On the fourth of the seven voyages of Admiral Zheng He’s “Treasure Fleet” in the early 15th century, Zheng met up in Bengal with envoys from Malindi, which is now part of Kenya. The men from Malindi had brought with them as tribute giraffes, and they gave one of those giraffes to the Chinese, who took it home to present it to the court. The Yongle emperor thought it was a Qilin, a mystical Chinese animal, and had it not only added to his menagerie of bears, elephants and rhinoceroses, but had it even painted by one of his court artists.
It is well known, that giraffes' necks allow them to reach food and nutrients that others cannot. This becomes especially important for survival in habitats where food can become scarce and droughts are fairly common. That might have been one of the reasons why more than 500,000 comments flooded the Weibo account of the US embassy in Beijing, when they published a story about efforts to safe giraffes with the help of new technology.
For the Chinese middle class, food in the form of investment opportunity has indeed become scarce and owners who paid for one of the many never built Evergrande apartments do experience a drought, unfortunately without having a long neck.
The comments did not discuss animal protection, however, but rather the state of the Chinese economy and the recent turmoil in its stock and bond markets. China's blue-chip CSI300 Index tumbled 6.3% last month and the SSE Composite Index lost 15% in the last six months amidst multiple economic headwinds and deflationary pressures. With property trading no longer profitable, the middle class turned to the stock market, only to find their last hope for successful investment destroyed as well.
Chinese netizens call such situations in which individuals deliberately post political satire or politically sensitive material as comments to unrelated topics, in full awareness that their posts and comments may be deleted by platform censors, and that their social media accounts could even be suspended or banned, “rushing the tower” (冲塔, chōng tǎ).
Frustrated investors were especially angered by a recent People’s Daily headline that proclaimed that “There is an Atmosphere of Optimism throughout the Country,” posting comments like “There is an atmosphere of optimism throughout the giraffes community”. Other openly criticised the governments economic policy, even though only recently negative comments about China’s economy have been declared as crossing the red line of what can be posted.
Nevertheless, last year saw about 50,000 Chinese travelling to Kenya, with most of them certainly looking at giraffes, about half the number of Chinese arrivals in 2019. A list of the top destinations for Chinese outbound travel which managed to attract more than 500,000 Chinese visitors you can find in the latest edition of COTRI INTELLIGENCE in the Facts and Views section. Please make use of a Premium or Premium Plus subscription. Celebrating the upcoming Year of the Wood Dragon, we have prolonged our special welcoming subscription for one month, with a 59% discount. Look here: https://cotri-intelligence.ghost.io/welcoming-offer.
Next week, China starts the biggest domestic travel activity on earth and the whole country will celebrate the start of the Wood-Dragon New Year (no, not the Dragon Year, that is an invention of the government). COTRI weekly editorial will also have a short break, but will be back after the end of the Golden Week.
All best wishes to our readers from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI INTELLIGENCE team for the New Year!