Continuing our countdown of the year’s winners and losers, here are those people or organisations for whom 2012 will always be a year to remember.
8. Ye Shiwen (and the Chinese olympic team)
The Chinese Olympic team went in to the London 2012 games with high hopes. After the 2008 Beijing Olympics raised their profile (51 gold medals – compared to their second place showing in Greece four years before), there were equally high expectations.
By the end of the competition, they were back in second behind the USA, but had still won 38 golds. Amongst their top performers were:
Women’s Team Sprint, World Record for cycling
Sun Yang, Gold and World Record for 1,500 metre freestyle
Lu Xiaojun, Gold and World Record for Weightlifting 77kg snatch and combined
Zhou Lulu, Gold and World Record for Weightlifting 75-plus kg combined
However, the overall biggest star was Ye Shiwen. Aged just 16, the swimmer won gold in the 400 metres and 200 metres individual medley (you should watch that video), setting World and Olympic records respectively. She was so fast in fact, that over the last 50 metres of the swim, she outpaced the men’s gold medalist, American athlete Ryan Lochte (seriously, go and watch that video, it’s incredible).
Picked for training at age seven, her teacher noticed that she had unusually large hands and legs and alerted officials to her potential.
The US swim team coach was so disturbed by her sudden increase in speed that he called her win “unbelievable”. John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association was the first major figure to go public with his concerns. Numerous Olympics officials, and history’s most successful Olympian ever Michael Phelps, defended Ye from her critics. The young swimmer has never failed a drugs test.
7. People’s Liberation Army
As the world’s largest military with 3 million troops, the People’s Liberation Army were already way ahead of the competition. However, they have officially earned a place in the 2012 biggest winners by hitting a few milestones over the year.
During the year, the Chinese Navy dramatically extended its reach with the launch of the aircraft carrier Lioning. Bought second hand from Russia, then named with the much (less?) catchy name Varyag, it was put to sea in September after a decade-long conversion process. Just a handful of countries have in-service carriers.
A few weeks later, the J-15, China’s “next-gen” fight made a successful landing on the ship. The jet, styled after the United States F-18, has a range of 3,000km, putting the whole of Japan within reach from a ground launch – and much of the world from a carrier launch.
Naval action was not all on the surface though. Japan suggested China’s motives behind the Diaoyu island conflict were to secure a safe haven for their subs. A draft report suggested that Beijing was “on the cusp” of being able to sub-launch nuclear missles.
With great power, comes great computer games though, as a strategic analysis [virtually] pits China’s new carrier against countries in the Persian Gulf. The project mapped different projections based on geopolitical developments.
You can’t start a fight though without limbering up, and China won again here in 2012. We reported on the (naked) physical exams PLA recruits were subjected to, but were left sad when 27 year-old beauty, “Colonel Ren”, was found to be a fake.
6. Kim Jong-Un
North Korea, hermit kingdom and insane necrocracy full of starving people, has a special place in our hearts here at Shanghaiist. Simply put, without the support of China, North Korea could not and likely would not exist. Though he doesn’t act like the most grateful little dictator at times, Kim Jong-Un owes his position to China as much as he does his murderous, megalomaniacal father.
2012 was a banner year for Kim, after his father’s death numerous commentators predicted the impending collapse of the North Korean regime. The chubby-faced Kim, who practically exudes incompetence, was widely expected to fall on his face. Instead, Kim proved himself quite adept at playing the backroom politics required to keep himself on the throne, and made quick use of the sprawling North Korean propaganda ministry to craft a cult of personality as strong as his father’s.
Later in the year, Kim debuted his attractive young wife, and then promptly put a baby in her, if reports are to be believed, ensuring at least one more generation of this contemptible family. He also achieved what his father never could, overseeing the successful launch of a rocket into space, thumbing his nose at the world in the most effective way possible.
2012 was also a great year for Kim as far as fake awards go. He won both the Onion’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ award, hilariously reported as fact by the People’s Daily, and also TIME’s ‘Person of the Year’ award popular vote, as rigged by 4chan.
5. Mo Yan
Mo Yan, for all the flack he’s received for being something of Communist Party stooge, did win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and for that he undoubtedly deserves our recognition and admiration.
While many of us may have preferred Mo to have been more vocal in his defence of fellow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, still languishing in a prison cell, nowhere does it say that award winners must use their positions to press for political change. Mo is first and foremost an author, and his politics should not overshadow his work. We listed the five books you should definitely read by Mo Yan, which if you didn’t buy them as Christmas gifts, you could always buy as Spring Festival presents.