“China: the country responsible for huge technological advances, and yet it still can’t seem to get pandas to fuck.”
Thus begins John Oliver’s 20-minute segment on a recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight about this “gigantic and consequential country.” Much of it focuses on Xi Jinping and his two major ambitions: the Belt and Road Initiative (including Chinese media’s ham-fisted attempts to promote it — “They basically made Kommunist Kars 4 Kids,” Oliver jokes), and his anti-corruption drive.
Of course, there is talk of censorship, including the temporary bans on Winnie the Pooh. “Clamping down on Winnie the Pooh comparisons doesn’t exactly project strength, it suggests a weird insecurity in [Xi],” Oliver notes. Other subjects include social credit, Muslim re-education camps, Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, Donald Trump, and more.
As my colleague Lucas Niewenhuis wrote in Monday’s newsletter: “As far as mainstream American parodies of the Chinese government go, this one is pretty good.”
“A lot of us are probably under-informed about China, and that’s something its leaders have historically been absolutely fine with,” Oliver explains in the segment’s preface. He’s right, of course. We can all work to help change that.