Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Google+ hiccup: American misunderstood Chinese humor - Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn
Over the weekend a leak in China's internet censorship saw thousands of Chinese jumping on Google+, flooding US president Obama's account with calls for their liberation, free speech, human rights and green cards. Americans did not see it was mostly Chinese humor, tells internet analyst Jeremy Goldkorn on VOA.

The Voice of America:
Some comments left by the Chinese called for free speech and human rights. Others asked for information on getting U.S. "green cards" for immigration. Some more extreme comments urged President Obama to work “to free” the Chinese people. 
Jeremy Goldkorn, editor in chief of Danwei.com, thinks many of the comments were meant to be ironic or humorous. 
"Whether they were calling on the United States to liberate the Chinese Internet or calling on Obama to stop being an imperialist, the tone was overwhelmingly humorous," Goldkorn said. "So I don't think anyone should take this as an indicator of U.S.-Chinese relations, or I don't think one should read too much into this. I think for lots of people participating, this was fun, just a game." 
He adds that this kind of humor has its roots in Chinese culture.
"You know there is this idea in China that has been adapted for the Internet of 'weiguan,' of standing around and looking at something interesting, and this seems to me like a very weiguan behavior, where people probably spread virally that 'Hey, you can comment on Obama's page,' and people went to have a look, and they left comments." 
Goldkorn adds that many Chinese would visit President Obama's webpage simply because it is such a novelty to leave comments for a well-known top leader, because they do not have the same opportunities in their own country. But he warns that these comments do not accurately represent public opinion throughout the country. 
"It shows you one aspect of public opinion as held by very high-tech savvy Internet users, most of whom are in their 20s or 30s," he said. "To read it as what all people in China are thinking, it would be wrong."
More on VOA  


Jeremy Goldkorn is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers' request form.
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