Victor Mair: Eye-roll of the century

[This guest post by Victor Mair expands on his Language Log coverage of the ‘Two Sessions’ eye-roll. As I commented there, this isn’t the first time a state-media affiliate abroad (in this case, AMTV (全美电视台)) causes a propaganda failure at a peak-sensitivity event. ‘Foreign shills’ (such as Question Sister (提问姐) or a less known Question Brother (提问哥)) are indeed a feature of these press conferences, and reporting on them has hardly generated much ‘positive energy’ (正能量).

A major purveyor of faux-foreign media entities is China Radio International (CRI), whose network of affiliates, affectionately known as ‘borrowed boats’, have made several appearances on this blog, reflecting my interest in propaganda for foreigners (‘exoprop’, 外宣). (The Australian part of CRI’s borrowed fleet was recently covered in reporting by McKenzie and Joske.)]

Eye-roll of the century (illustrated)

by Victor Mair

Materials assembled by informants from China, together with their comments, supplemented by my own findings and with additions by Jichang Lulu.

The protagonists

Ms. Red, Zhang Huijun, representing an alleged American television station

Ms. Blue, Liang Xiangyi, representing a Shanghai financial journal

Preface

From sources in China, I have collected a tremendous amount of materials about the “epic eye-roll” incident at the 13th NPC (Two Sessions).  Much of it is in Chinese, which I don’t have time to translate, and there is an abundance of visual materials, which  are difficult to post in circulars and on e-mail discussion lists.  Consequently I am writing this guest post on Jichang Lulu’s blog, which enables me to share these materials with a larger audience in a convenient format.

Needless to say, most of the sentiments expressed in what follows are strongly pro-Blue and anti-Red.  Indeed, many of the comments about Ms. Zhang are devastating, as will soon become obvious to those who continue reading this post.

Ms. Zhang has a strange way of speaking.  I base this not just on the 44 second video clip that records her remarks, but on other recordings of her speech as well.  Sometimes she halts and stops at odd places, and then she dashes along at lightning speed for a phrase or two (probably the bits she has memorized beforehand).  Also, the way Ms. Zhang moves her head and smiles is very sājiāo 撒娇ish / coquettish / flirtatious — unprofessional for a journalist.

The rolling of the eyes incident is not a simple matter.  I think that it will have long and lasting implications for the CCP and the PRC.  In my estimation, ultimately it will be one of the most celebrated events of the Xi reign.

N.B.:  While I hope that anyone with an interest in this monumental imbroglio will be able to extract meaning from these materials, full utilization assumes some familiarity with the Chinese political, social, economic, and cultural realms.  Furthermore, my usual practice on Language Log and elsewhere is to provide transcriptions and translations for all Chinese characters, but here I will forego the phonetic transcription in most cases, though I will generally provide translations.

Introduction

For a video of the encounter, a transcription and translation of Ms. Zhang’s “question”, and basic explanatory information, see:

Epic eye-roll” (Language Log, 15 March 2018)

Zhang Huijun’s background

不简单! (“Not simple!”).

She’s not just a pretty face, though she did once compete in a Miss China contest, but it’s not clear whether she won it (see below for more details).  This cheesecake photograph is testimony to her participation:

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(Source)

Labyrinthine chart of Ms. Zhang’s connections with persons of dubious repute

“董事长张慧君的背后,是曾与周滨共同套利的商人” (“Behind Chairman of the Board Zhang Huijun is a businessman who engaged in arbitrage with Zhou Bin”)

董事长张慧君的背后,是曾与周滨共同 by Sandra Severdia (see “The letter * has bee* ba**ed in Chi*a“)

Now, who is Zhou Bin 周滨?  Well, well, well!  He is none other than the convicted son of the disgraced former security tsar, Zhou Yongkang.  Both men are in prison for lengthy or life sentences for amassing vast sums of money through graft and other types of criminal activity.

More from Sandra Severdia and other Twitter users linked to her account revealing the activities of the LA TV station of which she is the ostensible Executive Director:

It is evident from the documentation in these tweets that Ms. Zhang’s station is affiliated with CCTV and that it is an unregistered, illegal, political agent of the CCP in the state of California.

Other major business backers include Bruno Wu and his wife Yang Lan

传张慧君受吴征栽培 伙同周永康之子套利 (“Zhang Huijun was cultivated by Bruno Wu and was in collusion to carry out arbitrage with Zhou Yongkang’s son:  reports”, Vision Times (看中国))

Observations by correspondents from the PRC

1.

Some websites say she only made it to the finals of the Miss China pageant while some say she was the “Miss China”. I think it’s more likely that she only made it to the finals. I agree with you on her weird way of speaking, and I also think she is quite unprofessional as a journalist. The way she talks annoys me. But on her resume, she has got all kinds of events and TV programs for her journalist/host profession. According to her sketchy resume, she worked in an important position at CCTV two months after she graduated (in 2005) from a minor university and intermittently worked at multiple positions ever since. (According to her resume again) she attended Communication University of China to study broadcasting in 2005 and attended Peking University to study international relations in 2009. Her resume looks pretty fake to me. I think Miss Liang Xiangyi is a very smart lady and I too hope nothing bad happens to her.

2.

This video is really amazing, and I found that this case is out of control in China. First, netizens found the video (attached herewith [VHM:  link in Language Log post cited above]) that Zhang asked questions in the 11th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and 12th National People’s Congresses, and she always had different titles.
11th:  香港有限中国经济于旅游电视台执行台长
12th: 世界知识杂志记者
13th: 全美电视台台长
From these names, it seems that she is supposed to be a “foreigner” [VHM:  N.B.!!] but actually, in the 13th National People’s Congress, she asked questions with “our country” (我们国家要进一步扩大对外开放) [VHM:  that was a slip, a booboo; she blew her cover], and then she and things related to her are skinned (被扒皮). Zhang is regarded as a shill of the CCP, and she is actually a fake foreign media person (假外媒). [VHM:  N.B.!!]
[VHM:  this video — in two parts — is important for trying to understand Ms. Zhang’s role as an allegedly foreign journalist]
First,she met with Xi Jinping.  [VHM: Note that she grabs Xi’s hand with both of hers.]
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Second, she took a photo with a Chinese artist Hou Yaohua (he just got involved in sex scandal these days), and they entwined their fingers which seemed to have a close relationship.

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Third, 全美电视台 American Multimedia Television USA (AMTV) is mysterious. It is a really small station which was established in 2004 by Yong Qin (秦勇) and was supported by the Consulate of China in LA. At that time, the company was named as First Pacific Financial Investment Group Inc, and in 2009, the name was changed to AMTV, and the CEO was Jason Quin. Actually, from the signatures of these two CEOs, it is clear that they are the same person. (One guess is that 秦勇 became an American citizen, so he changed his name). From the Linkedin and Facebook pages of Qin, he has many identities, such as the principal of the Confucius Institute [VHM:  !!] in Los Angeles and chief executive officer of American International Chamber of Commerce.
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What’s more, two companies which invest in his AMTV are actually still managed by Qin himself, and one of the company’s business licenses was revoked by the local government. Thus, his financial resources are not clear but he must have some relationships with the Chinese government. The question is who is actually the big boss?

With this background, netizens are angry about the government because people feel that they are played by the government, and they even call on the US government to investigate this institution because they think Zhang is propagandizing for China in the name of an American reporter, and they call her “将灵魂卖给中共的真‘妓者’“ (“a ‘true harlot’ who sold her soul to the Chinese Communist Party”).  [VHM:  the word for “harlot” is a perfect homophone with the word for “reporter”).

mair3.png

The CCP is afraid of the continuous discussion online, so they prohibit any discussion about these two reporters.

I have become accustomed to this situation that every time, when the Chinese government cannot control something, they will violently forbid it.

3.

I really agree with you that her way of speaking is strange and 做作 [VHM:  “affected”], but it seems that she is successful by using her female features [VHM:  feminine wiles] because she participated in many large-scale activities.  [VHM:  Most of these are quite high level, government sponsored events and involved her flying to many different countries as part of official delegations to participate in them.  In some cases she was the person presiding over or in charge of the event. A number of these events were sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, which shows that Ms. Zhang has had a close relationship with that key part of the government dealing with foreign affairs.]

Here is the timeline of the activities that I found online:

2007年,代表中共文化部赴菲律宾主持“国庆晚会”。

2008年,专程赶赴希腊主持联合国倡导的《文明对话》会议开幕式。

2009年,应邀主持中共外交部主管的“中国国际问题研究基金会”成立十周年庆祝大会。

2009年,随同外交部赴俄罗斯主持“和平之旅”文化艺术交流活动。

2010年,访问俄罗斯出席“中俄文化年”活动

2011年,受邀参加中共外交部第五届蓝厅论坛

2012年,主持由外交部主办的“睦邻友好,中亚建交二十年周—和谐之声”大型文艺演出

2013年,以外交部世界知识杂志社记者报导两会

2014年,在意大利驻华使馆主持意大利国庆节晚会。

She even could get an important position in CCTV immediately after she graduated from university. To some extent, I agree that she has some sexual relationships with certain important people. In February, she was still a presenter in CCTV-7, but just after a month, she becomes a reporter in AMTV. The interesting thing is that her father is also a famous guy, a violin player. Here is his introduction.

I think Zhang is just an actor who is hired by the CCP. Till now, it is an event of politics rather than an event of entertainment, and I am pretty sure that Xi will do something and maybe readjust External Propaganda Department. I am actually a little bit looking forward to seeing what will happen. I think both Zhang and Liang have no chance to work as reporters in the future but in a short time Liang will not be dismissed because the government doesn’t want to arise the indignation of people.  [VHM:  It is true that the high drama of this Red-Blue clash — though less than a minute in length — because it was caught full-screen on national TV and instantaneously went viral on social media, captured the attention and imagination of not only the nation but the whole world.  Despite her pulchritude, charm, and obvious attractiveness, nearly everybody I have talked to about this — especially Chinese people — are definitely on the blue side.]

The most unbelievable part of this case is that the introductory page of AMTV is full of grammar mistakes. [VHM:  always takes a long time to load for me]

This TV station seems really cheap and ridiculous.  [VHM:  It serves three main purposes  — 1. to give China a media foothold in the US; 2. to distribute Chinese programming and propaganda in America; 3. to give media people like Ms. Zhang “foreign” credentials.]

4.

This went viral today. Did you see the video? The journalist in red is Miss Zhang Huijun 张慧君. Supposedly she is the deputy director of a TV station in the states called 全美电视台. One of my friends did some research and found out this 全美电视台 is very sketchy. Its full name is: American Multimedia Television USA, AMTV. It’s registered address is a cheap rental apartment in Suburban Los Angeles. Its website looks very outdated and doesn’t have any hits at all. All the news videos on its website have so few views. The most viewed news video generates about 700 views, which is basically nothing. If you google this TV station and its registered company, there is no information about it on Linkedin, Glassdoor, and other major legit websites for company hiring and reviewing purposes. But this Miss Zhang Huijun shows up quite frequently during this congress meeting in Beijing.  She calls herself 两会气质姐 (Miss Elegant of the Congress Meeting). She also hosted other events supporting China’s communist party in the past. Many people say her appearance and her question are arranged(so-called 伪外媒 [“fake foreign media”]} by the CCP so that it looks like overseas Chinese are all supporting CCP and this Congress Meeting. It’s very interesting. My friend who did the research wrote a journal about this right after the video was aired. But it was quickly marked as “content violation” by WeChat and got deleted.

The journalist in blue is Miss Liang Xiangyi 梁相宜 from 上海第一财经. Rumors say that she is one of the most pretty journalists in China and she personally doesn’t like Miss Zhang, who calls herself ”Miss Elegant”. Moreover, Miss Zhang’s question was very long, boring, and unprofessional. (If you watch the full video, you will hear her introducing herself, including where she is from, her title, etc).

I excerpted some comments online:

网民“少凌野荼”说:两会开到现在,能反映民声的就只有这个表情了。[VHM: “Up to the present time, this is the only reflection of the people’s feelings”.  Think of it:  showing discomfort for less than half a minute and then the whites of her eyes for less than 5 seconds.]
网民“李庆丰Andy”说:两会开到现在,我就记住了你。[VHM:  “In the whole of the Two Sessions up to now, the most memorable part is you (Ms. Liang).”] (This one was translated in the content you sent me)
网民“侨泥”说:你的白眼反映出我们年轻一代对于中国政治生态中某些丑态的厌倦。[VHM:  “The whites of your eyes reflected how we, the youth of China, are weary of the ugliness of the political ecology of China.”]
网民“亚特兰蒂斯Narcissus”说:这双白眼,翻到老百姓的心里,太他X解气了。[VHM:  The whites of this pair of eyes have rolled into the hearts of the people; what a f*ck*ng venting of our spleen!”]
5.
Both Ms. Zhang and Ms. Liang have very complicated backgrounds (后台). About Ms. Zhang, here is an article about her.

About Ms. Liang, it is likely that she is the daughter of a very high level official [VHM:  now being called a “corrupt official”] in China.

Illustrative materials (with comments by PRC informants)

Some of them are gifs, but I can only send pictures here!
This is a really funny photo.
mair12
This is the clothes sold in Taobao.
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The blue-jacket reporter Liang Xiangyi has become really famous after this thing happened, and netizens human-flesh search (人肉搜索) both of them quickly, and Liang’s Weibo (微博) and the red-jacket reporter Zhang Huijun’s friend circle are exposed.

In the screenshot below, Zhang names herself “两会气质姐” [VHM:  “Miss Elegant of the Two Sessions”] which is really strange because Chinese people will never praise themselves in such an obvious way. In this screenshot, she also posted many articles which praised her.
mair14
It is also unbelievable that somebody can give herself a crown of the goddess.
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Then, there is another screenshot of the messages which were sent by the people who had direct contact with Zhang, and Zhang was described as a really narcissistic person.
mair16

Then, the screenshot of the messages which were sent by Liang was also exposed, and Liang described Zhang as a silly (傻逼) [VHM:  it’s much worse — more vulgar — than that] and directly pointed out her stupid way of asking questions.

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Liang’s opinion of Zhang and her reaction to Zhang were highly supported by the netizens. Netizens believed that Zhang was verbose and it is bad to say too many useless things, and they even name her as “提问婊” (“the bitch of asking the question”).

mair18
Actually, Zhang did not realize her problem.
mair19
For this formal occasion, Liang’s reaction is not appropriate but still welcomed. She was criticised at once.
mair21
Whatever, Liang is an online celebrity now and she became an instant 表情包 (“emoticon” [or ‘meme’—Lulu]).
The most interesting thing is that now [VHM:  3/14/18], the government has deleted everything related to Liang in Weibo. I cannot believe it is so fast, and it says this is according to the law and regulations (I don’t believe).
mair26

References

“翻白眼”导致大外宣穿帮:近百记者被逐出两会现场 (“The ‘eye-roll’ incident led to a major goof in external propaganda:  nearly a hundred journalists have been expelled from the site of the Two Sessions”, Boxun)

“Skeptical reporter’s disdain grabs limelight at NPC press event” (Frank Chen, Asia Times)

FARA petition.

“Eye-roll plot thickens as petition demands probe into US broadcaster’s Communist Party ties” (Yujing Liu, SCMP)

两会红与蓝:白眼翻出假外媒 (curated by 无可奉告, China Digital Times)

“China’s Eye-Rolling Journalist Incident – the Aftermath. An update to the biggest topic of the week:  a remarkable live-broadcasted eye-roll” (Manya Koetse, What’s on Weibo? [VHM: Weibo is a Twitter-like microblogging website with nearly 400 million monthly active users. When the Chinese government wants to censor terms on the internet, this is one of the first places they go to.])

“Chinese Reporter Rolled Her Eyes On State Television, And Social Media Users Can’t Deal” (Kimberly Yam, HuffPost)

“In China, an eye-roll goes viral, censors put a lid on it” (Brecky Davis, AFP)
“The epic eye roll that exposed the sham of China’s biggest political gathering” (Zheping Huang, Quartz)

“Chinese reporter’s dramatic eye-roll goes viral before she disappears from view” (Didi Tang, The Times)

Concluding note

Any reliable evidence about what has happened to Ms. Liang and Ms. Zhang will be greatly appreciated.  I am especially concerned about the former, because she is more likely to be punished for letting her true emotions show in what was supposed to be a tightly controlled situation, whereas Ms. Zhang may — more or less secretly — receive some sort of award or commendation.

 

Update

See, in addition to all the links in the post, these recent articles:

“专家视点(李佳佳):’假外媒’与软实力” VOA Chinese (3/20/18)

“袁斌:我为’气质姐’张慧君鸣不平” 大纪元 (3/20/18)

“袁斌:白眼门’凸显了什么?” 大纪元 (3/19/18), which shows photos of Ms. Red in military uniform (two stars on her epaulettes, no less! [two stars and two (red) bars are the insignia of a lieutenant colonel (中校) of the ground force (陆军, affectionately known in English as PLAA, for ‘People’s Liberation Army Army’) —Lulu])

[Zhang’s alleged pictures in uniform emerged a few days ago via Twitter user 苍山独厚, and were reported on by overseas Chinese-language sites, including CDT—Lulu]

If anyone has any gifs of the Blue-Red Encounter, please send them along to me.

[Samuel Wade has covered Eye-Roll Gate in a new post for CDT, including additional comments.—Lulu]

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One thought on “Victor Mair: Eye-roll of the century

  1. […] A recent example, the ‘eye-roll of the century’, was recently described in some length by Victor Mair in a guest post for this […]

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