In the past two years there have been three anomalous increases in readership of Public Occurrences characterized by an intense spike on one day and tapering off after a few days. This "Song Binbin Effect" has followed writing here on the subject. The last such post, mildly positive, eighteen words long, on February 15, 2012 produced no "Effect" but rather a persistent, sustained number of hits, 261 so far that, like a persistent cough, never went away but was neither curious enough to follow up on. I hadn't googled Song since. Then at 3:00 am today I got wide awake, decided to go to the computer and saw that of the minimal half-dozen or so readers, four had clicked on that February 15 post. Now with time to be curious I googled Song and saw the Bloomberg article. I felt the old familiar frisson rise in my gut. I bet there are other articles out there but I didn't check. I had deliberately not googled Song since February but like the persistent cough, the subject will not go away.
Elitism is prominent in Song's story as it is in China's. Both have been written about extensively here, most recently on the Bo Xilai affair. Bo and Song are both "princelings," scions of powerful, revered "Red" families. Still, I did not know until I read Bloomberg that Song's family is one of the "Eight Immortals" in the People's Republic hierarchy. And so admixed with the familiar intensity of learning something new about Song was resignation as I stared at Bloomberg's graphics and realized how incestuously powerful these families are. How Song Binbin even got into the United States in the first place, the exasperated question that first drew me in, was answered with the clarity of getting hit in the face with cold water at 3 am. There is guanxi and then there is Eight Immortals 关系 . I have been to the "headquarters" of Copia, Song's "Beijing-based technology company." She didn't put her son through Phillips Andover or Stanford on profits from Copia. The office was a front, the only technology they had was a phone. Nor did she pay for Jin Yan's education with her salary working in environmental protection for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Song and her family, like Bo and his, crossed the seas as Eight Immortals through guanxi.
Guanxi, deeply resented in the PRC, got Song Binbin everything she ever got in life. She got into the best girls high school in the country because of her father the general; in which school Song became leader of the Red Guards; in which school the first teacher was murdered by her Red Guard students at the start of the Cultural Revolution; which leadership got Song onto the rostrum overlooking Tienanmen Square thirteen days later; where Song pinned a Red Guard armband onto Mao Zedong. Youqin Wang, from the countryside, got into the High School for Girls attached to Beijing Normal University too--by getting the highest test scores in the entire country. Different strokes for different folks.
Song Binbin ran from her past in China as Song Yaowu, crossed the seas all the way to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, changed her name to Yan Song, lived a comfortable suburban life in Lexington and Concord, cradles of the American Revolution, and educated her son. She then went back to China to live in wealthy retirement. It has been a life without consequences.