Editor’s note: A version of this originally appeared on Radii, a new media platform covering culture, innovation, and life in today’s China.
In the US, the list of what we were all Googling over the previous 12 months has become almost as much a part of year-end tradition as the Times Square ball drop. In China, the nation’s biggest search engine Baidu has been shadowing the “Year in Search” extravaganza with a data drop of its own for a few years now—and they just released the 2018 version.
The top term: ‘World Cup’
Matching Google’s most searched term this year, top of Baidu’s list of searches in 2018 was “World Cup“. Despite China’s men’s team failing yet again to even get close to qualifying, the country was glued to coverage of this massive sports event—and Baidu wasn’t the only one paying attention, with a host of Chinese brands slapping their logos all over the tournament.
Here’s hoping the women’s World Cup (for which China was the first team to qualify) gets a similar level of attention in 2019.
What else? ‘Trade war,’ ‘Yanxi Palace,’ and … ‘skr’
Beyond the number one spot, there were a host of interestingly high volume terms. “Gaming” came in second, perhaps due to its prevalence in the news of late as well as to people looking to alleviate boredom. But the third most popular term was unequivocally political in nature: “China-America trade war.”
Intriguingly, this search term was immediately followed in popularity by “Apple release,” demonstrating that despite the trade war and despite the tech company’s well-documented troubles in China of late, the release of its new products still garners plenty of interest in the Chinese market.
“Super Typhoon Mangkhut,” which ravaged the Philippines in September before heading to Hong Kong, was also closely followed by Chinese netizens and was the fifth most-searched term on Baidu this year, while “The Story of Yanxi Palace”—iQiyi’s hit historical TV show—came in at number six. The Forbidden City-set concubine drama was also the most-Googled TV show of the year, according to the global search giant’s rankings.
iQiyi was responsible for the seventh most-searched term in China in 2018 too: “skr.” Popularized by Kris Wu on the platform’s show “The Rap of China,” the word quickly became a term of praise used by new hip hop fans but was soon commandeered by advertisers and was suddenly everywhere. The term also topped Baidu’s list of “popular phrases,” meaning that despite its complete and utter over-saturation, we might not have heard the last of it just yet.
New Words: “Little dog”, “iron straight guy”, and “C position”
“Skr” may have topped Baidu’s 2018 slang list, but a number of less Kris Wu-y terms joining it in the rankings are worth a look. Some cross over with Yaowenjiaozi‘s list of hot terms for the year, which we explored here:
But there were also terms such as “little dog” (小奶狗), for describing obedient, loyal, constantly compromising boyfriends, and “iron straight guy” (钢铁直男), referring (positively) to a man who will always go along with what his girlfriend (or the girl he likes) says.
Made famous by talent show Produce 101 this year, “C position” (C位) was also everywhere and highly searched in 2018, and means “center position,” i.e., the most important spot.