Boris Johnson’s election team continues its bumbling adventures in social media by demonstrating the same utter incompetence with which it attempted to hijack the GLA’s @MayorOfLondon twitter account.
The Mayor’s team recently opened an account with Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo but instead of making any attempt to interact or post anything of particular interest to the Chinese, the account has merely copied and pasted posts directly from the @MayorOfLondon twitter account (some of which are merely re-tweets of users who don’t even exist on Sina Weibo), with no regard to the different typography and symbols used.
Johnson’s account has accumulated more than 50,000 fans, as followers are called on Weibo, and many of them are similarly confused and annoyed. Since he began Weibo-ing on April 12, the vast majority of the mayor’s posts are in English.
They’re letting him know. One recent reply to his confusing Twitter paste pretty much typifies the sentiment of his followers: “Hey old man, can you speak a little Chinese? We’re Chinese people, on Chinese soil.” (“老爷爷~你能不能说点中文，咋们是中国人啊 在中国国土里.”)
Old man Johnson hasn’t yet responded to that person’s concerns, in English or in Chinese.
Just shout loudly enough in a posh, English accent and those foreign types’ll certainly understand, won’t they! Why should the internet be any different?
Johnson’s usual attitude to China and the Chinese (as long as he isn’t trying to suck up to them just before an election) is summed up in an article he once wrote for his
chickenfeed Telegraph column:
Let me assert this as powerfully as I can: we do not need to fear the Chinese. China will not dominate the globe. We do not need to teach babies Mandarin. Our Sinophobia is misplaced. Even with 1.3 billion people, and fast export-led growth, the Chinese have an economy smaller than Italy’s, but that is not really the point. World domination – superpowerdom – is all about hard power and soft power, military might and cultural impact.
Well, compared with the old British Empire, and the new American imperium, Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase. Far from spreading overseas, as the English language has spread, and Hollywood has spread, Chinese culture seems to stay firmly in China.
Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov. Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, though there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech.
There are Chinatowns and takeaways all over the world, but in Britain the culinary impact of China is dwarfed by the subcontinent. The turnover for Chinese restaurants is about £282 million, compared with £2 billion for Indian restaurants. It is hard to think of a single Chinese sport at the Olympics, compared with the umpteen invented by Britain, including ping-pong, I’ll have you know, which originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called whiff-whaff.
The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it. And how many people do you know who can speak even a sentence of Chinese? If global domination means anything, it must mean the spread of culture, language and mores, in the way of the Romans, the British, and the Americans. The Chinese aren’t even out of the paddock.
As for military might – hard power – our fears are again overdone. The Chinese may have 2.5 million men in uniform, but of the long-range missiles you need to be a global power Beijing can wield only 20, which would make for a pretty brief fireworks display if they came up against the Americans.
Hur, hur, not much cop at anything, really, are they? None of this, however, appears to have prevented Johnson from telling the Chinese that he wishes for greater economic and trade co-operation and people-to-people exchanges. The latter continues to be a major problem for Chinese citizens wishing to visit the UK as tourists as the UK is not part of the Schengen Area of 26 Member States.
A Schengen Visa allows Chinese tourists to enter those European countries which are signatory to the freedom of movement agreement but a separate visa is required for the UK:
The UK is not party to that agreement and a separate visa is required, necessitating a personal visit to one of 12 application centres in China. Application forms are 10 pages long and have only just become available in Mandarin.
UK luxury retailers are pressing the government to tackle visa bottlenecks for Chinese tourists, claiming bureaucracy is causing shoppers to shun London stores in favour of centres such as Paris and Milan, reports the Financial Times.
Retail spending in the UK from Chinese visitors topped £350m last year, according to Global Blue, a financial services company, but retailers including Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason argue this could be far higher if the UK visa process was simplified.
At a meeting promoting tourism at City Hall last year, the Mayor had a special message for the Chinese:
We certainly want to see more Chinese people coming to London than they do to Paris.
After making a pathetic attempt at electioneering on Chinese social media, rubbishing China’s many achievements and ensuring it’s as difficult as possible for Chinese tourists to come to the UK, I’m not sure many Chinese will be tempted to come to London on Boris Johnson’s recommendation.
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