Recently, over a glass of wine some of the editors of this blog had a discussion with close friends on Chinese politics. These friends are white collar workers who are enjoying the fruits of the Chinese economic miracle and are equally now concerned about how harshly the economic crisis will attack China. Neither were familiar with the "caonima" craze and both were dismissive of Charter 08. Despite some debate, at the end of the day we all came to the conclusion that too many of these phenomena are focused on the ivory towers of Beijing's campuses and rarely disseminate down to the masses.
In China, revolution comes from the countryside and the feeling is that nothing has changed, despite China's advancements and globalization. If those in the countryside are happy, or at least not taking up their pitchforks, the country (and the Party) will remain safe. No matter how hard the economic crisis hits China, no matter how many middle management types in cities like Beijing and Shanghai get fired, the general feeling was that these people will not protest or cause problems for the government. For many, who are making tens of thousands of RMB a month, the feeling is that they know they're fooling their employers and would be perfectly happy with far less.
Intellectuals will always stir things up and create documents like Charter 08 and net-savvy, snarky young people will come up with things like "caonima", but neither will be very effective or be known widely. If you stop people randomly on the street in Beijing, less than 25% would understand "caonima" as anything other than a vulgar swear word, even if you stop people in the CBD, where many are considered more "world-weary" the number wouldn't be much different.
The "caonima" video/story is vulgar, juvenile, and can only elicit one or two small tee-hees. And unlike a lot of instant internet hits, this one got on the government's radar and was shut down fairly fast. The opinion of these friends, who feel the Chinese government has weathered the storm of the crisis well, was the same as what you'd hear in China a lot over the past 18 years after what happened in 1989, "why bother with politics, things are good now."