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Daily Drip

“I Was Hoping for Sushi. I Love Chinese Food” – Trudeau Comments Spark Debate in China

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There are few things more quintessentially Japanese than sushi. Unless you’re in a certain section of the Chinese internet of course. And for that, we have Justin Trudeau partly to blame.

Appearing at the 2019 Press Gallery Dinner (the Canadian equivalent of the White House Correspondents Dinner) this weekend, the Canadian Prime Minister joked, “I was hoping for sushi. I love Chinese food”, in reference to his gaffes last week when he twice referred to Japan as China in front of Shinzo Abe.

It was a faintly humorous attempt at self-deprecation typical of the dinner. But that didn’t stop some in China from taking it far too seriously.

Within hours of the comment, the hashtag “Canadian Prime Minister Says He Loves to Eat Chinese Food: Sushi” had received millions of views and thousands of comments. While many saw the funny side, some used the opportunity to claim that sushi really does have a strong Chinese connection:

sushi chinese trudeau canada japan “Sushi originally comes from the ancient Chinese ‘sa’ [pickled fish with rice and salt].” (Something which is backed up to a certain extent by Wikipedia’s history of sushi.)

“In Canada, most of the people making sushi are Chinese.”

Fortunately, one of the most top-rated comments on microblogging platform Weibo actually lampooned some of the ultra-nationalist sentiment that could be found in the comments section:

sushi china trudeau japan“Japan has been an inalienable territory of China since ancient times.” (A jokey reference to some of the language usually employed by nationalists and the government when laying claim to certain “rogue provinces” and areas of modern-day China that haven’t aways been within the country’s borders.

At least in this case Trudeau’s dreams of sushi don’t seem to have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people — phew.

Cover photo: Elli O. on Unsplash

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.