Chinese President Xi Jinping made an appearance on the American adult animated sitcom South Park at the end of October. True to the show's politically incorrect form, the episode skewered Japanese yaoi or “boys’ love” comic culture as well as diplomatic relations between China, Japan and South Korea.
Yaoi is a comic sub-genre popular mainly among young Asian women that depicts idealized gay relationships between male characters. The episode last week had Asian students bringing the yaoi culture to South Park by distributing dreamy photos of Tweek and Craig, two male students at school. Everyone in town begins to believe the two are gay, even though they aren't.
At one point, the father of fellow classmate Stan, ignorant of what yaoi is, calls up Chinese President Xi Jinping to ask how Asian people decide who is gay or not. Xi answers, “That comes from Japan” and “They are dogs who refuse not apologize to the Chinese Republic.” What's more, at the end of the episode, the Chinese president kisses his Korean-speaking secretary in his office.
The scenes had South Park's Chinese audiences wide-eyed in surprise. The pirated copies of the original episode vanished quickly from the domestic Internet and now a censored version is online with the “dogs” comment and the kissing scene removed.
Chinese fans of South Park were worried that the attention to the politically sensitive elements of the episode would alert the country's propaganda authorities to ban the animated show from online circulation.
For non-Chinese, perhaps the most provocative moment was the “dogs” comment:
holy. shit. the gay anime south park episode has the president of china calling japanese people dogs. pic.twitter.com/9hbhmmnJkT
— Stefan Constantine (@WhatTheBit) November 1, 2015
Most Chinese audiences, however, were not bothered by that, seeing the remark as politically correct. It was the kissing scene that they believed might have crossed the line.
Who's the woman in the president's office?
Xi Jinping is married to Peng Liyuan. But the Korean-speaking woman character in his office, who hasn't appeared in the show before this episode, was definitely not Xi's wife. South Park Wiki presented the woman as his secretary, implying an extramarital affair. Such an act would be regarded as corrupt within the context of the country's anti-graft campaign, and netizens feared it would get the series banned:
Kissing with secretary in the end, this is like adding fuel to the fire.
South Park's Chinese fans pointed out that the woman was not just an ordinary secretary but actually Park Geun-hye, South Korea's president who has overseen increasingly closer ties to China. Historically, Japan, China and South Korea have bad relations. Japan invaded South Korea and China during the Second World War. During the Korean War (1950-1953) China joined the North Korean troops to fight against the US-backed South Korean troop. In the past few decades, the territorial disputes among the three countries have been non-stop. Yet somehow, Japan has become the common enemy of China and South Korea.
On Twitter, @SlowZhu highlighted the recent news of the China-Japan-South Korea summit to show the figure is actually Park:
— 可愛い推特王林 (@SlowZhu) November 1, 2015
Very likely this is the woman kissed by the Jinping character in South Park.
‘This is far from a malicious attack’
Representing diplomatic relations as such could still get the show in trouble. On popular social media platform Weibo, South Park's fans were worried about the fate of South Park in China. Some defended the show by explaining the difference between humor and maliciousness:
The problem is the end when the current king kisses the imperial concubine Ms. Geun.
This episode is mainly to mock the invasion of yaoi culture. Xi only appeared for a dozen seconds as a satire of the diplomatic war of words over Japan's apology for the Second World War. The kissing scene at the end reflects China and South Korea's ambiguous relations. The animation is for adult consumption, Chairman Mao made an appearance in the past as well. This is far from a malicious attack.
This is enough… the episode is not a malicious attack on the Chinese empire. If you think so, you are way too sensitive or you are not a fan of South Park. You don't have any idea about how the satire works in South Park. During the 2008 Olympics, it addressed the hot issue of the Chinese threat and Mao made several appearances. The ban should have been issued back then.
Given a nationwide campaign to guard Chinese young people against the “corruption” of western civilization, many South Park's fans are pessimistic and making efforts to download whatever remains of the animated show online:
Shit, I thought this is the end… Sohu TV has already taken down everything after season 12… I have to look for other online resources to download…