Dispatches

Chinese Burners

China goes to Burning Man, and reinvents it at home – Ian Rowen

Science-fiction author Chen Qiufan recently published an account in Logic magazine of his virgin trip to Burning Man in 2018 as a “Chinese burner.” Chinese tech entrepreneurs, he writes, “act as the first generation of pioneers journeying into the virtual New World. They imagine themselves as packs of wolves in the Mongolian plains who can only survive and emerge victorious through bloody combat, incessantly stalking new territory and prey.” Reflecting on their pursuit of success and power amidst all the surreal art and spectacle, Chen concluded that his tech-networking campmates’ “combination of worshipping totems while pursuing practical benefits is quintessentially Chinese.” Alas, it’s also quintessentially American – as in the myth of the Western frontier – and Burning Man may be the world’s most weirdly scenic place to watch this collision of financial and imperial fantasy.