Top Ten Things China Searched for in 2014

What China Searched for in 2014

Have you ever deleted your browser history to keep someone from finding out what you’ve been googling? That’s probably because what you search reveals a lot about what’s on your mind.

Tea Leaf Nation (TLN) has put together a list of this year’s top ten search topics on Baidu Baike, China’s answer to Wikipedia. What better way to get a glimpse of the Chinese psyche than by taking a peek at their search history?


 1. “Inaugural year of reform” (改革元年

image credit: The paper

President Xi Jinping image credit: The

When it comes to large-scale government overhaul, Chinese people want to know what’s up. This phrase refers to President Xi Jinping’s plan for reform that was laid out in November 2012. Whether the plan is influential because of it’s contents or because of buzz on sites like the People’s Daily, people are certainly curious about it. (TLN points out this Brookings article for those of you who want a breakdown of Xi’s plan).


2. “Peng Liyuan” (

First lady, Peng Liyuan stands with children affected by HIV image credit:

First lady, Peng Liyuan stands with children affected by HIV image credit:

Former singer and World Health Organization Ambassador in the fight against AIDS and HIV, Peng Liyuan is quite the popular First Lady of China. Xi’s wife has kept busy attending events with her husband, hosting US First Lady, Michelle Obama, and releasing a music video denouncing discrimination against people with AIDS/HIV victims in which she actually touches and hugs children afflicted by HIV. All of her charitable activities including her awkward brush with Vladimir Putin make Peng Liyuan quite a lady of interest this year.


3. “Ebola virus” (埃博拉病毒)

image credit:

image credit:

As scary as the virus was to Americans, it may have been scarier for China, with SARS still a not-so-distant memory. China ramped up the efforts to fight the spread of the disease not only on their own turf, but also in Africa, sending about 200 medical workers to Ebola endemic regions, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, as well as helping to develop an experimental vaccine.


4. “Divine tune” (神曲)

still from the 'Little Apple' music video

Screenshot from the ‘Little Apple’ music video

First it was Gangnam Style, then it was “小苹果” (little apple). This phrase is slang for a viral song. Although, similar to “What Does the Fox Say“, it’s up for debate whether these songs are viral because they are popular, or just plain strange.


5. “Fighting Tigers” (打老虎

image credit:

image credit:

Most students of Mandarin are aware that Chinese idioms or metaphors often include animals. At first Baidu, “打老虎” will bring up references from the Chinese classic novel, The Water Margin, in which a man kills a tiger with his bare hands. However, what most people are actually referencing is the anti-corruption campaign, committed to stamping out corruption perpetrated by officials ranking from flies (low level) to tigers (high level).


6. “The missing Malaysian airliner” (航失踪事件)

Chinese mourners for Malaysian airlines flight 370 ()

Chinese mourners for Malaysian airlines flight 370 (

The first in a series of tragic mysteries involving planes, China remains fixated on this incident probably because over half of the passengers on board were Chinese (153 out of 227), and the flight was headed to Beijing. Our hearts hurt for the pain and anguish suffered by the families, friends, and loved ones of those on flight 370.


7. “Haze” (

Air pollution in China (

Air pollution in China (

Haze, smog, toxic miasma or fog; whatever you call it, the air pollution that China experiences is a hot topic on the Chinese web and abroad.


8. “Ice bucket challenge” (冰桶挑战赛

China jumps on the ice bucket challenge

China jumps on the ice bucket challenge

Yes, this charitable fad encouraging awareness of and donations towards the fight against ALS made it to China, where even celebrities such as Yao Ming, Zhang Ziyi, and even Chen Guangbiao participated (NBC News).


9. “” 

This building in Wyoming was the source of the relocation of the internet (washington post)

This building in Wyoming was the source of the accidental relocation of the Chinese internet (washington post)

On Tuesday, January 21st, 2014, about 600 million Chinese netizens were routed to the IP address, located in the US. The server apparently couldn’t handle the traffic, causing a hours-long blackout. There was some speculation as to whether the redirection was caused by a cyber attack or a mistake in the Great Firewall, but according to Adam Segal, a scholar on China and cyber security at the Council on Foreign Relations, there’s been no technical analysis of which scenario is more likely. (Washington Post).


10. “Cherish what you have.” (且行且珍惜)

Ma Yili and Wen Zhang (bbc news)

Ma Yili and Wen Zhang (bbc news)

Many students of Chinese are familiar to the term “小三” (mistress, literally, the ‘little third’). Ma Yili, a Chinese celebrity, posted on Weibo “Being in love is easy, but marriage is hard; cherish what you have”, in response to her husband’s public apology for being caught holding hands with his mistress. It seems that Ma’s pain resonated with those increasingly discontent with the rate of adultery in China.


So there you have it; a year in Chinese baidu-ing! It’s interesting to see how although we may be on opposite sides of the globe, the concerns of Chinese citizens and the rationale behind those concerns don’t differ that much from the concerns of Americans (follow this link if you’re curious about what Americans searched in 2014).

Chinese, American, or otherwise, we’re all curious about popular public figures, interested in social trends, and mourn tragic events; it’s simply a matter of perspective.

Image credit: Tea Leaf Nation