Pro-China pundit's admission to owning a house in California sparks backlash

Sima Nan is roasted on social media after admitting to having bought the property in 2010.
By Hwang Chun-mei for RFA Mandarin
2022.08.18
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Pro-China pundit's admission to owning a house in California sparks backlash Social commentator and intellectual Sima Nan laughs during an interview in Beijing on Oct. 12, 2017.
AFP

The admission by pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pundit Sima Nan that he owns a house in California has prompted public anger in China, with many branding Sima a hypocrite after he produced years of ideological invective targeting the United States.

Sima, whose real name is Yu Li, has always styled himself a pro-CCP patriot. He made the admission in a video clip uploaded to his personal Weibo account earlier this week.

He admitted to buying the house for 257,000 U.S.$ in 2010.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I must admit this to everyone," Sima said in the video clip. "I have committed a serious and unforgivable crime and let down my online followers."

Sima had earlier satirized Chinese patriots who live in the U.S. with the quip: "So opposing Uncle Sam is work, and living in the U.S. is life."

He later said that the house is being managed, and that nobody in his family has ever lived there.

"Is Sima Nan anti-American down to his bones?" asked one social media user, @Hero-Hero-Sword," asked in a popular Weibo post accusing Sima of spouting anti-U.S. rhetoric but living the life of the American bourgeoisie.

"You keyboard warriors bark like dogs every day, slinging mud at the U.S.," @A-high-level-netizen commented.

Sarcasm, questions

Some comments were sarcastic.

"I'm such a good guy because I bought a house in America, earned U.S. dollars, yet didn't emigrate," said one.

"Go Sima! Lead the people in the fight to the death against those who don't work in the nation's favor," said another.

Others questioned how Sima could have gotten so much money out of China, given that personal foreign exchange transactions were capped at U.S.$50,000 from 1999.

Others wondered if he had "smuggled" two million yuan (the equivalent of the house's value) out of the country.

Former Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin tried to defend Sima, saying the ownership of property in the U.S. didn't mean he was barred from criticizing the country.

Veteran political journalist Gao Yu said pro-CCP pundits like Sima and Hu are branded as public intellectuals, with a massive platform in China.

"They have a huge platform, and act as opinion leaders for vast numbers of ordinary internet users on behalf of the CCP," Gao told RFA.

"They were both on the front lines of the anti-U.S. uproar a while back ... so of course Hu Xijin is standing up for Sima Nan now that he is in trouble for buying a house in the U.S.," she said.

Deceiving Little Pinks

Current affairs commentator Ji Feng said few people scrutinize online commentators too closely if they are saying what the CCP wants to hear.

"They have credibility among the little pinks, who don't have long memories," Ji said. "They have been deceived countless times."

Sima's Weibo account appeared to be still active on Thursday, with no sign of blocking or deletions.

"His criticisms [of the U.S.] were never meant to include him," Ji said. "Since when did these people ever include themselves?"

"Even if they did, they would still all be speaking from the standpoint of the CCP," he said, adding that pundits like Sima and Hu only flourish amid tight government censorship of online content.

"He wouldn't have any audience at all if everyone was allowed to comment freely," Ji said.

Sima later said he had been receiving death threats following the revelations, and said he would never take his own life.

"Suicide is not an option for me," he wrote. "If I'm found hanged, it can only be homicide."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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