China Blotter: Basketball Grandma’s Story

China may be world’s second largest economy, but it is still nowhere close to utopia. Today, the world is dazzled by China’s booming financial freedom. However, there is not enough attention given to those who are still suffering. The government, of course, is working on pulling as many people out of poverty as fast as possible. Unfortunately, the marginalized are still pushed to the side.

And this is where the Internet comes in to pick up the slack. The cyber network may be a cruel place full of judgment and finger pointing, but sometimes, Netizens can be saints.

Zhu Shumei, 76 years old, is one of the marginalized. She is old, divorced, and is living off of allowances that equates to one-third of the province’s minimum wage. On top of all of that, when her husband left her, he also left her the sole custody of their mentally challenged daughter. Zhu lives a life as a caregiver, barely scraping by.

As old, frail, and helpless this Grandma may seem, she did not give up but created an outlet of happiness. When she got divorced at age 54, she picked up basketball and began playing hoops at her local university campus. Two decades later, Zhu is now one of the top dogs on the court, known as the “Basketball Grandma.” This 76 years old athlete has nothing but love for the sport.

Impressed by Zhu’s contradicting athleticism and age, Song Huating, a university student, published her story on Weibo along with a video of her shooting hoops. With the goal to help Zhu lift her financial hardships, Song and his filmmaker friends set up a bank account and solicited money on the Internet.
Zhu’s talent shocked the Chinese Internet world, attracting more than 700,000 views in its first 12 hours online. Without hesitation, Netizens across the nations donated to her cause, helping her pay the down payment to qualify for Social Insurance pension.

Without a doubt, Basketball Grandma is an anomaly. But anomaly or not, this phenomenon fired up a debate in the cyber forum regarding the structure of Chinese welfare, pension, and social security. And finally, the Netizens have returned from being Saints to their old ways of arguing. But this time, the yelling match is much more substantial, for that they all have one goal: a better life for all.   

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