In 2012, then-President Xi Jinping disappeared for two weeks.

There were big headlines in all the international media.

He was just about to be elevated to the post of China's most powerful, and there was speculation about everything from swimming injuries to power struggles.

Would China have an orderly change of power?

Senare skrev amerikanska Washington Post om vad det var som hade hänt egentligen. Det var det senare: maktstrider. Handgripligen, till och med, för Xi Jinping hade fått en stol i ryggen vid ett möte med Kinas maktelit. “Mötet blev våldsamt, och de tog i med både hammaren och skäran”, skrev tidningen.

Xi tried to intervene and interrupt a quarrel.

But then the chair was already thrown, so to speak.

The stories behind the various disappearances are different.

In some cases it has been shown that people are in custody, in other cases they have been under house arrest, or just stayed away from social media and ducked all public appearances.

Jack Ma returned, uncommented after two months of silence (But China's tech industry has been in a tumble of regulations ever since).

Fan Bingbing resurfaced along with a self-deprecating apology, and large tax debts.

Image of China

China is not a transparent society, China does not have an independent judiciary, no independent media, and the party permeates the whole society.

Therefore, famous people can disappear without the public getting an explanation.

Inrikes handlar det inte ens om politik. På senaste tiden har kändis- och konstfotografen Chen Man varit borta från offentligheten, efter en kritikstorm mot en kampanj som hon fotade för modemärket Dior. När Chen Man fotar porträtt brukar alla ut som en dragqueen eller en fursona. På 2000-talet tog hon ikoniska bilder av filmstjärnorna Fan Bingbing och Li Bingbing, och hade samtidigt konstutställningar med gigantiska helkroppsbilder av fantasikvinnor som hon målat digitalt. De såg ut som tarotkort eller tv-spelshjältinnor. Men kritikstormen mot Chen Man den senaste tiden har handlat om att kinesiska internetanvändare ansåg att modellerna i Diorkampanjen var för fula. De ansåg att hon hade skapat en nidbild av Kina. Precis som skådespelerskan Fan Bingbing uppstod Chen Man också med en självspäkande ursäkt. Där står till exempel:“Från och med nu ska jag inte glömma tidens kulturella självsäkerhet i mitt skapande.”

Tribute to Falun Gong

Another example is the Internet phenomenon Sun Xiaochuan, the anti-hero of China's nihilistic and nationalist Internet troll culture.

He became famous for his vlog where he played League of Legends and swore in Sichuan dialect, and has given rise to a Chinese swear word: "Your mother is dead", abbreviated NMSL.

(He once shouted "your mother is dead" to a neighbor who complained that he sounded too much.)

Sun Xiaochuan's fans both drove with him and tried to conjure him in different ways, and in the end they actually managed to conjure him away.

A fan managed to get him to play a song it had written and dedicated to him.

But in fact, the song was a disguised tribute to the Falun Gong organization, which led to internet censorship.

Sun Xiaochuan disappeared from the internet.

He resurfaced a few months later with a new channel, but now it's mostly about food, and he does not swear so much anymore.

Above all, the disappearance of Chinese celebrities is a media event that affects the image of China internationally, whether it is about mechanical censorship, cancel culture or the one-party state's political need for control and the lack of transparency.

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