Poking fun at the Party – Jokes from Chinese netizens

This first section is a collection of jokes poking fun at the party after a Chinese journalist asked Gary Locke, ““I hear you flew here coach. Is that a reminder that U.S. owes China money?” Netizens took Locke’s frugality as a sign of respecting state funds, instead of wasting the money on lavish treatment for himself. They chose to mock the journalist, and the current state of gov’t corruption, with questions that show the same kind of faulty assumptions. -Translated by Yaxue.

  • You have brought your wife with you to Beijing, don’t you know officials in China like to keep mistresses?
  • Officials in your country don’t keep mistresses, is that because they are not virile enough?
  • You have so few corrupt officials in the US, is that because you are too poor and there is nothing to grab?
  • You don’t have so many toll roads and bridges, is that because you don’t have enough people to man them?
  • Your GDP is growing really slowly, is it because your housing price is too low?
  • Your congress is always fighting, is it because [the lawmakers] lack any sense harmony?
  • You don’t know how to sing “red songs,” is that because you don’t know anything about music?
  • You have so many school buses, is that because the parents are poor and cannot afford cars?
  • You don’t have forced demolitions, is that because you don’t have effective municipal administrations?
  • You are not building high-speed rails, does that mean the Americans are weaklings, and are afraid to die?
  • You don’t have negative gain on your bank deposit, does that mean the Americans can’t afford to lose their money? (negative gain, means inflation is higher than the interest received)
  • You don’t’ use gutter oil in your country is it because you don’t know how to make it?

This second set of jokes come from my good friend Seven. He found these on Weibo and found them so funny that he spent a morning translating them. I think they highlight the fact that many Chinese are acutely aware of the current situation, even though many in the West act as though the average citizen has been kept completely in the dark.

Q: What four languages should Chinese officials learn?
A: English, French, Russian and Japanese.
Wrong! Lies, empty talks, big talks and clichés.

Q: Who advertises fake medicines, advocates the effects and criticizes their danger to people?
A: A mountebank.
Wrong! CCTV.

Q: What is more expensive than going to college?
A: Studying abroad.
Wrong! Going to kindergarten.

Q: Who drops from thousands of meters to one thousand yet keeps his nerve?
A: A parachuter.
Wrong! A Chinese stock investor.

Q: A person is paid 1000 yuan for the first month, 800 for the second, 600 for the third. Is this an increase or a decrease?
A: A decrease.
Wrong! It’s a negative increase. (Authorities use “negative increase” to express “decrease”.)

Q: What is the situation when an unarmed person is fighting against a group of armed persons?
A: The Anti-Japanese war.
Wrong! Urban management. (read: Does anybody like the Chengguan?)

Q: Suppose you have a room of 10 square meters. Your neighbor increases his room from 0 to 100. Do you have an increase of your room?
A: No.
Wrong! You have an increase of 45 square meters on average.

Q: Who, with various evidence, proves you actually have 100 yuan when you only have 50?
A: A cheater.
Wrong! The bureau of statistics.

Q: Who demands you to be responsible forever yet is never responsible for you?
A: A mistress.
Wrong! A bank.

Q: What can you never see or find, even though it is close by?
A: Air
Wrong! The department concerned. (meaning the group actually responsible for something that has happened)

Q: What have you never seen, though you’ve heard it ever since you were a child?
A: Ghost.
Wrong! A communist society.

Q: What dives into the water when attacked, yet soon emerges on the surface in a different position?
A: A turtle.
Wrong! Removed officials.

Q: Who would said this: “The environmental pollution in Chinese cities is not caused by automobiles but by bikes. Bikes cause more pollution than automobiles.”
A: A psychopath.
Wrong! A Chinese expert.

Q: A person often speaks for you. But you have never met. Why?
A: Because he is a bastard.
Wrong! Because he is Deputy to the People’s Congress.

10 responses to “Poking fun at the Party – Jokes from Chinese netizens”

  1. Josh Koehn says:

    Great post. Definitely funny but also thought provoking.

  2. Anonymous says:

    of course most of them could match bureaucrats all over the world,Chinese party in no case has the monopoly on corruption and abuse of power. Still it’s very important that netizens are fully aware of the situation and can critisize it

  3. Baobo says:

    These are probably funnier in the native language. Many jokes don’t translate well, even though the meaning is clear.

  4. Lao Why? says:

    Q: What do you call the relationship between a government official and his mistress?
    A: Immoral?
    Wrong! It’s called a State Secret

  5. Yaxue C. says:

    It is very true that joke is one of those things that don’t translate well. For non-Chinese speakers, it’s more for observation than for entertainment.

    The Chinese internet is rife with political/social jokes everyday. Funny ones get viral in no time, and just about everyone I know who has a Weibo account is passing them on. It’s like carnivals of satire. Of course they never make their way to CCTV or any TV in China. I once suggested to a friend of mine, who is a professor studying mass culture, that he should write a paper to discuss the phenomenon, particularly what it means for the Party to have such a public on the receiving end of the propaganda machine. He said it was a great idea but I don’t think he is writing it.

    • NiubiCowboy says:

      Yaxue, can you comment on the lifespan of such jokes on Weibo and the broader Chinese internet? How long are they generally tolerated before government and corporate internet censors see fit to delete them? Or, are they tolerated longer than they would normally be in other forms of media because the amount of people actively engaging in the dissemination of this kind of political satire is a small percentage of the internet-using Chinese population?

      • Yaxue C. says:

        NiubiCowboy, my impression is that the jokes are not censored at all in most cases, but I will ask a couple of friends about it. There can be several reasons: If they are directed at specific events, they normally come a little later, and, as is true with all jokes, they are at once transparent and oblique, often don’t have the “sensitive” words in them. If the large sites such as Sina.com are using people to censor items, keep in mind that those are most likely young people who are merely doing a job, and they can’t possibly be monolithicly supporters of what they are paid to do.

        Also keep in mind (hush!), the people in charge of information disemination are not very smart in term of their cultural sophistication.

        I know jokes are very popular among young people and intellectuals. As far as I am concerned, it hardly matters how big a population is engaged in creating and diseminating them: Jokes are a slit on an otherwise air-tight bubble; and big slit or small slit, it is a slit.

        I will not go without leaving my all-time favorite joke. It came out after the New Zealand earthquake in 2009, poking fun at the party’s propaganda spin following the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan:

        新西兰里氏7.2级大地震无人死亡,创造不了救援奇迹了,开不成表彰大会了,没那么多感人事迹了,拍不成电影了,捐不了款了,不能降半旗了,不用全国默哀了,更不能诈捐了,也没法创造生命奇迹了。关键是新西兰不能多难兴邦了,总结一句:这是一次失败的地震。(A 7.2 earthquake has struck New Zealand and not a single person died, that means it cannot create rescue miracles and cannot hold award ceremoney for rescue heros; there will be no moving stories to tell, no movies to be made, no need to donate money, no lowering the national flag, and no moment of silence and condolences to the dead. More importantly, there will be no opportunities for fraudulent fundraisings. But most importantly, New Zealand will not be a country [like ours] where the more sufferings there are and the stronger we are. All in all, it is a failed earthquake.)

  6. Quartz says:

    […] to lower levels. Chinese have long tolerated corruption, the subject of cynical internet memes, jokes, and more rebelliously, popular art. But, says Johnson, “The more of these senior leaders […]

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