Apples and oranges: How a New Yorker’s stolen iPhone led to a bromance in China

Matt Stopera and Li Hongjun met for the first time on Tuesday night at an airport in southern China, in the latest chapter of what some Chinese are calling an international “bromance”. Stopera, a New York-based writer for website Buzzfeed, became famous in China for an article describing how photos from China began to appear on his phone’s photo stream after his iPhone was stolen in New York. Chinese netizens tracked the photos, and the stolen iPhone, to Li Hongjun, a 30-year-old restaurateur in Meizhou.

My favorite messages were people saying how romantic the story was. They said it was like a fairy tale and perfect for the Chinese Spring Festival.

Matt Stopera, from his story on Buzzfeed

Li, known online as Brother Orange after his selfies with tangerine trees showed up in Stopera’s photo stream, said his nephew gave him the secondhand phone as a gift last October, but he had no idea where the phone came from. Stopera will now continue on to Li’s home as a guest. Li has taken time off work at his restaurant to show Stopera around tourist sites. Stopera has been learning Chinese and Li has been learning English, but the duo have 160,000 translators on standby on China’s Twitter, Weibo, where thousands are eagerly following the story.