Fear in Chinese

by Translation Guy on October 28, 2010

Usually US midterm elections are pretty sleepy affairs. But not this cycle. Bad times mean populists on the soapbox, and this year, their tempers are as high as the national debt. With so many out of work, and the recovery a long way off, incumbents are in trouble and the rhetoric is at tea-party pitch. So an election for the history books.  Of course, more than ever, the internet is the echo chamber of hearts and minds, and where voters go viral.

So it is only fitting that, in this global age, the political ad that will be most remembered in 2010 is in Chinese. And Sci-Fi Chinese at that. At a university of the future, a professor gives his class the intro lecture on the rise and fall of civilization. Greece, Rome, the British Empire, and guess who. Not to be missed. . .

James Fallows, The Atlantic’s China correspondent, calls it “this amazing ad from ‘Citizens Against Government Waste,’ which is the first spot from this campaign season you can imagine people actually remembering a decade from now. ‘I’m not a witch’ might be remembered as a novelty; I think this will be remembered―like ‘Morning in America,’ ‘Willie Horton,’ the ‘Daisy Girl‘ ad from the 1960s, and perhaps even ‘3am Phone Call’―as a notably effective introduction of a new theme. (You don’t have to agree with any of these ads to recognize their power.) Watch, marvel, and learn.

“As a work of persuasion and motivation, this commands admiration for its technique. (I’m being serious.) Although I realize that many Chinese people will take offense at it, mainly the chortling section at the end, for me it passes the test for the proper use of “foreign menace” themes in US discourse. Although the ad is clearly meant to make Americans shudder at the idea of a Chinese-dominated future, at no point does it say that the canny foreigners did anything wrong. It uses them as a spur for us to do better―which, as laid out at length here, is the right way to use foreign comparisons. And the stated argument, even from the triumphalist Chinese professor, is that the Americans erred by turning away from their own values.”

580,000 views on YouTube so far. I’d say that it’s still on the way up, and each viewing represents another impression. If it remains hot, and I think this one has legs, this video will go a long way toward defining future perceptions of China over the long term.

Back in the day, when I was a press guy for the Japanese foreign ministry, Fallows was the only journalist on the Japan beat (back when Japan was #1) who actually understood what was going on. So I figure he’s done the same in China, and I respect his opinion.

But in this day and age, even the most persuasive clip can be turned against its masters, especially when subtitles can be changed so easily on YouTube. Melissa Bell, blogging over at the Washington Post, calls the Chinese Professor ad the “new Hitler meme,” not because the communist professor is particularly fascist, but because that clip from a German documentary about Hitler’s last day in the bunker has been subtitled for a thousand different purposes, with Bush, or Obama, or Steve Jobs in the starring role. A particularly funny version when Hitler finds that he’s lost his YouTube account. . . She invites us all to create our own versions of Chinese Professor.


  1. Clyde Kenney says:

    Not only that, this paints the Chinese as some sort of enemy, like world war two propaganda. “Buy your war bonds or HE will be your new neighbour” etc. The people who made this ad are just simply morons

  2. Hugh Webb says:

    China’s current stimulus package is 10X greater than the U.S. even though they are stimulating a much smaller economy. When future generations choose to site their businesses where will they go? To a country with a 1950’s era infrastructure and electric grid. Or to place built for life in the 21st Century?

    Great capitalists know that you invest big in lean times. Too bad the U.S. has forgotten that lesson.

  3. Load of crap. Nice commercial but this is filled with falsities.

    Makes me angry that anyone can say anything and put it on tv.

    Corporations work for their own best interest, NOT YOURS

  4. Robin Waters says:

    This is not an anti China ad.You can not hate them when we are going to them begging them for thier money. They are not forcing anything on us. But why if it continues would they not be more powerful than us and own us in the future.They will. When you bow down and become that weak in the eyes of a nation that is so fundamentally different in thier belief system than we are of course given the chance they will take over. You only need to look to history to know it.

  5. Tibby says:

    If there’s one thing the Right Wing has, it’s passion and a way with words.

  6. Evie says:

    So, healthcare reform is going to get us taken over by the Chinese? Frightening.

  7. Wake up and smell the coffee! This could be our future reality. We owe China more than we could ever pay them, they manufacture items that we cannot and do not make. We are becoming more and more dependent on them and other countries by sending jobs over seas and extending our national debt. This is not an anti-China video, it is meant to make us stop and think about what America is doing to our own people and how it will affect our citizen’s futures.

  8. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahh­ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah­ahahahahhahahahahahah.

    Seriously…..I just read about this. The people in this ad supposedly signed up to be extras for transformers 3 but then got shafted into doing this without even knowing it. They were not informed of what the ad would be!!!

    Wow….seems like American political ads are turning “communist”.

    • Ken says:

      I was wondering about that. Send me that link or I’ll have to track it down.

        • Ken says:

          Very interesting, Chris. Angry Asian Man writes as if those Asian-American extras were Shanghaied into an army of evil. But quote-wise it reads more like “work for hire” than “bait and switch.” SOP, really. But ever since “Flower Drum Song” cracked the Asian color line in the American entertainment industry, Asian actors are often left with the dubious choice of caricature and the cutting room floor. Thanks much for posting that link.

  9. This is absolutely the truth.

  10. When hyperinflation kicks in and U.S. currency becomes worthless, the chinese are going to buy up everything for dimes on the dollar.

    • Ken says:

      The hyperinflation had been scheduled by the Fed for tomorrow, which in addition to robbing prudent savers to redeem reckless borrowers, offers thge added bonus of teaching the Chinese tyrants a lesson on macroeconomics 101. Since the Chinese insist on gaming the fiat currency system, fixing the value of their currency artificially low to boost exports. This currency manipulation has gutted US industry over the last 10 years, (we were doing just fine before that at a steady 28% of global manufacturing revenue for the last 25 years prior (TK). So it should be interesting how China, already using a real estate bubble and investment directed burried in corrupt State enterprise, to keep the economy from overheating, will respond to this US economic kidney punch.

  11. lol who ever believes this is retarded

  12. Wanda Abbott says:

    Could I be more melodramatic? Sure.

    As a CEO, author of 14 books, serial entrepreneur having built 12 different businesses, some of which are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, I have first-hand reason to worry about this:

    When a country stops CREATING wealth… and spends my hard-earned efforts TRANSFERRING it to others, it is time to act.

    To those who think business as usual thinking will get them through this… good luck. I am sick of paying YOUR taxes!

    (Bout $3mil last year.) I know that Ken is with me on this one…although he may not publicly agree 😉

    • Ken says:

      Wanda, in the name of common decency, my politics must remain a mystery to the uninitiated, [1773] but I am delighted to disclose the demographic secrets of this blog’s readership. The inevitablities that unify us all are two–death and taxes. We pay. So it looks like you are paying someone else’s taxes instead of ours. But I think I speak for us all in saying that its a damn shame that you aren’t.

      On a personal note, my cronies and I took a collectivist approach at fish camp this year, and divided up expenses based on our 1040s. (Mr. EZ got off light). So from each according to his means, to each according to his ability to catch fish.

      Looking forward to more melodrama in the future. I want all you guys to crank it up.

  13. Neal Brennan says:

    American Conservatives are so good at the Big Lie school of propaganda. If only they used their propaganda skills to do something for the USA.

    In the real world, China ran a stimulus program that is 10 times larger than the U.S. 10 times more! And their total economy is a fraction of ours. However, there may be something true to this “fear the foreigners” theme. Shanghai alone spends $50 billion a year (pre-stimulus) on infrastructure. Definite advantage over our 1950-60’s era infrastructure

  14. Jules says:

    this is pure propaganda.

  15. I see… we need to KILL CHINA.

  16. PeachyPie says:

    Ah Fear-mongering at it’s best and with a tinge of racism and xenophobia. If this was done in the 80’s it would have featured Russians. Plus the Chinese professor thinks the USA was wrong to do policies that Chinese themselves favor?

  17. Alicia Rao says:

    The hilarious thing is, China is CURRENTLY reforming its healthcare…so what the fuck is this ad about? I don’t expect hardly any Americans to understand it, and I think the people who made it were probably on expensive crack. It’s crazier than a west German avant garde film. And LOL, why is Mao there? Do the Republicans actually know anything about China and Maoism? Utter morons

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