Just before the turn of the year, on Thursday afternoon, President Hu Jintao was reported by Shanghaiist’s favourite broadcaster CCTV to have visited several low-income families in Beijing to bring them the party’s heartiest new year greetings. Helping low-income residents with their housing problems, according to CCTV, was a “great matter that weighed heavily on the President’s heart”, hence the decision to descend from his gilded throne at the Great Hall of the People and make his presence felt among the hoi polloi.
What went viral was the segment between 1:42 and 2:52 in this video. In it, President Hu visits a compound called Lijingyuan (丽景园) and arrives at the home of a low-income family comprising of a woman named Guo Chunping (郭春平) and her daughter. The dialogue is such a gem we’ve decided to translate it in full below:
Hu: When did you move in?
Guo: I’ve moved in over half a month now.
Hu: Oh, half a month, I see. How big is this apartment?
Guo: It’s 45 square metres in all.
Hu: 45, huh. Two rooms?
Guo: Yes, two rooms.
Hu: How much rent are you paying for this apartment?
Guo: I pay RMB77 each month.
Hu: RMB77 each month — are you able to cope with the rent?
Guo: Yes. Secretary-General, I just wanted to say a big thank you to the party and the government. We are so touched to have been given this fabulous apartment to live in!
Hu: The party and the government are very concerned with the people’s daily livelihoods. We’ve taken up a series of measures to further improve your daily lives. Well, we’re so happy to see that your lives have been improved here!
Guo: Thank you! Thank you! Our country is really improving day by day. We never dreamed we would be living in such an apartment some day.
Needless to say, the eye-popping price of RMB77 for a 45 square metre apartment led many Beijingers to enquire how they too could apply for the subsidised housing. Among these were many ‘ant tribers’ (蚁族) fed up with paying RMB200 per bed in highly cramped dormitories, as well as ‘rat tribers’ (鼠族) — people living in small rooms underground that go for about RMB500 for a tiny 8 square metre room.
Other curious netizens decided to ‘human flesh search’ Guo Chunping. As you can see in the images on the right, which are now circulating wildly on Chinese microblogs and forums, Guo and her daughter look rather middle class — and don’t look like they make below the monthly income threshold of RMB580 required to qualify for the subsidised housing. Unconfirmed reports also say that Guo is a civil servant who works with the traffic police in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. According to neighbours, Guo does not live in the apartment, but has instead rented it out to others. A search on realty websites indicates that the average monthly rent for apartments at the Lijingyuan compound (not all of which are given to low-income families) is approximately RMB2,000.
Will we be hearing more about Guo Chunping in the upcoming days? Don’t keep your hopes up too high. As you read this, internet censors are already furiously deleting all posts related to Guo Chunping. What remains clear though is that she’s already unwittingly become 2011’s first internet star.
Hopefully someone will soon create a mashup/remix of her lavish praise of the party. That stuff is just begging to be auto-tuned!