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With Photo And A Joke, Neil Bush Becomes Internet Sensation In China

China's latest online sensation is a Bush, but perhaps surprisingly, it's neither the 41st or the 43rd President of the US. In fact, Neil Bush, the younger brother of 43 and the son of 41 has become an online sensation in China after posting a joke photo on China's version of twitter.

Neil Bush was virtually unknown in China a week ago, despite being co-chairman of Beijing-based real estate company, CIIC.

He opened an account on China's vibrant micro-blogging platform, Weibo, back in August 2011 by introducing himself in Chinese, as "the unpolitical member of a very political American family."

Now his microblog has become a hot political topic inside China, after he posted a photo of himself wearing a Communist-style green cap with a red star. Slung across his chest is a bag emblazoned with Chairman Mao's slogan "Serve the People", and he's holding a mug featuring Chairman Mao.

The caption — accompanied by a chuckling face icon — reads, "I'm thinking of joining the Chinese Communist party. What do you think of my accessories?"

This picture has been forwarded almost ten thousand times, with more than five thousand comments posted, mostly sarcastic, which is not atypical on China's microblogs. Most of the comments have not been censored or deleted.

One user wrote, "To join our party, you need to know how to be corrupt and how to take bribes, how to rape young girls and how to cheat and hurt ordinary people. These are not things that ordinary people can do. Can you do that?"

Another offered to sponsor him in exchange for a Green Card, while one wit joked that he would only qualify if he absconded to the US with 200 million dollars, in a reference to a city party secretary, Wang Guoqiang, who fled to the US with his wife and reportedly millions of dollars.

The wealth of China's Communist party members has been much discussed on the internet, with bloggers joking that the legislative session in March should be rechristened Beijing Fashion Week due to the parade of luxury accessories on display. So several wags joked that Bush had noticed the CCP is becoming one of the world's richest political parties.

Another popular comment was that Bush's accessories don't make the grade: Today's basic Communist party gear, one netizen said, includes a Patek Philippe watch and a Hermes bag.

China's own political culture of brutal political campaigns and purges was also skewered, with one Internet user suggesting CCP membership would only be possible if Bush took part in Cultural-revolution-style "struggle sessions" criticising both the junior and the senior presidents in his family.

But others expressed concern about the tastefulness of the photo, drawing parallels to dressing up in Nazi-era uniform. But as one of the few Chinese media reports about this points out, the popularity of Bush's post has little to do with his own political pedigree.

Rather China's unruly online masses are using this as a platform to vent their anger at the Communist party.

(Louisa Lim is NPR's Beijing correspondent.)

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Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.
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