One of the most controversial and salacious stories of the year pertained to a black two-seat convertible Ferrari 458 Spider that, speeding on Beijing’s Fourth Ring Road in the early hours of 18 March 2012, crashed into a wall. One man and two women were pulled out of the wreckage in varying states of undress. The man died at the scene. One of the women died later in hospital and the other is rumoured to have been left paralysed. Images of the crash scene circulated online amid speculation about sex games in the car and the possible identities of the driver and passengers — and whether they were politically connected. The word ‘Ferrari’ was blocked on Chinese social networks.
Six months later, the New York Times reported that anonymous party officials had revealed the driver of the car to be Ling Gu — the twenty-three-year-old son of Ling Jihua, head of the General Office of the Party’s Central Committee and close ally of Hu Jintao. The identity of the two female occupants of the car were later said to be twenty-five-year-old Tashi Dolma (Zhaxi Zhuoma) — the ethnic Tibetan daughter of a deputy director of the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department — and Yang Ji, also an ethnic Tibetan and twenty-five, reportedly the daughter of a Living Buddha and a student at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. (Yang is the one who died in hospital.) In the personnel reshuffle during the Eighteenth Party Congress in November 2012, Ling Jinhua did not receive an expected promotion. Instead, the Party gave him the largely symbolic post of head of the United Front Work Department. In March 2013, he was also appointed Vice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which some media reports described as a ‘soft landing’.
Red Ferrari — Ma Chi
On 12 May 2012, a cherry-red Ferrari 599 GTO — the fastest Ferrari model on the road, and one of only 599 ever built — ran a red light at high speed in Singapore and crashed into a taxi, which then hit a motorcycle. Three people were killed in the crash, including the driver of the Ferrari — a thirty-one-year-old mainland Chinese immigrant named Ma Chi. Online rumours suggested that he was the son of the then State Counsellor (and, from March 2013, Vice-Premier of China) Ma Kai. Speculation that the driver was related to any party official was strictly censored on the Chinese Internet.
Ma Chi’s pregnant wife arrived at the scene soon after the crash and was reported to have been shocked to see an unidentified female passenger in the Ferrari. The woman, a mainland Chinese student from Wuhan studying in Singapore and rumoured to be working as a KTV hostess, survived the crash.
Crashing and Skidding
Early on 10 May 2012, a race between ten Ferraris on public highways in Shaanxi province ended in a crash, destroying several of the cars. Photos of the smashed cars circulated widely on the Chinese Internet. Also in May, the English-language Shanghai Daily reported:
The Nanjing Kuaiyi Automobile Trading Co planned to hold a car exhibition at the Zhonghua Gate — a Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) city gate and castle — to celebrate [Ferrari’s] entry into China 20 years ago on Monday.
But the night before, an unidentified employee drove a car worth millions of yuan without permission and left tire marks on the ancient wall, triggering widespread outrage over damage to the heritage in the capital city of east China’s Jiangsu Province.
‘We will take further measures to ensure that similar cases never take place again,’ the Italian car-maker said … .