Schadenfreude: Eileen Gu learns the hard way about what comes of shilling for China
So things are not all bonbons and shark's fin soup for Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old skiing sensation trotted forth as a propaganda gal at the 2022 Olympics by the red Chinese government, following her decision to ski for China instead of America.
Seems the Chinese themselves on their meager internet outlets are questioning why this San Francisco–born and bred golden girl is being shoved in front of them as a role model, given that she had so many more opportunities than they had as Chinese people still stuck in China. And the whole thing is giving the Chicoms the perfect excuse for censoring their posts, if not rounding them up into jails. Way to go, Eileen — hope you're proud of yourself.
According to the Wall Street Journal, here's how bad it is:
No sooner had Gu won her first medal, a surprise gold in the freestyle skiing big air event, than one viral online article posed a pointed question in its headline — "What does Eileen Gu's success have to do with ordinary people?" — that appeared to strike a chord with readers, and to have unnerved government censors.
The article, published on China's ubiquitous WeChat messaging app by an education-focused blog widely followed by elite Chinese parents called Nuli Shehui — loosely translated as "Slave Society" — pointed out the lack of any concrete evidence to show that Gu had in fact renounced her U.S. citizenship, and attributed Gu's success to her unique upbringing, which combined the freedom and well-rounded education offered by the U.S. with the rigors of China's examination-oriented system.
After the post went viral, it was quickly taken down by WeChat's owner, the internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., sparking a familiar game of whack-a-mole on China's internet: Each time the article was taken down, it was republished by other blogs and news outlets, including Caixin, a respected Chinese financial-news outlet known for its often-daring reporting. Some readers circulated new links in subtle defiance of the apparent censorship, only to see them disappear hours later.
There's also this, with Chinese asking if Gu is any sort of role model, given her American life of privilege, which is completely off-limits to Chinese people in China:
Zhang Cailing, a blogger with more than 140,000 followers on Xiaohongshu, a platform that is often likened to Instagram, directly addressed the anxiety some Chinese parents feel when comparing themselves to the Olympian's mother, Yan Gu — a Beijing-born, U.S.-educated former Wall Street trader and venture capitalist, credited with overseeing Gu's trans-Pacific upbringing.
"Do you have the money to send your daughter to private school? Do you have the time to drive eight hours on weekends to take her skiing? If she falls, do you have the money to pay for such expensive physiotherapy?" Zhang said in her video, which was liked 32,000 times. Comparing Gu's rarefied upbringing to those of many in China, Zhang concluded: "We belong to different worlds."
In another widely viewed video, Chen Xiaoyu, a popular cultural commentator, declared herself an admirer of Gu, but also argued the athlete shouldn't be held up as a model for female success in China, saying that the resources available to Gu weren't attainable for most people.
Lastly, there's Gu's own naïveté, telling Chinese people to just go break Chinese law to get around Chinese censors as she does, highlighting her own privileged status in a "let them eat cake" way:
Gu also invited derision from Chinese internet users for what was perceived as a privileged response to a question aimed at her on Instagram regarding internet controls in China. "Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese cannot," a user named cilla.chan asked Gu on the social-media platform, which is blocked in China.
"Anyone can download a VPN [sic] it's literally free on the App Store," Gu replied, referring to virtual private networks, which let internet users circumvent censorship and protect their privacy. VPNs are technically banned under Chinese law and people have been arrested for using them to bypass China's internet controls, though enforcement isn't always consistent — most visibly in the case of China-based government officials and state-media journalists who regularly use VPNs to post on Twitter and other platforms.
Online news coverage about Gu's retort itself was later removed from China's internet. Gu's agent didn't respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Chinese people know what happens when they break Chinese law — and when Gu does — and it's not the same thing. No wonder they resent it.
What it shows is that Gu has gotten herself into an ugly tangle by taking the Chicom side over the American one. And that has to come as a surprise. Here she is, whipping up resentment and censorship among the Chinese public, who don't take kindly to the government shoving her in their faces as an impossible role model for them. She's also learning the hard way about acting as an American in China and finding a way around the censored press, which hasn't endeared her to her Chicom commissars.
Some say she made this bad choice because of the lucrative Chinese endorsements she's gained. Others think it was because of the values she learned at her home in far-left San Francisco, what with her mother, who was happy to take all the benefits of American society but never returned it with loyalty.
She benefited from access to American ski slopes and training but chose to get her medal for China. Olympic rules state that one must compete under one's citizenship, and if such rules were followed, she would have had to give up her American citizenship, given that China does not recognize dual citizenship. There's no sign she has, and we doubt she has — she continues to live in the States and will attend Stanford University next fall, because citizenship, to her, does not matter. She's a real multi-culti example of San Francisco-style wokester learning.
America's a racist hellhole, just like what her San Francisco wokester teachers told her, right? One political system's just as good as another, right? That little phenomenon of people, including her parents, moving away from China, instead of toward it, is but an irrelevant detail. Such is the logic of a traitor, which is what writer Amber Athey calls it.
Now she's finding out the hard way just what being China's little running dog is bringing. She may not care about the people being censored or the people being rounded up as a result of her privileged status and laurels, but it's quite likely she's feeling the heat. She's likely to get into more trouble as the Chinese come to dislike her for her fealty to the old men of the Forbidden City, and while she's unlikely to end up as American-born Tokyo Rose in the states, she'll find herself unpopular in two countries. She can perform all she likes, and take the biggest medals, but no one is going to cheer her.
Image: Screen shot from ESPN Asia video via YouTube.