Baidu Beat

With 2012 winding down, as we do every year we’ve released a list of all the top search terms for the year. Over the next week or so we’ll highlight a different category each day. You can find all the top lists (Chinese only) here.

We’re kicking things off with the Top 10 Social Search terms: searches related to politics, phenomena in society, the economy and so forth.

1. 王立军事件 (Wáng Lìjūn Shìjiàn – the Wang Lijun Affair) – The dramatic fall of Bo Xilai was triggered in February when Bo’s hand-picked top cop in Chongqing was suddenly demoted, then fled in disguise from Chongqing to Chengdu, where he sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate. There, according to many sources, he presented information on the murder of Neil Heywood, a British citizen with close ties to the Bo family, at the hands of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai. And so began the most dramatic real-life political thriller that China had seen in decades. Wang went on trial in September, and was convicted of abuse of power, bribe-taking, attempting to defect, and “bending the law for selfish ends.” He was given a 15-year sentence. Since then, many sordid details of his tenure as Public Security Bureau chief in Chongqing, where he oversaw the “Strike the Black” campaign against organized crime in the megacity. China’s muckraking Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine recently published a whopping 40-page exposé about Wang (the version linked to here is from Caixin, courtesy of Bill Bishop’s excellent Sinocism daily newsletter), excerpts of which you can read in a translation from the South China Morning Post in English here and here.

2. 白银价格 (baíyín jiàgè -  the price of silver) – After its price started skyrocketing after the 2008 financial crisis began, silver hit a high of nearly $50 an ounce in May of 2011. This year, the volatility of its price (surging in the first few months of the year from about $27 an ounce to about $37 an ounce in March, falling back down to about $26 in July, then climbing back up yet again to $35 in October before beginning a year-end oscillation) has Chinese speculators watching carefully, and searching for the price of silver very often, as we end the year.

3. 薄熙来被免职 (Bó Xīlaí beì miǎnzhí – Bo Xilai is removed from posts) – The princeling son of revolutionary immortal Bo Yibo, Bo Xilai—never appearing in print without the trusty descriptors “flamboyant,” “charismatic,” and “populist”—rose to prominence as the mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning Province, Minister of Commerce, and finally Party Secretary of Chongqing. By March, when the Two Meetings were held in Beijing, the writing was clearly on the wall: Bo was out.  His unraveling had been set in motion when his wife, Gu Kailai, poisoned Britisher Neil Heywood to death in a three-star hotel in Chongqing, and it was riveting. When CCTV announced that Gu was “strongly suspected” of the murder and had been placed under arrest, and minutes later announced that Bo had been removed from his position in Chongqing, China knew that it was in for a rare political spectacle. See “the Wang Lijun Affair,” above. Highly recommended: John Garnaut’s book, The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo.

4. 油价 (yoújià – gasoline prices) – With China now the world’s largest market for automobiles, and with nearly every driver in China online, it’s no surprise that gas prices would be a subject of frequent search—especially in a year that saw gas the government raise prices in February and March, cut them in June, and raise them again in August.

5. 纸黄金 (zhǐhuángjīn – paper gold) – Chinese investors took a keen interest in “paper gold,” or gold certificates, this year. Gold certificates are basically a savings account for gold. Investors can buy and sell their gold through their account instead of actually exchanging physical gold. Gold speculation has been very popular in China in the past year, as investors lack means of investment due to tightened control on the real estate market and badly-regulated and sluggish stock market.

6. 个人所得税 (gèrénsuǒdéshuì – individual income tax) – The threshold for individual income tax exemption was raised this year from 2000 RMB to 3500, which meant that a lot of people who had tax liability last year didn’t have it this year—surely cause for celebration for the vast majority of Chinese Internet users, whose average incomes are still below the new 3500 RMB threshold.

7. 摇号 (yaóhaò – [auto license] lottery) – In an effort to curb private automobile ownership, which has turned Beijing’s famed Ring Roads into barely-mobile parking lots during rush hour commute, the capital implemented a lottery system on January 1 2011 for would-be car buyers. This year Guangzhou followed suite, and began issuing license plates only for lucky lottery winners beginning in August.  As the chances for getting picked by the lottery machine get slimmer by the day, Beijingers became even more furious with a recent report that Song Jianguo, head of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, was being investigated for rigging the lottery for personal gain. The authorities claimed the accusations were groundless but people’s suspicions remained.

8.劳动合同法(láodònghétóngfá, Labor Contract Law) – The Labor Contract Law of the Peoples Republic of China was passed in 2007 and has been frequently searched by employees and employers alike as it is the guidelines for any dispute between the two parties.

9. 重阳节(Chóngyángjié – The Chung Yeung Festival) – The Chung Yeung Festival is a traditional Chinese festival that falls on the ninth day of the September of the lunar calendar. Traditionally, people have a family reunion, climb to a higher place and enjoy taking in the chrysanthemums that bloom around this time. Starting in 1989, it took on another layer of meaning and became a holiday for senior citizens. Family members often take senior citizens on a picnic, an activity that has become quite popular on this day.

10. 局长儿媳炫富(júzháng érxí xuànfù - official’s daughter-in-law shows off wealth) – In Zhejiang Province, a local drug administration bureau chief’s daughter-in-law posted photos of luxury bags and watches online and said her husband basically gets paid for going to work once a week at a local state-owned entity. The photos and comments triggered an investigation into her father-in-law and husband. In a similar case, the wife of a local police in Hainan showed off photos of her visiting hot spring resorts in her husband’s patrol car and an investigation was launched against the conduct of her husband. Internet users made fun of these “ignorant women”, calling them “death traps” for their men and “big helpers” of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.




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