A Chinese comedian’s scathing critique of corrupt officials

December 3, 2012

Zhou Libo, left, does a TV appearance with movie star Jackie Chan. (Zhong Fubao/imaginechina Via Associated Press)

Chinese comedian Zhou Libo, best known as one of the judges on the ultra-popular TV show China's Got Talent, had some harsh words for his country's "public servants," according to a bit circulating on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service. The comment was actually sent out by another account that attributed it to Zhou. According to the excellent ChinaSmack blog, which made this translation, the quote "is similar to routines he has performed during his stand-up comedy shows."

I shudder all over whenever I hear “the people’s servant.” Where do you have servants riding cars while the masters ride bicycles? Where do you have servants living in villas while the masters live in assigned housing? Where do you have servants always screaming for higher wages while the masters can’t afford to eat meat? Where do you have servants splashing their master’s money everywhere without even informing their masters? Where do you have servants making inspections while the masters hold umbrellas for them? Where do you have servants who speak while it is the masters who have to understand them?

Maybe the comedic timing was lost in translation, but the severity of his criticism seems to come across more strongly than the humor of it. Americans are surely accustomed to our own comedians mocking our politicians and political system, although the American context is perhaps more inviting to public criticism and political commentary. 

Zhou's commentary here isn't revolutionary, and in fact reflects growing Chinese resentment of a political class that seems richer and more powerful all the time as the country's burgeoning middle class feels their prospects stall. It is a single datapoint in what could become one of this decade's most important stories: an increasingly dissatisfied Chinese middle class coming to question their political system.

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