Namewee defends China satire Fragile as views hit 30 million

TAIPEI • Malaysian rapper Namewee, who penned a viral Mandarin pop song poking fun at Chinese nationalists, said on Monday that he had no regrets about being blacklisted by Beijing as his track hit more than 30 million views on YouTube.

Released last month, Fragile, which features Australian singer Kimberley Chen, has become a viral sensation across Asia and beyond, despite being scrubbed by censors in mainland China.

The track masquerades as a saccharine love song but is littered with digs towards "little pinks" - a term for China's online army of nationalist commenters - as well as Beijing's government.

"I never limit myself or impose self-censorship," Namewee, 38, told reporters in Taipei as he and Chen sipped champagne to toast their track's milestone.

"To me, good creations should come from the heart. They should be sincere," he added.

Mandarin-speaking singers, film stars and celebrities rarely court controversy when it comes to China, given Beijing's long track record of punishing those deemed critical of its rule.

A misspoken word can quickly lead to an artist being frozen out of the world's largest Mandarin-speaking market and a career in ruins.

But the willingness of Namewee and Chen, 27, to take on taboo subjects has struck a chord as China grows more assertive on the global stage under President Xi Jinping.

"The lyrics are clever because they sound like a love (gone bad) song, but in every line, there is a reference to either the fragile 'feelings' of the Chinese government or riffing on Chinese Communist Party rhetoric," National Taiwan University professor DJ Hatfield, a musicology expert, said.

Over the last four weeks, Fragile has been one of the top trending YouTube videos in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It has also been making smaller waves among fans in the Chinese diaspora in places like Australia, Canada and the United States.

Within days of the track's release, Namewee and Chen's Chinese social media accounts were taken down and their music censored, while state media accused the pair of insulting the country.

Namewee and Chen are both currently based in Taiwan and have brushed off their blacklisting.

"When you say I am banned, I don't feel that way," Namewee said. "I feel it's the people who can't listen to this song who are being banned."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2021, with the headline Namewee defends China satire Fragile as views hit 30 million. Subscribe