Ex-Daily Show funnyman and current host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight John Oliver took a momentary break from roasting the US President to shift focus to another world leader in a segment that aired on last Sunday’s program. “The truth here is a lot of us are probably under-informed about China,” Oliver says in an intro to an extensive piece focusing predominately on the recent moves of Xi Jinping at home and abroad:
Tonight let’s talk about China, and let’s put America aside for most of this piece and talk instead about China on its terms. Because it’s been going through seismic social, economic and political changes which have been happening head-spinningly quickly.
The regular RADII reader won’t learn much from this per se — Oliver does an admirable job of breaking down recent developments that our own Jeremiah Jenne covers with more authority and wit, such as Xi’s rescinding of presidential term limits in February — but it’s good to see a mainstream American TV show recognize the need to demystify the Chinese leadership’s ambitions at a time when geopolitical fault lines are being tested and redrawn around the world.
The segment touches on some of the New China Narrative’s greatest hits (double-digit GDP growth for 30 years, 800 million people out of poverty, “growing middle class pretty content with how things are going,” etc) and includes a few trademark Oliverian zingers (“Wow, a sense of optimism about the future… as a British person I just find that utterly incomprehensible”) before digging into the “troubling stuff under the surface” (Xinjiang).
Overall it makes for a handy link to pass on to a friend or family member that might need a 20-minute YouTube crash course on what exactly is shaping up in China at the moment.
Of course, if you’re a galaxy brain RADII reader all you need to do is stay tuned right here for more updates on this front. Not to toot our own horns but we’re a little more seasoned when it comes to digging up ridiculous OBOR propaganda vids.
Update: In the wake of this segment, it seems “John Oliver” has been blocked as a search term on Weibo and according to multiple news reports HBO’s website is no longer accessible in China. Guess the authorities didn’t see the funny side….
Cover image: Xi Jinping: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (YouTube)
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