Home World Chinese celebrity chef vows to never cook egg fried rice again after nationalist backlash

Chinese celebrity chef vows to never cook egg fried rice again after nationalist backlash

by admin

Light, tasty and simple to make, egg fried rice has long been a beloved dish in China and one of most recognizable icons of Chinese cuisine around the world.

But in recent years, the popular stir-fry has become a highly sensitive subject for China’s online nationalists, especially around the months of October and November.

Emotions are running so high this week that one of the country’s most famous chefs has been forced to apologize – for making a video on how to cook the dish.

“As a chef, I will never make egg fried rice again,” Wang Gang, a celebrity chef with more than 10 million online fans, pledged in a video message on Monday.

Wang’s “solemn apology” attempted to tame a frothing torrent of criticism about the video, which was posted on Chinese social media site Weibo on November 27.

Angry nationalists accused Wang of using the video to mock the death of Mao Zedong’s eldest son, Mao Anying, who was killed in an American air strike during the Korean War on November 25, 1950.

Wang’s video was solely about making egg fried rice, but for some Chinese nationalists, any mention of the dish around the anniversary of Mao Anying’s death or birthday on October 24 amounts to a deliberate act of insult and mockery.

However, by attacking mentions of egg fried rice by famous chefs and other online influencers, the nationalist users have inadvertently promoted the very rumor their government is trying to quash.

The controversial account has it that Mao Anying, an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, disobeyed orders to take shelter during the air raid. Instead, the hungry young man fired up a stove to make egg fried rice, which sent smoke into the air and gave away his position to enemy jets.

That version of events was mentioned in the memoir of Yang Di, a military officer who worked alongside the younger Mao at the commander’s headquarters. But Chinese authorities have repeatedly refuted it as rumor.

Under leader Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has cracked down on voices that criticize national heroes or question the official narrative about them. In 2018, the country passed a law to ban the slander of national “heroes and martyrs,” a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Last May, former investigative journalist Luo Changping was sentenced to seven months in prison for “insulting martyrs” who froze to death during a Korean War battle. He had used a pun on social media to suggest that Chinese soldiers portrayed in a blockbuster movie about the war were stupid.

On the 70th anniversary of Mao Anying’s death in 2020, the Chinese Academy of History – an official think tank launched by Xi to counter “incorrect” views of Communist Party history – called the egg fried rice story “the most vicious rumor.”

“These rumormongers have tied up Mao Anying with egg fried rice, dwarfing the heroic image of Mao Anying’s brave sacrifice to the greatest extent,” the academy said in a post on social media site Weibo. “To put it in one sentence – their hearts are evil.”

It discredited Yang’s memoir as “full of flaws and cannot withstand verification at all.” Citing other eyewitness accounts and declassified telegrams, the post concluded that Mao Anying was killed because enemy forces detected radio waves from the busy telegraphs coming in and out of the headquarters in the days leading up to the air raid.

Despite official denials, the disputed egg fried rice story has persisted. In some corners of the Chinese internet, November 25 is celebrated as the “Egg Fried Rice Festival” or “Chinese Thanksgiving” – a nod to the belief that if the younger Mao had survived the war, he might have inherited power from his father and turned China into a hereditary dictatorship like North Korea.

In 2021, a Weibo user in the southern city of Nanchang was detained by police for 10 days for commenting in a post that “the greatest achievement of the Korean War is egg fried rice.”

“Thank you egg fried rice. Without it, we would be the same as (North Korea) now,” the post said.

‘My biggest mistake’

Wang’s egg-fired rice video, posted two days after the anniversary of the younger Mao’s death, was seen as particularly egregious as it was far from his first “transgression” – at least in the eyes of Chinese nationalists.

In 2018, Wang posted a video introducing his homemade egg fried rice recipe on October 22. Two days later, on Mao Anying’s birthday, Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily shared Wang’s video. The move raised eyebrows and drew accusations that even the party’s flagship newspaper had been corrupted.

In 2020, Wang posted a video of himself making Yangzhou fried rice – a deluxe version featuring ham, shrimp, peas and carrots in addition to eggs – on October 24, which sparked a nationalist outcry. Wang responded by issuing a swift apology.

“I only found out about this situation after I posted the video today and saw everyone’s comments,” he wrote in comments underneath the video. “I’m only sharing the delicious food and have no other motives.”

After the latest backlash on Monday, Wang explained in his apology that his team had posted the video without his knowledge.

“This video has caused a lot of trouble and a very bad experience for everyone. I apologize again,” he said after taking down the cooking video. “I was busy with personal matters recently and did not participate in the release of the video. This was my biggest mistake.”

Wang, 34, who hails from a rural village in Sichuan province, said his grandfather had been a veteran of the Korean War and spent six years in North Korea.

He said he looked up to his grandfather and dreamed of becoming a soldier since childhood, but failed the physical examination to join the army at 17. “In my mind, soilders are very sacred,” he said.

But Wang’s critics are not letting it go easily.

“It might be a coincidence the first time. But can it be a coincidence every single time?” a comment said of Wang’s egg fried rice videos.

Some called for Wang to be banned on Chinese social media, while others urged authorities to punish him for insulting national “heroes and martyrs,” citing the 2018 law.

But some have also come to Wang’s defense, noting that the chef has posted egg fried rice in other months throughout the year.

“You don’t need to apologize. It is society that should apologize to you,” a Weibo user said in support of Wang.

“Why don’t we clearly stipulate a complete ban on eating and making egg fried rice in November, or simply retire egg fried rice from Chinese cruisine all togther,” another supporter quipped.

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief for Global Times and a prominent nationlist voice, cautioned that many people are still unaware of the rumors about Mao Anying. He called for public opinion to be more tolerant of unintentional mentions of “relevant elements” around the younger Mao’s birthday and death anniversary.

“Being more tolerant of each other and not making this into a hot topic is by and large a comfort and protection to martyr Mao Anying’s heroic spirit. It will help the issue gradually quiet down and weaken the rumor’s damage,” Hu wrote.

“Otherwise, it is possible that a controversy after another will only strengthen the rumor’s impact.”

On Tuesday, Wang removed the video of his apology and closed the comment sections on his Weibo page.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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