Vocativ Video Blows Up With 80 Million Views Behind the Great Firewall

Nov 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM ET

Vocativ published a video on Nov. 18 that depicts the ridiculous car collections of super-rich Chinese students in California. The video, which shows a meet-up at which college students showed off Lamborghinis, Maseratis and customized Ferraris and Porsches, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of the Chinese elite—a view an astounding number of people are interested in seeing.

The video has picked up just under 500,000 views on YouTube—respectable, if not blisteringly viral. But someone scraped the video, posting multiple versions on the Chinese video platform Tencent, where it has since racked up over 80 million views.

No permission was sought from Vocativ to copy the video, the republication of which is a flagrant breach of copyright, one of many in which Western videos are reuploaded onto Chinese social platforms. A quick scan of the front page of Tencent shows other unattributed videos from Jimmy Fallon and other Western outlets.

Content theft aside, we’re not ashamed to say that’s the highest number of views anything we’ve done has ever gotten. In the space of just 10 hours on Tuesday night, when we were first alerted to the Tencent versions, the number of the views on Tencent had grown by more than 3 million. At time or publication, this version had 2.8 million views, and this one had 79.7 million views.

Why are millions of Chinese so fascinated with the super-rich lives of people from China, flaunting their phenomenal wealth in California?  It’s likely to be discontent with their country’s growing wealth disparity. The gap between the super-wealthy and the poor in China is widening by the day. The income ratio of China’s richest and poorest 10 percent increased from 19:1 to 25:1 from 2002 to 2007, according to the World Bank, and China’s income inequality is worse than that of the U.S., by many indicators. Income disparity is measured by a metric called the Gini coefficient, where perfect equality gets a measurement of 0, and total inequality gets a measurement of 1. China has a Gini of 0.55, according to a report by researchers at the University of Michigan conducted in April. The same report found the U.S., with a Gini coefficient of 0.45, had a lower level of income inequality than China.

The Chinese government tries to prevent knowledge of this disparity spreading to the Chinese population by employing massive firewalls and blocking access to dozens of internet sites. A report on Chinese wealth was slammed by the Chinese government in 2012, and Bloomberg and The New York Times have both been blocked in China after reporting on the wealth of political leaders. YouTube has been blocked in China since March of 2009, which is why our YouTube version (below) has only seen a fraction of the views of the Tencent version, necessitating someone to scrape it onto the platform to see it go viral in China.