, it loves to tell you both to take its surname and not to take its surname. [Source]
“Celestial Empire” is an often sarcastic nickname for China; the grass-mud horse is a mythical creature and symbol of resistance to censorship whose name sounds similar to the Chinese for “fuck your mother.” Badiucao also alludes to Xi Jinping’s “China Dream”; his carefully publicized everyman visit to a Beijing steamed bun shop in 2013; a satirical spin on the Mao-era slogan, “serve the people”; Xi’s recent call for official media to follow the government and “take ‘Party’ as their surname”; and the “Zhao Family” in Lu Xun’s novella “The True Story of Ah Q,” a local elite who jealously guard their honorable surname and privileged rank, and who have recently come to symbolize modern China’s ruling class. He continues:
Exercise: I invite all grass-mud horses [those opposed to censorship] to draw the Pana-mare of your imagination. Since the Zhao Family is busily 404-ing the Panama Papers, the grass-mud horses must give them the finger! I welcome Twitter friends to use the #草泥马顶巴拿马 [grass-mud horse highlights Pana-mare] hashtag to label your artworks. Or you can DM or send it to me on Aite @badiucao! [Chinese]