Ordinary Person Olympics: The Guinness Book in China

We’re in the ballroom of a high-end Shanghai hotel. Glass and gold chandeliers hang from the ceiling like giant, opulent octopi. Marble columns flank two-person-tall wood doors. And 388 people are sitting in rented beds beneath lunch trays stacked with noodles, fruit, spring rolls and a bottle of orange juice. It happens to be 388 people, but really just needed to be more than 289 – the number of Australians who set the previous Guinness World Record for “Most people eating breakfast in bed” in 2012.

“Please enjoy your breakfast, and please enjoy being part of a new world record!” a man exclaims from a podium bedecked with Guinness logos.

[Read in That’s Shanghai, December 2014]


Dying Daily for 70 Kuai

Shi Zhongpeng is going to die today. If he’s lucky, he may die more than once. In the morning, he could be hit by a sniper. In the afternoon, he might perish in a storm of quickly-shot arrows along with a dozen of his beige-uniformed colleagues. Before dinner, he could suffer any number of fates, from getting his heart pulled out of his chest to a well-thrown hand grenade taking down his prop-plane fighter.

Shi Zhongpeng isn’t a WWII-era Japanese casualty, he just plays one on TV. “I’ll be on six or seven different sets daily, if I’m lucky,” he says. “I’ve died more than 30 times in one day.” Shi has a stunt man’s build: fit and strong, with a gymnastic talent for spins and flips, he is perfectly suited to being blown up. At 27 years old, Shi has been working in the film industry for more than a decade. He exclusively plays Japanese ‘devils,’ the extras who die en masse in the scores of Chinese films and TV series produced each year depicting the 1937-1945 Second Sino-Japanese War.

“When it’s around New Year or a national holiday, some of the sets will be short on extras and I can take more roles, and die more times,” he says. He makes about RMB70-80 per day, and has heard that actors with dialogue make RMB200-300, but doesn’t know that first-hand. Although Shi has appeared hundreds of times on screen – sometimes dying in one scene yet appearing in the background of another – his characters have never lived to tell the tale.

[Read in That’s Shanghai, November 2014]


Sexist. Unoriginal. Genius.

The most iconic photo submitted to Chinese cellphone maker OnePlus’s recent contest was a girl holding both of her hands up, middle fingers extended. One hand had the OnePlus logo written on it in black ink and the other hand said, “Don’t be sexist!” The headline read “OnePlus asks women to participate in degrading contest to get a smartphone.”

The campaign was not a success.

Maybe it had seemed like a good idea at the time? The cellphone company had been able to generate much excitement about its upcoming ‘One’ smartphone, which was receiving rave reviews online. “A tiny Chinese startup has made my favorite new smartphone of the year” gushed a Business Insider headline. The phone featured top-of-the-line hardware, sleek looks and a mind-blowing low price.

Seeking to capitalize on the buzz, OnePlus launched a campaign this August entitled ‘Ladies First.’ The company invited women to submit photos of their bodies with the OnePlus logo written on their “hand/ face/wherever” — but did include the admonition, “Ladies, no nudity please” — promising that whoever received the most ‘likes’ online would win an invitation to buy the new phone — they still had to pay, mind you — and a t-shirt. Accusations of sexism ensued, and the company pulled the competition and issued a hasty apology, calling their campaign “a misguided effort.”

[Read in That’s Shanghai, October 2014]


Nanjing under Lele: Youth Olympic fever in the Southern Capital

A 16-year-old from the 9,000-person-strong Pacific Island of Nauru is holding two bright yellow weights over his head and the audience seems bored. A group of teenagers sit with a Chinese flag draped over their laps, looking at their phones. 120 pounds of metal fall to the ground and some light applause floats in the auditorium. Abruptly, the clapping gets louder and the excited screaming starts.

[Read on That’s Online]