Over the years, the reputation of Chinese officials for being droll, dull, and boring in the public sphere has grown to almost legendary proportions. China’s last President, Hu Jintao, was famous for constantly boasting a somber, expressionless face no matter what occasion, a trend that new President Xi Jinping is hoped to reverse. (And sometimes, when the Chinese get animated it goes badly…as President Jiang Zemin experienced in his interview with the Hong Kong press in 1994: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cmjaptnr6k).
So when Vice Premier Wang Yang addressed the crowd at the U.S. – China Strategic Economic Dialogue yesterday carrying an outgoing personality and speaking in well-executed sarcasm, it came as a refreshing surprise. As cited in this Reuters article, the Vice Premier said that the U.S. and China relationship is like a marriage, though joking that it should not be confused as a “gay marriage,” making light of the current U.S. political discussion on the topic. He even went on to snide about how we should not be confusing the divorce of Rupert Murdoch and his Chinese wife with having any effect on the relationship of the two countries.
Wang’s delightful personality and sense of humor adds flavor to the U.S. – China relationship, and could serve as an intangible element to progress relations that has largely been missing over the past 4 decades. Humor and whit have become staples in American politics and the Vice Premier’s commentary and attitude have already been welcomed by the U.S. diplomats at the conference.
His comments are not just catching the attention of the U.S. side. The video posted of his talk on China’s 163.com elicited almost 5000 responses from Chinese citizens, mostly voicing their support of Wang Ying and his efforts to bring America and China closer together. Some even appreciated the humor, saying “汪洋很幽默“－Wang Yang is so funny！
Still, Wang Yang’s perspective and personality are not mainstream polity in China. He is an outspoken member of the reformist end of the Communist Party, and to be sure, his compatriots at the dialogue took a much more serious tone.
At the end of the day, it can’t hurt to have one of these funny guys involved in the high level discussions between the titans to lighten the mood and remind us all that we are all just human beings trying to make the best of this Earth that God has given us.