Editor’s Note: Sign up at CNN’s Meanwhile in China Newsletterwhich explores what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it is affecting the world.
Light, delicious and easy to make, egg fried rice has long been a beloved dish in China and one of the most famous icons of Chinese cuisine around the world.
But in recent years, this popular fast food has become a very sensitive topic for online nationalists in China, especially in October and November.
Emotions ran so high this week that one of the country’s most famous chefs was forced to apologize – for filming 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, vowed in a video message on Monday.
Wang’s “official apology” attempted to tame a torrent of criticism over 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 a US air raid during the Korean War on November 25, 1950.
Wang’s video was only about making egg fried rice, but for some Chinese nationalists, any mention of the dish on the anniversary of Mao Anying’s death or his birthday on October 24 amounts to a deliberate act of insult and ridicule.
However, by attacking references to egg fried rice by celebrity chefs and other online influencers, nationalist users have inadvertently promoted the very rumor their government is trying to suppress.
The controversial account says that Mao Anying, an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, disobeyed orders to take cover during the air raid. Instead, the hungry young man lit the stove to prepare egg fried rice, billowing smoke into the air and giving away his position to enemy aircraft.
This version of events was mentioned in the memoirs of Yang Di, a military officer who worked alongside the younger Mao at the commander’s headquarters. But the Chinese authorities have repeatedly refuted these rumors.
Chef Wang / YouTube
Celebrity chef Wang Gang says he will never make egg fried rice again.
Under leader Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has suppressed voices that criticize national heroes or question the official narrative about them. In 2018, the country passed a law prohibiting defamation of national “heroes and martyrs,” a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.
Last May, former investigative journalist Lu Changping was sentenced to seven months in prison for “insulting the martyrs” who froze to death during a battle in the Korean War. He used a social media pun to suggest that Chinese soldiers depicted in a popular war movie 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 the Communist Party’s history — described the egg-fried rice story as “the most vicious rumour.”
“Rumor mongers have linked Mao Anying to egg fried rice, dwarfing the heroic image of Mao Anying’s courageous sacrifice to the greatest extent,” the academy said in a statement. job On the social networking site Weibo. “To say it in one sentence – their hearts are evil.”
She discredited Yang’s memoirs, calling them “full of flaws and absolutely unable to withstand verification.” Citing accounts from other eyewitnesses and declassified telegrams, the publication concluded that Mao Anying was killed because enemy forces detected radio waves from crowded telegraphs coming in and out of the headquarters in the days before the air raid.
Despite official denials, the disputed egg fried rice story persists. In some corners of the Chinese internet, November 25 is celebrated as the “Egg Fried Rice Festival” or “Chinese Thanksgiving” – a reference to the belief that had the younger Mao survived the war, he might have inherited power from both his father and his father. It turned China into a hereditary dictatorship like North Korea.
In 2021, police detained a Weibo user in the southern city of Nanchang 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 like North Korea now.”
00:53- Source: CNN
Find out what ingredient makes this the ‘hardest’ dish in the world
Wang’s video of egg-braised rice, which he released two days after the anniversary of the younger Mao’s death, was seen as particularly scandalous because it was far from his first “violation” – 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, the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily shared Wang’s video. The move raised eyebrows and sparked accusations that even the party’s main newspaper was corrupt.
In 2020, Wang posted a video of himself making Yangzhou fried rice — a fancy version containing pork, shrimp, peas and carrots as well as eggs — on October 24, sparking national protests. Wang responded by issuing a quick apology.
He wrote in the comments below the video: “I did not know about this situation until after I posted the video today and saw everyone’s comments.” “I only share delicious food and have no other motives.”
After the latest backlash on Monday, Wang explained in his apology that his team 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 the cooking video was removed. “I have been busy with personal matters recently and did not participate in the video release. “That was my biggest mistake.”
Wang, 34, who hails from a rural village in Sichuan Province, said his grandfather was a Korean War veteran who spent six years in North Korea.
He said he looked up to his grandfather and dreamed of becoming a soldier since his childhood, but he failed to pass the physical examination to join the army when he was 17 years old. “In my opinion, soil workers are very sacred,” he said.
But Wang’s critics do not give up easily.
“It might be a coincidence the first time. But can it be a coincidence every time?” said a comment about 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 a 2018 law.
But some also defended Wang, pointing out that the chef spreads egg fried rice in other months throughout the year.
“You don’t need to apologise. It’s society that should apologize to you,” one Weibo user said in support of Wang.
“Why don’t we clearly stipulate a complete ban on eating and preparing egg-fried rice in November, or simply withdraw egg-fried rice from Chinese cuisine all together,” one supporter quipped.
Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times and a prominent nationalist voice, warned that many people were still unaware of the rumors about Mao Anying. He called on public opinion to be more tolerant of inadvertent references to “relevant elements” on the younger Mao’s birth and death anniversaries.
“Being more tolerant with each other and not turning this into a hot topic is largely a solace and protection for the heroic spirit of martyr Mao Anying. It will help to gradually calm down the issue and mitigate the damage of rumours,” Hu Jintao wrote.
“Otherwise, it is likely that controversy after controversy will only strengthen the influence of the rumor.”
On Tuesday, Wang removed his apology video and closed the comment sections on his Weibo page.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”