China’s Propagandists Wanted a Hero. ‘Frost Boy’ Fit the Bill.

China’s Propagandists Wanted a Hero. ‘Frost Boy’ Fit the Bill.


Social media users circulated memes showing Fuman dressed as a police officer and holding a rifle. Some drew comparisons between the young boy and soldiers who endure harsh conditions protecting China’s border.

“My eyes welled up with tears,” one user wrote of Fuman’s visit on Weibo, a microblogging site.

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After reports that Fuman aspired to law enforcement, China’s internet supplied memes to match.

China has a long tradition of lionizing figures who have suffered hardship but kept faith in their country and the Communist Party.

Many people were critical of the rush to idolize the boy, though, saying officials were using Fuman as a prop and neglecting the broader issue of rural poverty.

“A salute under the national flag is not going to solve anything,” wrote Zhishang Suping, the pen name of one commentator.

Others were concerned about the effect of the media hype on Fuman’s well-being.

“In this age of consumerism and amusing ourselves to death,” said a commentary published by China News Service, “it seems everything can be hyped — fortune, family, charity and even misery.”

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Fuman donning riot gear at a public security bureau in Beijing on Saturday.

Credit
Visual China Group, via Getty Images

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Fuman made the most of his visit to the bureau, a SWAT headquarters.

Credit
Visual China Group, via Getty Images

David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, said the government was using Fuman as an “antidote” to criticism of its treatment of impoverished citizens. He noted that Fuman’s struggle was depicted as one against the harshness of winter, rather than the “social and political roots of his condition.”

“The invitation to Beijing essentially fuses this narrative of personal struggle with the ruling party’s narrative of national struggle,” Mr. Bandurski wrote in an email.

The focus on Fuman’s story helped the authorities “temporarily avoid painful policy discussions and potential public blame,” said Haifeng Huang, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Merced.

“A worthy story has been trivialized,” Professor Huang added.

Fuman returned to his hometown on Monday. The family has received about $1,200 in donations, according to news reports, and local youth charities have gotten hundreds of thousands more.

In response to Fuman’s story, Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, recently vowed to help finance boarding schools for children who live in isolated rural areas.

During his visit to Beijing, Fuman spoke about missing his mother, who left the family two years ago, and wanting to help catch thieves. At times, he seemed tired of the attention.

“My name is Wang Fuman,” he said during one appearance, “not Frost Boy.’”

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Fuman and his sister on a tour of People’s Public Security University in Beijing.

Credit
Visual China Group, via Getty Images



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