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Video: Chinese TV Show Tests Foreigners on China Savvy




The Liang Hui or “Two Sessions” — the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — are the most crowded, most covered, and probably most hilarious annual political events in China. Every March, thousands of “peoples representatives” to the NPC and members of the CPPCC gather in Beijing, and this year the nationalist state-run newspaper Global Times sent its reporters into the streets to ask random foreigners living in Beijing about their basic knowledge of China’s politics. The video above, from Sina’s Video Channel, had attracted over 1.6 million views as this article went to press.

Most of the expatriates stopped on the street puzzled over questions such as “Who are the president and prime minister of China?” or “What are the ‘Two Sessions’?” In response to the video, netizen @张一君律师 joked that the pronunciation of the outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao’s surname posed a particular problem to English speakers: “We shouldn’t embarrass foreigners too much with President Who. Who on earth is your President?"

Louisa Lim
This story originally appeared on Asia Blog partner site ChinaFile, a new online magazine from Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations.

Other viewers turned sarcasm on China’s political arena, which makes a show of the NPC’s purported decision-making power over the country’s top leaders and of the attention China’s most powerful ministries pay to the advice and criticism offered by members of the CPPCC. Both bodies are, in fact, widely criticized for conducting “rubber stamp” sessions, as pointed out by netizen @张炜城cc’s comment, “Chinese knew who the President would be years ago.” Netizen @如癫 added that the video reminded him of “a German who asked me if we still have an emperor..." adding, "I almost answered ‘yes’.”

Some foreigners were hopeful in their ignorance. Starting at 1:20 in the video, one woman is asked to describe the Chinese president. She recites what sounds like a description of the up-by-his-bootstraps autobiography of U.S. President Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, and not the story of incoming president Xi Jinping, the privileged son of one of the heroes of China's Communist revolution. Netizen @Danielle抖M其实是S wrote: “The black lady is really obsessed with  the story she’s telling. What a moving story. But it’s a pity that the guy in her story is far from my big boss. Hahaha.” Another netizen, @李翎锋-PLA-TSAF, asked the black woman, “Are you talking about Chairman Mao?”

Not all foreigners knew nothing, though. And the video finally captured one true foreign expert, a man who not only correctly listed the names of both the outgoing and incoming presidents and prime ministers of China with perfect pronunciation (02:56-03:06), but also pointed out the difference between the NPC and the CPPCC (03:52-04:32). Netizens wasted no time: “Arrest this guy quickly,” wrote @GYW-INXM, “He knows too much!” Leery, @w菜头文 wrote: “Interesting! This guy’s knowledge of the Two Sessions is more thorough than even many Chinese. Is he a spy?” @絮絮叨叨的芋头 was nicer, saying simply that he thought the visitor was “qualified to be a Party member!”

This post was co-authored by Zhang Xiaoran.

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