Adam Cathcart: Chinese Media's Short-Lived Love for Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Dictator'

Roundup: Historians' Take

Adam Cathcart is assistant professor of history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and the editor of

The boundary between satire and reality can blur when it comes to the behavior of despots, particularly in East Asia. The Chinese Communist Party's irony deficit showed clearly this week when state media praised the country's media openness precisely as the Party expelled a foreign journalist. In neighboring North Korea, Kim Jong Un spent his first display of public anger in tongue-lashing his subordinates, not for starving citizens or excessive military spending, but for their failure to clean up an amusement park.

On Chinese social media, satire leveled at despots is common. Chinese netizens, after all, added this gem to the "Hitler Downfall meme" after a scandal involving a CCP official who didn't realize that his tweets on Weibo to his mistress to set up a tryst were public. The army of paid censors cannot staunch the flood of irreverence. And one solace to living in a one-Party state, after all, is that everyone already knows which Party your joke is about....

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