Superpower, at last
Jul 21, 2017 (WiC 375)

Ask someone what superhero they would like to be and their answer will reveal something of their character. Those wishing for strength are proactive, those seeking flight want adventure, and those who ask to be invisible are probably up to no good.

China now has the chance to make that decision for itself, thanks to a licencing deal between NetEase and Disney. Hoping to tap the success of the Marvel movies, which are owned by Disney and have grossed over Rmb8 billion ($1.18 billion) at the Chinese box office, the deal gives NetEase distribution rights for 12 comic book series online.

According to Technode, the Disney-NetEase partnership will include collaboration on producing games, films, novels and other products derived from the Marvel universe.

One key aspect is the co-creation of “a modern Chinese superhero based on Marvel’s elements with inspiration from modern China”. There are no further details, leaving room for speculation on what its “modern inspiration” will be.

Marvel’s last attempt at a Chinese superhero was in the 1970s, resulting in Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. It didn’t capture the imagination. Perhaps the latest iteration will be a more tech-driven affair, more akin to Iron Man and based in Shenzhen’s Silicon Delta.

Last year, Marvel’s Stan Lee hinted at another direction things might take when he said he was working on a character for the Chinese market called Monkey Master – inspired by The Monkey King (China’s original cloud-surfing superhero).

Until now the closest that Hollywood has got to creating a ‘Chinese’ superhero is the Kung-fu Panda franchise. Of course, that was an entirely American creation, blending an iconic Chinese animal with comedy and martial arts. But for Disney and NetEase the bamboo-eating bear will be a tough act to follow – if only in box office terms.

Cash and carrier
Jul 14, 2017 (WiC 374)

The Chinese have a history of decommissioning aircraft carriers. The Kiev and the Minsk, two Soviet ships sold to China in the 1990s, have been converted into a hotel and a theme park respectively.

Supposedly another Ukrainian aircraft carrier, the Varyag, was initially procured as a tourist attraction as well, although she later became the Liaoning, China’s first combat-ready carrier (see WiC250 for the story of its purchase and conversion).

The Soviet-era vessel was in Hong Kong this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule. The port call had been arranged to inspire a little patriotism in the former British colony and it is the first time the carrier has opened its decks to the public.

To get one of the 2,000 visitor tickets, hundreds of curious Hongkongers stayed up overnight at a PLA depot last week. The tickets were free but the PLA was selling souvenirs of the visit, including models of the battleship and its J-15 fighter aircraft.

Scale models of the J-15 selling for HK$400 ($50) were the most popular souvenir and all the ship’s promotional items were sold out soon after the first group of visitors boarded on Saturday, the Global Times was delighted to report.

“It was worth it,” a Hongkonger told the newspaper, after spending HK$4,500 on souvenirs and waiting for nine hours to get his entry ticket.

China Daily notes that a further 2,000 VIPs also visited the ship during its five-day anchorage in Hong Kong. The Liaoning departed on Tuesday through the East Lamma channel, the same way that it had arrived. The China Daily points out that the boat was too big to pass through the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour, but three support vessels did sail through it on Tuesday “to salute the people of Hong Kong” before departing.

Beaten to the punch
Jul 7, 2017 (WiC 373)

One of the most anticipated clashes in China this year has ended in anti-climax. As regular readers will recall, the brash Mixed Martial Arts fighter Xu Xiaodong grabbed headlines in May when he beat to the ground a tai chi master in just 10 seconds (see WiC365).

Having knocked his opponent to the floor and slapped him liberally around the head, ‘Madman’ Xu then trashed tai chi as an outdated fighting form, enraging proponents of China’s ancient martial arts styles in the process.

Xu said he was prepared to fight all challengers and so this month another tai chi master stepped up and said he would take on the 37 year-old in Shanghai.

This time the media showed up in force to see whether 65 year-old Shandong native Ma Baoguo could do any better against Xu. However, 10 minutes before the fight was due to start, Xu was told by staff at the venue that the bout would not go ahead because the police were outside.

The police then came into the hall and announced that the event was an illegal gathering. As they tried to escort the enraged Xu from the scene, he shouted “Don’t you push me. You’re too weak to make me move” but he was taken to the police station and released later in the evening.

A furious Xu now insists that it was a relative of Ma’s who tipped off the police in a bid to “entrap” him and that the cancelled contest was a “shameful day for martial arts”, the media has reported.