On Sale Now in China: Cans of 'Revolutionary' Air

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Courtesy of Chen Guangbiao, one of the country's biggest philanthropists. What is he up to?

CGBAir-615-main.jpg

Recent tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands have brought out the best and worst in Chinese society. They've also led to some unusual displays of patriotism. Recycling tycoon and eccentric philanthropist Chen Guangbiao, known as "Brother Biao" (标哥) by his fans, announced on September 18 that he would personally replace any car damaged in acts of "irrational patriotism." His notice, translated below, was retweeted over 115,000 times on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter:

Urgent Notice

Hello friends! In response to recent irrationally patriotic events, Brother Biao will arrange for the unconditional replacement of absolutely any car destroyed in China, as long as you are a follower of Brother Biao on one of the seven main microblogging platforms (People's Daily, Xinhua, Sina, Sohu, Tencent, Netease, or Hexun Caijing) and bring valid proof from your local public security organization.

Registration email: lixingaiguo918@163.com

Special notice

Guarantor: Chen Guangbiao

Date: 2012.9.18 - 2012.9.30

In an update posted an hour later, he responded to netizen questions about the notice, writing, "Some netizens have asked me if I regret making this offer. Brother Biao is a national model for morality, the top philanthropist in Asia, and the Chinese benchmark for honesty. I practice what I preach and have no regrets." [Chinese] He also specified that those who had begun to follow him after the original notice was posted would not be eligible for new cars. (But to those who tried that trick -- can't say we blame you.)

This offer encouraging "rational patriotism," as promoted by Chinese authorities in the wake of violent protests against Japan, comes on the heels of Chen's announcement that he followed through on his plan to sell canned air (see pictures -- lots of them -- below). Chen claims the air is not only more pure than that in cities, but reportedly also comes from "revolutionary" regions. Proceeds, Chen says, will go to Chinese military efforts to defend the Diaoyu Islands. The canned air sold out in just a few days, and Chen told his social media followers to hold on to the cans, promising to buy them back for 40 or 50 RMB (about US$7) in ten years.

Despite the controversy surrounding his patriotic stunts, however, it is a fact that Chen Guangbiao has donated the equivalent of millions of dollars to charity and pledged to give away his fortune when he dies . Brother Biao is certainly unusual-he is impulsive, flashy, and even refers to himself in the third person -- but he puts his money where his mouth is.

CGBAir-615.jpgThe label on the cans read, "Chen Guangbiao: Good guy"

This post was produced in collaboration with Tea Leaf Nation.

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Liz Carter, an author and translator of Chinese-English language teaching textbooks, and a Tea Leaf Nation contributor, writes on Chinese Internet culture.

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