Mike Tyson, the retired American professional boxer, has created a sudden sensation in China, this time with his presence in the social media rather than the ring. His verbal hooks have knocked out many of the Weibo users, including big shots like Kai-fu Lee.
Mike Tyson's Weibo account. Photo: weibo.com
Tyson, who recently announced his return to the boxing ring as a promotor, joined Weibo, China’s twitter-like microblogging site, on August 19 and lured some 60,000 followers within a day, with two of his most popular posts having been reposted nearly 70,000 times as of August 20 morning. It was all because they touched on two of the hottest issues in the Chinese social media conversations: chengguan 城管 (literally urban management) and dama 大妈 (literally big mother).
The former champion asked his fans in his second Weibo post “Who is the best fighter in China?” and got over 15,000 responses within a day. One Weibo user jokingly answered “chengguan”, which seemed to have baffled Tyson who asked “Who is chengguan? A tough man? I've never heard it.”
The dialogue almost instantly became a hot topic, and more so when a Weibo user relied to Tyson: “‘Bite me!’ said one chengguan officer.” This hilarious reply, invoking Tyson’s “bite fight” with Evander Holyfield in 1997, created another round of reposting frenzy of Tyson’s already viral post.
Tyson's post on best fighter. Photo: weibo.com
The reason for the popularity of the post is because chengguan - the members of the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau in China - are notorious for their violent and thuggish ways of enforcing “law and order” on the streets of the Chinese cities.
Some of the recent activities of chengguan that generated widespread indignation in China include: the death of a watermelon vendor Deng Zhengjia who was fatally hit in the head with his measure weights by the chengguan in a conflict over four melons at Linwu, Hunan province and the stamping on the head of a victim during a law enforcement session that turned violent by the chengguan in Yan’an, Shaanxi procince.
Not only have chengguan repeatedly sparked nationwide outrage in China, they have also been featured on many major western media. The term “chengguan” has made its way into the English Language because of the heavy coverage and its social significance. Some UK netizens even compared the Chinese chengguan to the Vikings, which was applauded by the Chinese once the information hit the Internet in China.
If Tyson’s first post went viral unwittingly, his second post was definitely a deliberate and cleverly thought-out maneuver aimed at garnering attention: “So many guys talking about Chengguan as a great fighter? Still not a clue about him... all I've heard about are: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen...and wait wait, the Chinese dama!”
The mention of “dama”, which is currently a hot word in the Chinese Weibosphere, is what made Tyson’s second post a smash hit. Kai-fu Lee, former boss of Google China and a Weibo heavyweight, jibed: “Oh this Tyson. Yesterday he dared to say he’s never heard of Chengguan. And today he’s provoking the Chinese dama. Is he asking for trouble or what?”
“Dama”, a Chinese term referring to middle-aged women, has made headlines in China after the Wall Street Journal used the pinyin spelling as an English word in one of its reports where the Chinese "dama"s were blamed for driving up the gold prices in the global market. There are speculations on Weibo that the word has entered the English vocabulary. "Damas are to conquer the world!" shouted many Weibo users.
Some weibo users went on to explicitly express their amusement from Tyson's posts. One wrote in a comment: "I bet you know chengguan. U R so humorous." Another quipped, "Oh you know too much!" Some even exclaimed, "We love you, forever Tiger!" If Mike Tyson is contemplating making a return to China, this might be his golden chance.
A cartoon mocking Tyson titled Michael Gerard Tyson VS Chinese Chengguan by @大尸凶的漫画. Photo: weibo.com