After “roughly 4,000 different stories on New Zealand“ and one on Russell Crowe‘s jockstrap, John Oliver decided to devote the main story of Last Week Tonight to China, ”the country responsible for huge technological advances, but still can’t seem to get pandas to f***.”
Oliver wanted to focus on China, not because Donald Trump has targeted the country in many speeches, but because of leader Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power. Over the last 30 years China’s GDP has grown by 10% a year, according to Oliver, helping the population climb out of poverty and creating a sense of optimism about the future — which, as a Brit, Oliver finds incomprehensible. “If you look up optimism in the O.E.D.,” Oliver said, “The definition simply reads: No.”
The Chinese parliament recently did away with presidential term limits by a vote of 3,000 to two, which per Oliver, meant two members of parliament were going to have to send Xi an Edible Arrangement to smooth things over with the man who is now “emperor for life.” Oliver said that Xi has slowly been establishing a cult of personality and cultivating a ”man of the people” image, thanks in part to a “bizarre theme park.” (Oliver noted, however, that the U.S. is no better with its theme parks filled with “vomit-inducing teacups” and “massive pantsless sailor ducks.”)
As China grows, Xi has spearheaded two massive projects. One is the so-called Belt and Road initiative, an ambitious infrastructure project that could reshape global trade. The second is a massive crackdown on corruption within the communist party, which has included sweeping up his political rivals. Xi is also cracking down on dissent, censoring internet, putting together a list of “untrustworthy people,“ and even banning references to Winnie the Pooh, because, according to Oliver, he bears a resemblance to the animated bear. He has also introduced a Black Mirror-esque social credit scoring system that rates citizens based on their behavior, and has intensified government suppression of certain religions, artistic expression, minorities and critics.
“China knows that no matter how badly they behave the world will still want to do business with them, like Facebook,” he said. According to Oliver, Trump is leaving a leadership vacuum on the world stage when it comes to China, so Oliver is stepping into the spotlight with a little song to help remind the world what Xi is really about.