Few people had heard of Ai Qingqing before she announced online that she
would trade a paperclip for a house
within 100 days. That was on October 15, 2006.
"I have no money, but I have heard about a young Canadian guy (Kyle
MacDonald) who traded a paperclip for a two-storey house. I want to achieve the
same kind of miracle in 100 days. Will you help me realize my dream?" read her
People soon began to react. More than 1,000 people said they would like to
exchange articles with Ai. Photographs and cellphones, old wine and
jade bangles were tossed into the
ring. Ai started trading and the value of the articles she got started to
grow... and grow... and grow.
Another Internet "miracle" was about to happen. TV stations and newspapers
began following the website "miracle" with enthusiasm. Millions of netizens, TV
viewers and readers were glued to screens and searched newspapers for the latest
But, as we all know, things are not always what they seem. It turned out,
Ai's was not a spontaneous act; an invisible partner had scripted it carefully.
The trading ended on January 23 this year with Ai signing a contract with a
record company to become a singer.
Then came the shocker: she broke up with the man who had masterminded the operation.
Yang Xiuyu, nicknamed Li Er, later revealed that he had masterminded the plan
to repeat the "Canadian miracle". He wrote the blog and chatted with netizens
under the name of Ai Qingqing. In real life, Ai Qingqing was Wang Xiaoguang. The
act was not difficult for
Ai Qingqing poses
with her paperclip on January 23 when she announced that she had signed a
contract with a record company to become a
Wang, for she was an actress in the plays that Yang produced and directed.
The 34-year-old discovered the money-making potential of online advertising
and promotion four years ago while working in a Shanghai-based foreign company
and surfing the Net, like so many other white-collar workers, to kill time. Yang
says he had planned to act as Wang's manager after she became famous. "I could
have earned more than 1 million yuan ($131,000) from this operation."
"More than 30 newspapers and TV channels covered the online bartering. Those companies would have spent
more than 5 million yuan on the coverage," Yang says. Several companies and
small businesses, including a bar, a jewelry firm, a wine producer and a
publishing house clamored to provide goods for Wang to barter.
Yang says several other companies had called to offer their products but were
turned down because their goods were "not suitable for the drama".
After his "actress" split with him, Yang's profit dropped considerably from
what he had hoped it to be. But the operation nevertheless was a "success", from
which he made a cool six-digit profit. "I should have signed a formal contract
with her. I'll do that next time," says Yang. But still, he is proud of his
creativity in what was his debut on the "Internet promotion stage".