A college student’s satirical video mocking the haughty behavior of cadres and the unquestioning respect they receive from society has sparked a heated discussion. Filmed at Yunnan State Land Resources Vocational College, the short clip features a student dressed in what could be described as “cadre chic” (厅局风, tīngjú fēng) walking around the campus with a group of followers. The student mimics the mannerisms of officials, including scrutinizing, gesturing, and making grand statements. The performance was so convincing that even the school’s staff were fooled. This video combines various scenes from the original.
Following the film’s widespread popularity, the school did not take disciplinary action against the students, but did express their intention to offer them appropriate guidance for their behavior. This statement sparked curiosity among netizens. @亮见, a WeChat writer, proposed that school authorities, rather than the students, should reflect on their actions.
The ones who require proper guidance are not the students, but rather the school itself. When word got out about an unexpected official coming, everyone’s initial response- from the students to the cafeteria workers, all the way up to the head of the school- was either to blindly follow and be respectful, or to frantically make calls to find out who exactly had arrived for an evaluation.
What causes them to be filled with fear and anxiety?
The attire, the gestures, the aura of authority.
The students, using inexpensive online purchases of suit jackets and imitated behaviors, were able to elicit obedience and unease from those they encountered, even those they did not directly interact with. This reminded me of the film “If I Were for Real” starring Alan Tam, which was banned in mainland China in 1981 for its satire of the Chinese Communist Party.
Alan Tam portrays Li Xiaozhang, a young man with education who was sent to work at Dongfeng Farm, a government-run labor camp. Li’s pregnant girlfriend wants to use her connections to return to the city, but the plan has not yet been successful, causing him to feel anxious.
While visiting the city for a play, Li is incorrectly identified as the child of a prominent official and is warmly greeted by the leader of the theater group, the head of the cultural department, and the spouse of the city’s Party secretary. Li takes advantage of this situation and leverages his newfound connections to arrange for himself and his girlfriend to be relocated back to the city.
Eventually, the true high-ranking official appears and reveals Li’s plot. Li is taken into custody during the performance, much to the confusion of the director who questions if they have apprehended the wrong person, only to be informed that Li is a fake and a deception.
At that point, Li Xiaozhang poses the inquiry that has sparked significant contemplation:
“Is it solely due to my fraudulent identity that this is considered unlawful? What if I was authentic?”
If the situation were real… even if it was predictable, deceptive, comical, or absurd, few would have the courage to ridicule it.
This represents true strength.
Having the bravery to mock true authority is uncommon. [Chinese]
The traditional practice of conducting official inspection tours is a significant part of Chinese political culture. For instance, in 2021, Xi visited Tsinghua University to emphasize the importance of students being both committed to socialism and maintaining professionalism, aligning with Maoist ideology. However, these tours are more for show and are carefully orchestrated for the benefit of Xi.
Tours have often been the subject of ridicule. The now-defunct Twitter account “Xi Jinping Looking at Things” hilariously highlighted the ridiculousness of Xi’s seemingly all-powerful inspection abilities. One particular inspection, which never actually happened, received widespread mockery. In 2011, local officials in Sichuan manipulated a photo of themselves inspecting a highway, giving rise to the “floating officials” meme. This prompted internet users to photoshop them into various real and fictional situations, such as the moon landing, the bunker scene from “Downfall,” and Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup Final.
Some Yunnan students have not faced consequences other than “appropriate guidance” for mocking officials, but some internet users are urging for them to be reported. The WeChat writer @走读新生 compared this desire for punishment to an old joke about officials.
Do you happen to recall the previous joke? It aligns flawlessly with this performance art piece.
“What will you be reporting them for?”
“To reiterate exactly what was previously stated.” [English]