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2018 in review

From cockroach farms to ‘Ice Boy’, check out our most popular China society stories of 2018

  • Of the thousands of articles we published about day-to-day life in China, these are the nine you clicked on, shared and talked about more than any others
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 3:53pm

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back at the stories from our society reporters that really caught people’s imagination.

‘ICE BOY’ WARMS HEARTS

One of our most popular society stories of 2018 was about eight-year-old Wang Fuman from southwest China, who won hearts around the world after a photograph of him arriving at school with his hair covered in icicles went viral online.

His bright white headgear was the result of him having to walk 4.5km (2.8 miles) in the freezing cold from his home in a rural part of Yunnan province.

The story, which first ran in January but inspired several follow-ups, was hugely popular and even earned Wang the nickname “Ice Boy”.

The stoical youngster was quoted as saying at the time that: “It’s cold going to school, but it’s not too hard.”

INTRODUCING THE WORLD’S LARGEST AIR PURIFIER

Also in January we reported that scientists in northern China had built a 100-metre (328-foot) tall experimental “smog tower” designed to help alleviate pollution problems.

Dubbed the world’s biggest air purifier by its operators, at the time of reporting the huge stack in Xian, capital of Shaanxi province, was undergoing testing by researchers at the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Project leader Cao Junji said it had already been shown to improve air quality and was proving economical to run.

In the future, he said he and his colleagues hoped to build much larger towers, possibly as high as 500 metres, across the country.

CHINESE ‘FOREIGNERS’ OFFERED FIVE-YEAR VISAS

Another hugely popular story in January concerned changes to the nation’s immigration laws that made it possible for foreigners of Chinese ethnicity to apply for five-year entry visas.

To qualify for the scheme, people needed only to show that they had at least one parent, grandparent or ancestor who was a Chinese citizen.

The policy change was designed to encourage more overseas Chinese to “participate in China’s economic development”, a public security official said at the time.

CAN YOU HOLD? TODDLER LOCKS MUM’S PHONE FOR 47 YEARS

In March people loved the story of how a two-year-old boy from Shanghai managed to disable his mother’s iPhone for 25 million minutes.

The youngster managed the amazing feat by repeatedly pressing numbers on the keypad, which the not-so-smart phone processed as failed log in attempts and went into lockdown.

A technician at an Apple store in the city said the handset would reset itself – in about 47 years’ time – or she could wipe the memory chip clean and start over.

Unsurprisingly she opted for the latter.

“I couldn’t really wait for 47 years and tell my grandchild it was your father’s mistake,” she said.

ZOO ‘ANIMALS’ KILL KANGAROO WITH HAIL OF STONES

In April we published the story of how visitors to a zoo in southeast China killed a kangaroo and injured another by throwing stones at them.

Both incidents happened at Fuzhou Zoo in Fujian province. In February, a 12-year-old female kangaroo died from injuries sustained after being pelted with bricks and lumps of concrete. Despite the best efforts of the zoo’s vets, the animal died from a ruptured kidney.

A few weeks later, a five-year-old male kangaroo was injured in a similar way.

Reports said at the time that visitors to the zoo threw stones at the animals to make them hop.

DON’T LET 6 BILLION COCKROACHES BUG YOU

Also in April we reported how the world’s largest cockroach farm in southwest China was breeding 6 billion of the bugs a year for medicinal use.

The facility in Xichang, Sichuan province, uses artificial intelligence to manage the massive colony, which are used in a “healing potion” consumed by millions of people across the country.

The AI system collects and analyses more than 80 categories of “big data”, including humidity, temperature, food supply and consumption, and even monitors changes such as genetic mutations and how they affect the growing rates of individual cockroaches.

EXCUSE ME WHILE I PICK YOUR BRAIN

Our third April bestseller was the story of how Chinese companies are using brain surveillance devices to improve the efficiency of their workers.

Concealed in safety helmets or uniform hats, the lightweight, wireless sensors monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage.

Although the technology is in widespread use around the world, in China it is being applied on an unprecedented scale.

QIPAO PROM DRESS SPARKS PHILOSOPHICAL DEBATE

In May we told the story of how 18-year-old American student Keziah Daum caused an uproar on Twitter after she was pictured wearing a traditional Chinese qipao to her school prom.

But while politically correct social media users in the US accused her of cultural appropriation, on the other side of the world, internet users in China were full of support, describing her actions as “cultural appreciation”.

“Culture has no borders,” one person said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. “There is no problem, as long as there is no malice … Chinese cultural treasures are worth spreading all over the world.”

Daum also stood by her decision to wear the dress, telling the Post that it projected a “wonderful message”.

“I am sorry if anyone was offended. That was never my intention. I’m just grateful I was able to wear such a beautiful dress,” she said.

TRAGIC BUS PLUNGE LEAVES 13 DEAD

In November, we reported on the tragic story of how an argument between a bus driver and an irate passenger led to the deaths of 13 people.

The incident happened in Chongqing in southwest China, when the woman passenger, realising she had missed her stop, began attacking the driver because he would not let her off.

The vehicle was crossing a bridge over the Yangtze River at the time and her actions had devastating consequences.