Michael — together with his music partner Andrew Ridgeley — became the first western pop act to perform in China after 18-months of successful negotiations between the Chinese government and Wham’s agent, Simon Napier-Bell.
Author Lu Jun, who was one of the 15,000 people at Wham!’s Worker’s Gymnasium concert in Beijing in April 1985, recalled to CNN that the the audience was “calm” and restrained,” while foreign visitors were jumping up and down in time with the music.
Lu said police would stop the Chinese spectators from behaving in an “overexcited” manner, but they turned a blind eye to foreigners.
Mao Danqing, then a student a Peking University, recalled the concert as being “like a cultural exchange activity.”
“Before Wham! came to China, the Chinese stage performance was very artificial and unnatural,” Mao, now living in Japan, told CNN.
“I had never watched such a concert before. How could the music, the sound and the people perform in that way? “
Both men remained fans of Wham! and Michael’s solo work and both said the concert had a long-standing impact on their lives.
Lu, recalls it being such a rare occurrence that many people “felt desperate to hear music from outside.”
“People began to change, they wore jeans,” he said.
“The music opened people’s minds and subconsciously freed a generation.”
Mao recalled the “heart shaking” feeling Wham! gave him and his friends.
“Wham! was special,” Mao told CNN. “They are elements of China’s reform.
“During the mid-1980s, many foreign movies, novels and music were introduced to China without any preparation for people. They just suddenly showed up.
“Wham! was symbolic of more a lifestyle as opposed to just music. They represented freedom, enthusiasm and passion, natural and unrestrained,” he said.
“That’s the lifestyle every Chinese young person was trying to imitate in college at that time. Wham! represented enlightenment in China at that time.”
Mengchen Zhang and Nanlin Fang reported from Beijing, James Masters wrote from London.