World's most expensive baklava: US$25,000 cake goes viral on Chinese social media

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 9:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2012, 5:38pm

All it took was a slice of Xinjiang cake to spark heated debates online over China's policy on ethnic minorities.

Since Monday, qiegao (cut cake) has been a trending topic on Sina Weibo, China’s main Twitter-like microblogging service.

The cake was a reference to Xinjiang’s famed nut cake, sometimes known by its old Turkic name baklava, a popular pastry across Central Asia and the Middle East. In Xinjiang, they are sold by Uygur vendors on tricycles who are known to charge dubious prices depending on the time and season.

The ethnic flare-up started after the Yueyang police from Hunan province posted a message on their official Weibo account. It reported a dispute in Pingjiang county over an overpriced piece of nut cake between a Xinjiang Uygur vendor and a villager named "Ling".

Villager Ling got into a fight with a Uygur due to a misunderstanding. The verbal dispute eventually escalated into a fight and then a mass fight. As a result, two people were injured and Xinjiang nut cakes worth about 160,000 yuan [US$25,000] were destroyed. The total damage was worth 200,000 yuan which included a broken motorcycle and injuries to people. Local police have detained Ling. The 16 Uygur sellers were dully compensated and sent back to Xinjiang.

"Yueyang police incident" quickly became one of the most popular topics on Weibo. Yueyang police removed the post shortly after. As of Tuesday night, the topic was still amassing more than 66,000 hits. 

The incident is just one of many similar cases of ethnic tension across China, notably in Xinjiang province, where deeply entrenched social and racial friction between dominant ethnic Han Chinese and minority Uygur Muslims occasionally spark violence. Many Uygurs living in major Chinese cities are viewed by locals as thieves and crooks.

Chinese authorities have been adamant about preserving stability in Xinjiang, where Uygurs make up the largest minority group. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, or what many refer to as East Turkestan, is home to Uyghurs somewhere in the range of 8 to 10 million. 

As demonstrated in the nut cake incident, Chinese authorities have reverted to compensating Uyghurs rather than to risk further unrest.

Nevertheless, China’s blogosphere went berserk upon hearing the news – many shocked after hearing about the steep price tag. Some poked fun at the police’s willingness to give in to the Uygur's demands. Others complained that it was commonplace for colluding Uygur cake vendors to rip customers off.

"The police want to help the bad guys extort a good man! They are making making him pay for hitting a bully that was causing trouble. A case of bad money driving out good money," wrote one Weibo user.

“Nowadays, when a tricycle carrying Xinjiang nut cakes crashes into a BMW, it’s the BMW driver that needs to run,” stated another.

Even lawyers joined in on the hype, advertising legal assistance on Weibo and offering to help to free the detained villager.

“The Hunan Golden State Law Firm is willing to free the victim in the Yueyang cut cake incident… I urge the victim’s family to contact me personally.”

Update: In an interview with the Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, Yueyang police provided a more detailed account of the damages:

Victim “A Lei” received minor injures, six days of rest, 400 yuan in medical costs. Victim “Si Di ke” received minor injures, 15 days of rest, 700 yuan in medical costs. The damage to 5,520 pounds of Walnut candy cake, totalled to 96,600 yuan. The damage to 16 motorcycles, totaled to 6,825 yuan. Lost wages, return travel expenses and injury payments to the16 Xinjiang traders have been accounted for. Total damages are estimated at 152,000 yuan.


Best Weibo posts on the Xinjiang nut cake incident

1. "Every one square metre of Xinjiang nut cake can buy about three square metres of a Beijing apartment."

2. “IPhones are so yesterday. Xinjiang nut cake is the new symbol of one's social status.”

3. "I heard Barack Obama has decided to use several tonnes of Xinjiang nut cake to repay China."

4. "Since when did Xinjiang nut cake become the new hard currency?"

5. "How many carats was that Xinjiang nut cake?"

6. "Cake is king."

7. "Selling Xinjiang nut cake is the new shortcut to joining the country’s moneyed class." 

8. “Nowadays, when a tricycle carrying Xinjiang nut cakes crashes into a BMW, it’s the BMW driver that needs to run.”

9. "Do a Taobao search for Xinjiang nut cake, and you'll know how expensive things are in the world we live in."

10. "A measure of whether a man loves a woman is not whether he can provide jewellery, a house or car. It's whether he can provide cake."