political jokes

Chinese political jokes are language-related, which means satire and irony may be lost in translation. Instead of pulling political leaders’ legs, they are subtle, impersonal, and are common in xiangsheng (comic dialogue) and shunkouliu (doggerel). Political jokes often centre around corruption, e.g. Mao said, ‘Revolution is not a dinner party’ (Geming bushi qingke chifan), but for many cadres ‘Revolution is not entertaining guests, but eating dinner [at public expense or at the cost of the nouveaux riches]’ (Geming bushi qingke jiushi chifan).
Cadres are supposed to ‘serve the people’ (wei renmin fuwu), but many ‘serve the people’s currency’ (wei renminbi fuwu). Deng Xiaoping’s ‘four basic principles’ (si xiang jiben yuanze) are Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, the Communist Leadership, the socialist road and the people’s democratic dictatorship. But some cadres had their own version: ‘Eat a lot, but don’t drink too much; take gifts, but don’t accept bribes; love the new, but don’t hate the old; be romantic, but don’t be obscene’ (Dachi bu dahe; shouli bu shouhui; xixin bu yanjiu; fengliu bu xialiu). Beijingers are particularly good at making implicit political jokes about current affairs. For example, a bus conductor, seeing the crowd at a bus stop, shouts, ‘Don’t push! Let comrades from Shanghai get on first’ which pokes fun at many Shanghai-related top leaders (Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji served as Shanghai mayors; the Gang of Four was Shanghai-related).
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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