It's been happening since January 22, when the Chinese government finally noticed Ping Fu's book. Bend Not Break was released nearly a month earlier, and described the story of the ceo of Geomagic survivinging the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
The angry commenters at the book's page on Amazon.com all have this in common: they have never before written a review on Amazon, they uniformly they give the book a single star, they give each other hundreds of Yes ratings on "Was this review helpful to you?" (some get over a thousand), and their names and stilted writing style stem from the region you would expect to find a place like China. Oh, and no other autobiography is being attacked as assiduously on Amazon.
How does this reaction compare with more popular books? The first Harry Potter book in paperback has a mere 394 Yes-helpfuls for the most popular review, as of yesterday.
CAD editor Martyn Day wrote in defense of Ping Fu on Amazon, and for his trouble received 177 angry comments, the first one appearing after just 60 seconds. (See http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A372CJ8A4DVMQP/ref=cm_pdp_rev_title_1?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview#R3DEQKCLLDZV75.)
The Guardian was guarded in its coverage last Tuesday of the controversy, as indicated by the headline: "Chinese cast doubt over executive's rags to riches tale." The British newspaper just wasn't feeling brave enough to allow comments at all.
Later the same day, Ping Fu retorted to her we-are-legion critics in The Daily Beast, "Ping Fu Defends ‘Bend, Not Break’ Memoir Against Online Chinese Attack." No surprise, but in little time 226 mostly negative comments appeared.
(Data point: around 200 watchers are "listening" to comments on the Daily Beast article, continuously. By contrast, other, more popular articles have 40 or 12o listeners.)
The primary complaints are that Ping Fu's story contains errors of history.
If It Were Me
If I were to write my autobiography, there would be errors and gaps, too. It gets hard to remember one's entire life story, even at my young age of 56 -- except for a few stand-out memories and even these might be corrupted by time.
One time as a child driving with my parents, I asked what those clear things were on telephone poles (glass insulators). I clearly remember my mom explaining that if I were lost in the forest, I could use them to light a fire. Obviously I misunderstood and misremember -- the benefit was, however, that after that I was never worried about getting lost in the vast Canadian woods!
I would call the attacks "defensive." The Chinese government's policy is Harmony, and so this book portraying the Cultural Revolution in a negative light would be seen as disharmonious, and in need of attack.
A friend teaches ESL (English as a second language) locally, and last year a middle-aged woman arrived to the class from China. One night she stayed up all night watching tv, for it was the first time in 21 years that she saw what really happened in Tienanmen Square. She was in tears over the deaths -- and the lies the government had told her people for these many years (that only a few student leaders were imprisoned, is the banal version distributed in China).
She called in her young son to watch so that he too would finally know the truth:
Dictators fear competition.
In contrast to those orchestrating the rage over an auto-biography, a contact reported yesterday that "Ping is back on the up and up. She's feeling strong now."