This incident, to be honest, utterly destroyed my motivation, as well as many of my friends dedicated almost all their free time to build that bridge.
Here I'm trying to articulate how it went down in the Chinese community from a Chinese point of view along with some background stories, so it’s gonna be pretty long in order to give you the whole picture. I will at least try not to be biased but it's up to you to decide.
Before we start, I have to confess that I recognize myself as a patriot. However I did receive my undergrad and master education in US. I chose many courses related to China as Gen-Ed in college, easy A on one hand, but also to learn more about how the West perceived China on the other hand. I think I developed my critical thinking ability and started to question but also approve many choices Communist Party made in the past. But still, I'm Chinese and I'm a patriot.
The development of the incident in Chinese community has three key turning points, Skem’s racist remarks to start the whole thing, Kuku’s lying to the community which is the most important one and Valve’s statement delivering the killing blow. Each played irreplaceable role to the final ending of both player potentially be banned. So I’m breaking it down to three parts, in chronological orders in each part and as a whole for better understanding.
I was watching that very game ignited the whole thing and immediately furious since that all chat didn't come with any context, which usually only served to be racist. The key opinion leaders (KOLs) in Chinese community were also immediately furious as many of them had oversea experience and knew how "chngchng" came around and so do I. To the Chinese community, this word is clearly racist, not only slur, not only pejorative, but straight out racist. In fact I cannot even find a worse racist remark to Chinese people than this one. Even though it might not be case for everybody for various reasons, and apparently not to the majority of /r/dota2, but it has been and will be the case for Chinese community.
Honestly I think CoL management handled it pretty well, at least, pretty fast. Investigation, fine and apology all came pretty quickly. But the thing is, it hadn't been communicated quickly and effectively to the Chinese community, and as probably the first racist remarks in a professional match, Chinese community wanted to see some blood, already talking about banning him. At that moment, I believed banning him might be too much, but a Valve statement and a Valve issued penalty with reasonable number of matches suspended seemed appropriate, comparing to Riot’s penalty on Svenskeren. Many fair KOLs called for some actions by Valve as well, but there were indeed some nationalist ones promoting further conflicts, which was rather inevitable I guess cuz appealing to fans was a business to them. However, I think the Chinese community had every reason to be furious. Being furious is not overreacting, it's a naturally emotional response when offended in the worst way possible, and the same logic applies to flaming him. It's the push to ban him that seems to be overreacting, at least to my point of view. It might be the perfect chance for Valve to end it with ease, but they didn't.
In the brief history of Dota2, foreign pros playing on Chinese server causing troubles had been a pain in all our asses, because they always talk shit. To most of the Western audience it’s nothing, trash talks should never be considered seriously. It’s kinda the belief I have as well after years of turmoil on US East, even though I prefer players rarely talk shit over the bad boiz, except RTZ cuz he’s hot af. Pros flaming the Chinese community as a whole in pubs while playing on Chinese server usually stirs a bit, but never goes too far. Sumail, for instance, is the perfect example, as he won his first trophy on Chinese soil with dashing Storm Spirit skills at a young age, it won him tons of fans in China and always the one compared to when we talk about young prodigies. But he did talk shit about China in pubs and even tweeted “fuck china” when he saw the offensive photoshoped pictures beheading him in response to his remarks in pubs. But honestly no one ever talked or probably thought of banning him, even nationalist people sincerely hated him, for his incredible skill and relatively young age as a talented TI winner. The Chinese way of response is to beat this brat in tournaments, so yes the community do celebrate and taunt this kid a bit when Chinese team beat EG, while flame the team losing to EG half-heartedly. See, as a community, we do fight ourselves within, and if there are reasons for both sides to fight against each other, it will eventually cool down in a short period of time.
But that’s not Kuku’s case. If there’s one thing we would never let go, that would be being lied to in official capacity, especially when most of the KOLs welcomed his appearance and promoted forgiveness, only to find it was a goddamn lie. He is the enemy of the state, and frankly speaking, I’m with the state.
Originally when Kuku’s remark showed up in Chinese community, I really believed it was entirely unnecessary cuz it was a pub game. It was nationalist KOLs attracting eyeballs to get more fans. Fair KOLs like Hoho, who is my role model on building bridges of both communities mutual understanding, didn’t even bother to spread the word. In fact TNC and Kuku did the best gesture possible by starting an account on Chinese SNS and posted their apology with “explanation”. I was also defending him after reading that “explanation”, calling out the Chinese community for jumping to conclusion and wished him all the best along with his daughter. Hoho along with nearly all KOLs, nationalist or not, reposted and called for peace with good words praising them approaching us on Chinese SNS. TNC had been spoken highly of by the Chinese community during the WCA shitshow, where the picture of them could only rest on the floor gained unprecedented sympathy and admiration of their perseverance thus produced the loudest unanimous criticism to WCA organizers along with S4 being sick and terrible production value. Should the “explanations” be true, it’d be the chance of TNC becoming the most liked SEA team by the Chinese community for our mistakenly blamed innocent people, but it was not.
If there was a turning point for everything to be cooled down, it’d be now, but that was to the other extreme. The “explanation” was a lie. The “explanation” of Kuku simply calling the Tiny player on the other side whose ID was “Ch*ngch*ng” was entirely horseshit because the Tiny player’s ID was changed to “Ch*ngch*ng” after the game, shown by Steam record. It is the exclamation mark of the entire incident, escalating it to an entirely unparalleled level. It would never come to this if he hadn’t lied to us. I would let it go if offensive words were used in pub with ease, but how dare you lied to the entire Chinese community, taking advantage of good intentions of the Chinese community, to cover up your mistake offending the Chinese people, on the Chinese turf? It inevitably became a problem targeting the Chinese, because it got Chinese marks all over it. Eventually, call me nationalist or hypocrite, I found enough reasons to hop on the hate wagon to ban this sob for good. Stop giving me meaningless bullshit about “maximum penalty”, once you ever lied to us, the credibility of the entire organization has been completely bankrupted. Here the Chinese community formed the first ever unified voice calling Valve for some actions, because we can no longer trust the organization to handle it.
Valve’s involvement and aftermath
It dragged nearly all the heat from Skem to Kuku, and of course anything that related to him, which include his daughter. There are Internet crazy mobs in every community and of course the Chinese community does the same. So all out the death threats and racist shit. I don’t approve of that action, but I understand their fury. It went even worse when the /r/dota2 reached consensus of “chngchng” was only a slur not racist and start spamming that on Wyk’s tweet of Chongqing Major announcement, which they found it looked eerily similar. So there goes the entire Internet mob raids on both sides and people accusing each other of hypocrites, making it a shitshow for everyone. At this point, it could never be undone anymore. But the Chinese community still had hopes for Valve serving our justice, which was shared with mine, to penalize the players, especially Kuku, which was never met with that announcement basically meant “It’s none of our business” by Valve. Everyone knows Valve might care about reddit but it never cared about the Chinese community. We never had a channel to communicate with Valve, but only to PerfectWorld, the proxy operator of Dota2 in China due to Chinese regulation requirements. PerfectWorld is really, as a matter of fact, an irresponsible company which always makes terrible operation decisions and the Chinese fans are so eager to let another company, except Tencent, to run the game. PerfectWorld is like Donald Trump for us, we all hate it and it’s indeed retarded mostly, but we had to live with it. With Valve handing it out and PerfectWorld doing probably nothing, together they served as the last straw on the Chinese community.
It seems like a common character that esport fans generally don’t trust the government, again the Chinese community works the same way. The Chinese government had a long and disappointing history against gaming in general. Gaming has been considered widely as the “electronic heroin” by the Chinese parents as well as the government, and there are clinics using electric shock therapy to “cure patients” with assumed “addiction to the Internet” with official local government support from early 2000 till now, even though those kids were merely the product of failed home education. Gaming is forbidden to be aired on public cable channels with central government issued orders. In the Chinese esport scene, it has been and probably will be just enthusiasts putting money and time to do whatever they loved and considered a career without any official supports. The public image changed a bit when we won several TIs, coming home with dazzling amount of prize money, finally made it to the national television news. It was Christmas for all of us, for that probably 10 seconds of Dota on TV and that was the fruit beared by all of us, just for that 10 seconds. Nothing changed state-wise, electric shock therapy were still going and the ban on TV were still active, but we were rearmed with motivation, which included me who later did my share of eliminating the language barrier. In our desperate time, the local government is the last ally we’d expect.
But our messiah came in the least likely form, the municipal government. It strikes me as the way Chinese community served its own justice since Valve failed to deliver. Honestly, I’m down, along with almost every single Dota fan who cared about tournaments. It might not be a Chinese thing, but it worked every time for the Chinese people, that when there were reasons for two sides to argue on, it’d resolve with our internal conflicts, but when there’s no reason to argue anymore, we’ll stand united against our common enemy, as we were demeaned to, lied to, and disappointed to. I don’t know about the West, but for Chinese community, this train will never stop until reached the end that nobody knows where. Should there be any attempt to stop it with external pressure, it will simply be bounce back with more ferocious retaliation.
Aren’t Chinese people all nationalists?
No and yes. It’s worth noting that be proud of being Chinese and be happy with the government are totally different things, and the conformity behaviors are exceptionally strong on esport enthusiasts.
The upbringing of youngsters and legacy players are different, but in some extent we are kinda the same. Legacy players are coming to their 30’s, facing all the problems in their lives, while the government has long been blamed for causing the major ones, real estate price and the cost to raise a child for instance. They hate the government in general. The youngsters including me, mostly in their 20’s or even younger, are raised to witness and benefit from the rapid development. When I was a kid, 10 RMB Big Mac was hell of a treat, and I still remember the happy look on my parents’ face looking at me enjoying that burger cuz they couldn’t afford three for us but only one for me. Now McDonald’s is probably the cheapest way to fill the empty stomach for kids in middle class family living in major cities. We do tend to credit the change of life quality to the government, especially as we are not bothered by real life troubles like real estate price or living expenses. However the free world propaganda is serving well creating anxiety and tension between us all, acting as a counterweight. Lucky kids like me having the opportunity to study abroad with access to more information about the things we don’t know too well back home also developed a more comprehensive image of our homeland. So personally I don’t think we should all be categorized as nationalists in general, as most of us hold certain shares of resentment to the government.
However most of us, if not all, are proud of being Chinese and as a matter of fact, China is a country with more than 90 percent of the population being the same ethnic group and the minorities don’t have a clear ethnic origin country they could relate to, thus it might strike Westerners as we being nationalists. I’ve been to many tournaments in both China and US, Dota2, CSGO, League of Legends, you name it. I’ve never been to SEA events so I can only present my point referring to US and China.
When it comes to cheering, it’s no denial that people cheer for their home countries or the countries they emotionally belong to, or cheer for Dendi. The difference between Chinese audience and US audience is, US as an immigrant country has far larger diversity than the Chinese counterparts. If some of the US audience have an ethnically origin, they’d cheer for both American teams and the team from their ethnic origin country when they are playing, relieving nationalist suspicions. And it is amplified by the conformity behaviors, when you hear cheering for a team you hold no grudge on, why not join the crowd? That’s a clear illustration of how diversity promotes friendships not conflicts.
We are indeed reluctant to cheer for foreign teams on home soil if it’s Chinese team against foreign teams, promoting the sense of nationalism. But please remember we have a very difference population base, lacking the seed for conformity behaviors to ever take effects. The glorious history of Chinese Dota further extended our unification as a single group sharing the same visions and preferences. It’s not a product of communism brainwashing, ain’t nobody in China still believes communism could ever worked. In my opinion it’s a omnipresent demonstration of national identity, which is amplified by the sheer number of the Chinese audience with limited or nonexistent diversity, making it looks 99% like nationalism. I won’t really argue against that, just providing my opinion to denounce the communist brainwashing narrative because we couldn’t give less shit about Communist Party. Should China be another democratic society in a parallel universe, as long as the Chinese people still echoes with their homeland and diversity still remains a problem, it won’t change a bit.
Are Chinese community easy to trigger and hard to satisfy?
Yes and no. We used to be triggered very easily because we tend to take everything seriously in pubs as a part of Chinese pubs culture. The difference in pub culture made us easy to trigger in the past so yes we were easy to trigger but getting more immunity over time. It’d be a totally different story when it is in interviews or social media though. And we are very easy to be satisfied in general.
As I stated, I’m a moderator of Chinese Dota2 forum, known for its scrutiny on the boundary of discussion, which is almost comparable to Resetera. I’ve seen many times how shitposters trying to stir the water with nationalism intention and as a matter of fact, often they succeed for a while. However there always will be people argue against it with strong arguments when the shitpost received a few replies. This is just how forum works, strong title clickbaits people share the point and when the number of people holding the same point reached a threshold, it starts to attract people with opposite opinion and they start to argue. It has been how nationalism related shitposts come around and go away. We argue against each other as long as the opposite side can find valid arguments then it resolves into oblivion.
The image of the Chinese community be triggered easily mostly comes from several past incident when we take chats in pub game seriously. However, it has been more and more prevalent for the Chinese community to be less triggered by anything happened in pubs. The culture in Chinese server is very much different with the rest of the world, especially for Divine and Immortal class players. We play so goddamn hard to win and take it super seriously, even with personal conflicts in the same team. There are many of such clips in which teammates verbally abusing each other relentlessly but still delivering buffs/controls/damages to win the team fight and the game. The popular streamers in China are also expected to play to win. They will definitely be flamed if they played poorly or simply throw the game. The Chinese audience has very little tolerance for throwing and trolling so less and less new streamers show up in the Chinese scene. We are simply not used to the habit of throwing games and going all out on racist remarks in pubs, since we are ethnically the same. It took us a few years and still gonna take time for all the Chinese community to understand pubs in servers outside China are generally circus where everything happens and should not be taken seriously.
However in interviews and social media, it’s a totally different story. Apparently ppd is the “role model” of being a bad boi so still a good percentage of the Chinese community hates him a lot. Stewie2k as another example, while his ethnic origin being Hong Kong provided a solid fan base considered him one of us, even though he never openly responded to such expectations from China. His tweet complaining his bag stolen in China saying “ofc it’s China” did trigger the Chinese community very hard. I think it’s a sense of betrayal, while we being nice to him and count him as one of us, he actually despise us as a whole. So yes, Chinese community is very easily triggered this way, and I don’t see anything could possibly change it.
On the other hand, we are so easy to be satisfied. When EternalEnVy typed “Ch*nks” in pubs a few years back and we hadn’t adopt the Western pub culture, he was flamed thoroughly by almost everyone, amplified by the sense of betrayal as I mentioned before for him being ethnically Cantonese. But after a while, when he lost many times to the Chinese team with unbelievable throws, it lessened a bit. Then he became one of the most favored players with foreign passport in the Chinese community, if not the most, as he started streaming in Chinese platform, sang a Chinese song in his broken Chinese and spoke that sentence on Shanghai Major in Cantonese so broken that even the traditional Cantonese people couldn’t tell what the hell he said. So really some attachments to China with sincerity will just eliminate any kind of hostility in the past.
Or you can try to be good ingame. Well that kinda backfired on Envy as if I’m saying he’s not good. Again I’m calling Sumail out. This kid really said some bad shit about China and he seems to be reluctant to change even a bit. But who cares, he’s so goddamn good. Awed by his sheer skills at display, the Chinese community respect him as a top talent and fighter for good result. Then whatever happened outside the games translated into defeating him in the tournaments, because as a community that really values results of the tournaments, we believe knocking him out is the ultimate retribution we could possibly deliver.
Here of course I’m talking about the general community excluding the Internet crazies. Crazies are so vocal and so wanted to be seen and heard. The language barrier blocked both sides to see clearly in the past. I tried, and I’m still trying.
Regardless of how the players really thinks of us and of our payback or forgiveness, it worked pretty well before DreamLeague S10. A mistake handled poorly by the only rightful judge topped with disastrous follow-ups and timings eventually ended up like this.
How can municipal government practically ban the players?
This is entirely my speculation and understanding of how the Chinese government works. In a nutshell, if you know the right person, you can do almost everything in China with appropriate coverups. But the conclusion, against many of the community outrages, is that the municipal government can’t practically ban the players, but it can practically make the tournament disappear.
Theoretically, according to Jack, it’s municipal government that issued the ban. It actually falls to my understanding of how the government works, making my speculation more trustworthy.
The municipal government runs in a parallel system with the border control and foreign affairs. They don’t overlap even a bit. The municipal government has absolutely no authority to stop anyone to get a visa to China, because they are issued by the Chinese embassy oversea, or stop anyone at the Chinese custom, because they are operated by the police department. So under the premises of everything works as it supposed to be, which usually would be the case, the municipal government has no chance stopping them stepping on the Chinese soil.
But there are exceptions, as I mentioned before, it’d be a piece of cake if the municipal government knows the right people, say the Chinese ambassador of Philippines, or the chief of police force of the city they arrive in. They can definitely deny the access of both players with ease and for good. They don’t even need explanations for that. The possibility of the unusual case actually strengthened since Chongqing is a provincial city, meaning its administrative level is the same as other provinces, as well as other provincial cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The previous governor of Chongqing almost succeeded in a coup to overthrow the current president of China and become the president himself. The city is very well-connected.
However the complicated situation somehow implied otherwise. Should the municipal government determined and is able to block two players from entering China, how on earth does the rumor comes out? It makes absolutely no sense. Such information should never be known before it actually happens. The municipal government couldn’t care less about the reaction of the Dota community, but as the reality suggests, it introduced unnecessary complications. That’s not how the Communist Party operates, not that sloppy.
So the logical conclusion is, the Chongqing Major proposal never caught the attention of the governor who could place the calls and make arrangements, but passed out to the coordinator in the government overseeing this rather small event. I took a gap year between my undergrad and master, worked as a coordinator for one of the Chinese organizers which hosted a Major and a Minor last year. To my knowledge, such coordinator is usually a low level clerk, who is only responsible for eliminating any potential hazards of the event. Security for instance, he will be coordinating the police force providing necessary security and approve plans for emergency evacuations, etc. His job is simply not to make any institutional mistakes which lead to the government, so the government won’t be blamed no matter happened. In Chinese bureaucratic systems, making no mistake is a must and there’s no second chance. Such coordinator will lose his job and be barred from government administrative jobs forever if anything goes wrong in a significant way. He heard about the two players with recent history of anti-China behaviors, which is a Class-A political hazard. He doesn’t give a crap about what the nature of the behavior is, he just doesn’t want to see the two players in the city. However his capacity is limited. It’s a amateur mistake to show your incompetent to higher-ups by asking them for help, and actually it’d be a big ask for a event as irrelevant as an esport tournament, so he cannot guarantee their absence within his capacity. What could he do? Judging by my past experience dealing with a city nearby, he will pass it out to the organizers.
If a event cannot run, the loss is all on organizers, that makes it the Achilles Heel the government has on the organizers. If the organizer failed to meet his requirements, the event will be cancelled without any room for negotiations, and that’s actually within the government coordinator’s capacity. So the problem is left to the organizers. It’d be a PR suicide for organizers to ban players with such reasons. So if I were IMBATV/PGL, I’d take advantage of the municipal government’s decision and revert the fire away, drawing the bullseye on the municipal government, for they pass down the problem and they don’t care about PR at all. And theoretically they are not bluffing or spreading false words.
So we finally arrived at our destination, is there anything done practically as of now?
The answer is clear, no. The ban is still hanging in the air waiting to be implemented somehow, but it won’t be implemented with the power of the authority of any kind. Skem and Kuku’s Chinese visa application would never be denied for political reasons, and neither would they be stopped at Chinese border for any made-up reasons. Should they be qualified for the Major, worst case scenario, the Major got cancelled by the municipal government as a whole for the organizer failed to meet the requirement of the government, or the organizers succeeded in persuading involved teams to forfeit or release the players.
Now do you see what the nature of the rumor is right now?
Yes, it’s the attempt of avoiding the event being cancelled by organizers taking advantage of the teams and communities knowing very little about how Chinese government works, spreading true but carefully crafted rhetoric to scare the teams to do their job without any PR disasters. In fact I see poor Kyle aka “Beef” of CoL seems to fell for the trick. He’s true to his words though, he indeed has never been approached by the government asking him to release the player, because the government would never bothered to do it.
TNC seems to choose a different path, trying to amend their reputations without releasing Kuku. It’s really unnecessary as it won’t matter, and it will be way harder as the government coordinator doesn’t care the nature of their offenses. What Kuku did will never be undone and that’s everything mattered to the local government. He shows up, tournament shuts down, plain and simple. Now IMBATV/PGL better be praying for TNC not qualified, or if they do, then hold my beer, I need some popcorn for the drama.
Does Skem and Kuku really mean it?
Now it’s entirely my conspiracy theory based on my personal experience as a Chinese in US and my knowledge of the players with the what happened on the superficial level where everyone can see but carelessly omitted. I’m not claiming it’s the case actually happened. I’m simply trying to make everything make sense.
Again this is conspiracy theory, you have been warned.
Several key points: Envy being super zealously vocal on this incident, and he’s speaking for the both sides. Envy has a history of using “Ch*nk” and “chngchng” is its variation. There are three people with Chinese ethnic in Team Complexity, Envy, Sneyking and Skem. Skem is a hardcore Envy fanboy, or at least he used to. Before it went sour, he has “Jacky Mao” in his ingame ID and his twitter account description showed his admiration of Envy.
So I assume Envy, Sneyking and Skem used the C-word a lot in the team. I used to see people do that too. I have a group of Singaporean friend who speaks some level of Chinese depending on how well they did in high school, and when they are together, with or without me, they call each other with C-words. So as a hardcore Envy fanboy and just a kid, Skem would do everything Envy told him to whatever it was and he considered whatever Envy did as righteous to imitate. With or without Envy’s encouragement, Skem said that in a pro game, a word he often use when talking to Envy and possibly Sneyking. And it went sour and escalate very quickly. Either for Skem being his fanboy or Envy told him to say so, Envy felt guilty for it and tried his best to amend it, which didn’t really work and broke Skem’s heart, changing his Twitter profile to something else. Envy was so desperate as a leader, role model, teammate and as a friend to make up for it so he was super zealous to be vocal and tried both sides to see if it worked. He knew Skem was imitating him or just following what he said without necessary sense of distinguishing occasions. He knew Skem had no racist intention while making racist remarks, but it was pro game and that was hardly a good excuse to be believed, even as the beloved player of the Chinese community. But in some way he didn’t want his involvement to be known by the entire community, Chinese one included. So he couldn’t just take the blame and make it his fault, for whatever motivation I don’t know.
If that’s the case, then the whole thing is a terrible mistake. Should Envy took the blame, it won’t be much for him from the Chinese community at all. Worst case scenario, he could still make it back by doing the trick he did back then. And people like me understanding how Asisn with Chinese ethnic origins will speak for him, along with KOLs like Hoho to turn it around. But again, it didn’t happen as we wished it would.
As for Kuku, there’s no justifiable excuse to lie to the entire community. Again lying to us is the turning point of the whole fiasco. Whoever made the decision to lie, the result was destined, and washed away all the credibility of everyone involved. Only Valve could turn it around but they chose not to, and now they are facing a harder choice to make, which Valve deserved.
I hope this post could give you more insight of the Chinese community. While it might not change anything, I’m trying to clear the mist between both communities and also some false stereotypes. Even though I’m no longer motivated, I still felt it’s my obligation to finish this one last ride. Regardless of what will happen in the future, I had no regret devoting my free time and a gap year to Dota2 community, even if it proved to be futile. I chose to post it here on LiqudDota because people here might actually have the patience to read, and as a tribute to the very forum that motivated me to bring communities together two years ago. I loved Dota2, and I loved the community.