The Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara is world-famous, who is the “Qie Guevara”? His original name was Zhou Liqi, and he was a thief from Nanning, Guangxi. His remarks during an interview in 2012 made him somehow become an internet celebrity in 2016.
Zhou Liqi man grew up in an impoverished city in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where his youth was spent struggling to earn money through unlawful means. Zhou made himself popular because of his stance on labor and employment.
Zhou’s first public appearance was from a video in 2012, where he was shown being interrogated at a police station. Zhou was convicted of stealing electric bikes. The video went viral in 2016 shows the Zhou man expressing no remorse for his actions, and justifying them by passing critique on modern ideals of work.
“I’ll never work for anyone.”
“I have my hands and feet, but I won’t do labor, and I won’t do business,”
“In my entire life I’ll never do it.”
The viral video resonated with young workers across the country, who found truth in Zhou’s harsh judgement of society. During his prison sentence, there was a crowd of fans building up, enough to follow up on his release. Due to his bearded appearance and his ideology his followers called him “Qie Guevara” (窃格瓦拉) after the Che Guevara (qie means ‘to steal’).
Many of these ironic memes have clear undertones of truth and dissent,. Perhaps one of the most interesting and obscure buzzwords to have made the ranks, is the term “involution” (neijuan; 内卷). This academic concept, which was first popularized by anthropologist Clifford Geertz, is now used by young Chinese people to explain the phenomenon of societal processes which were previously useful, now slowly becoming counterproductive by raising the overall standards against a fixed amount of resources, hence creating a self-perpetuating cycle.