Zhibo: Trade Wars and American Idiots

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10:28 PM HKT, Mon July 16, 2018 3 mins read

Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe (Inke). If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.

Topic of the Week The Trade War

pictured: the general sentiment

Ah, the unanswerables. What do you want me to say, Chinese internet? That our president is an idiot elected by a system that hates intelligence and loves shiny things? You got me.

We all know Trump doesn’t know a damn thing about international trade and that everything he learned about tariffs comes from building some criminally ugly (and criminally other stuff) buildings in the ’80s. Of course there are legitimate reasons for both the United States and China to consider changing their trade policies, but this isn’t a 4-dimensional chess move – this is knocking the checkers board over because you’re having a temper tantrum.

Just like with everything else Trump-related, it’s teeth-gnashingly annoying to watch pundits who I’m sure consider themselves to be quite serious people telling everyone to calm down because these tariffs aren’t that big of a deal. I’d encourage these people to brush up on the concept of the Overton window and then try to remember that *this* guy is launching a trade war against our biggest trading partner because we made him president and he thinks it looks good on TV.

This guy.


Yes, I get that we can’t all be dialed up to 11 all day every day. I get that people have lives to lead. But holy good god, can we please stop listening to the people who want to pretend that THIS F@#KING GUY has any idea what he’s doing because confronting reality is too uncomfortable? Here’s a thought: when the British and the Chinese are mocking you for the same damn thing, you probably done goofed.

Yeah, but I hear Obama’s blimp was much smaller and made in Kenya.

It’s funny, though. Even with everything I just said, I can’t help but feel that little defensive flare of nationalist “HEY THAT’S MY COUNTRY YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT” in my gut when I see these kinds of messages. I guess it’s hard to overstate how badly we humans want to be on a team.

Funniest Question of the Week How many American beauties? Can you introduce me to being my girlfriend?

Can I introduce you to being your girlfriend? Sure – pick a hand.

But seriously, I only mock the bad English because of the obnoxiousness of the core message, which we’ve covered before. Some things are the same on the internet no matter where you go.


Strangest Message of the Week If you pick up a Chinese daughter-in-law, you won’t have to die.

Is the implication here that a Chinese daughter-in-law is the secret to immortality? Or is there a bounty on my head that can only be removed if my child marries a Chinese woman? Either way, this is gonna be tough to do without kids.

In all seriousness, I never did manage to get a follow-up or explanation for this message. Did he/she mean that producing Chinese grandchildren would be the way to keep my family line going? Was this an endorsement of Chinese daughters-in-law as great caretakers of the elderly? I’m going to assume something got lost in translation, but sadly I’ll never know.

Wisdom of the Week cramming ain’t saving shit

Wisdom coarsely spoken is still wisdom.

Rote memorization is a real problem in the Chinese education system – in part simply because of what it takes to learn all of those characters.

I can’t tell you how often people people ask me about their English or my Chinese in the meaningless language of arbitrary test numbers. Look, I get that you have to take tests to get the numbers so you can get the piece of paper that helps you get noticed by the school or employer you’d like to notice you. More power to you – cram and ace the test. There’s nothing wrong with living in the world that exists. But for the love of god, have some awareness of the game you’re playing and don’t trick yourself into believing that you’re going to remember any of that shit after the test is done.


The Last Word the last word fuck you American idiot

This sentence is missing a colon. Coincidentally, that’s also where you can stick this message.

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