Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 15 - Episode #5.15 - full transcript

Chinese president Xi Jinping is putting China into the world map. Previously China had a lay low international strategy which is known as 'hide your strength and bide your time'. But Xi ...

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

A quick recap of the week
and we begin with Donald Trump.

President of the US
and the love of Melania's life.

Trump had a bit
of an up-and-down time this week.

His former lawyer,
Michael Cohen, sought new counsel,

prompting many to speculate
he's about to flip on Trump.

Why would he do that ? A random
New Yorker probably expressed it best.

It's that guy that's going to jail !
Awesome, way to go, bud.

Who says New Yorkers
aren't friendly ?

We might not say
"hello" to you,

but we will always give you
a "good luck in the big house",

when the situation demands it.

Trump's week began with the eyes
of the world upon him

as he met with this cutie patootie
for a historic summit.

If you listen to Trump,
it was a huge success.

After landing at Joint Base Andrews,
Trump tweeted:

"everybody can feel safer
than the day I took office."

"No longer a Nuclear Threat
from North Korea."

Adding: "sleep well tonight !"

Donald Trump telling me
I can "sleep well tonight"

is like the Grim Reaper telling me
to have a happy birthday.

His presence
is the reason I will not.

The deal Trump made
with Kim Jong Un was underwhelming.

They agreed to "work toward
denuclearization of Korean Peninsula"

which isn't just ambiguous compared
to previous agreements,

it's also close to meaningless.

What America got out of this deal
appears to be a Trump specialty,

that I'm gonna call
the "ice cream blowjob":

he announces something
that sounds great,

but when you think about it,
isn't actually anything.

The genuinely remarkable
thing about the summit

was the deference that Trump
showed to his counterpart.

While diplomacy involves
sucking up to horrible people,

Trump went above and beyond.

He's got a great personality.
He's a funny guy,

he's a very smart guy,
a great negotiator.

I think he liked me and I like him.
He's smart, loves his people,

he wants a lot of good things
and that's why he's doing this.

Quickly on that: no, he doesn't,
no, he isn't; no, he's not;

no, he isn't; no, he didn't;
no, he isn't; no he doesn't;

no he doesn't and that's
not why he's doing it.

I'm not gonna say that part of
Trump's admiration for Kim

is that he wishes
he could be a dictator as well.

I'm gonna let him say that.

He's the head of a country and
I mean, he's the strong head.

Don't let anyone think
anything different.

He speaks and his people sit up,
I want my people to do the same.

That is the President of the US,
expressing a wish that people

would model themselves after
the malnourished North Korea.

Maybe he meant that White House
staff should sit up,

maybe he meant everyone should,
but either way:

the president
wishes he was a dictator.

Which is a dire realization,
right up there with:

"the robots have become sentient"
or "the cat has power of attorney".

How the fuck did we get here ?

The last few days have sadly
been dominated by this story.

Growing national outrage about children
separated from their parents

who crossed
into the country illegally.

Nearly 2 000 children have been
separated from their parents

under the administration's
zero-tolerance policy.

Thousands of children have been
forcibly taken from their parents

after a policy shift put into action
last month by U.S. Attorney General

and "least fun thing to find in
a Kinder Egg", Jeff Sessions.

He started a policy of incarcerating
people who cross the border illegally,

knowing that would mean they were
separated from their children,

many of whom are less
than ten years old,

with no clear plan as to
when they might be reunited.

Trump inexplicably argued
that Sessions had no choice.

He's following laws given to us
and forced upon us by the Democrats.

But there's no law that says
foreigners should be separated...

The democrats gave us the laws.

I want the laws to be beautiful,
humane, but strong.

"Beautiful, humane but strong" ?
That is not how you describe a law.

That's how you describe a Viola Davis
character in a movie called

"It Hasn't Even Been Written Yet
But She'll Still Win The Oscar."

Democrats did not give them these laws,
because there is no law

that required separating parents
from their children.

This was the result of a deliberate
policy choice by Jeff Sessions,

a man so small, he can wear,
and this is true, a raspberry as a hat.

That's a fact.

It's weird that Trump tried
to distance himself from this decision,

because Sessions doubled down,

saying that this command came
right from the very top.

I would cite you
to the Apostle Paul

and his clear and wise command
in Romans 13,

to obey the laws of the government
because God has ordained

the government for his purposes.

It's not a law. And also, the Bible
isn't a government document.

From a policy perspective, he might
as well be citing "Green Eggs And Ham"

saying: "we must keep children in
a box, we must keep them with a fox."

A terrible policy,
depending on the height of the fox.

Children should be kept away from
foxes above a certain height,

because they're very weird
and scary.

Hashtag no tall foxes.

Romans 13 is the worst
Bible passage to bring up,

since it was invoked in Civil War
times by defenders of slavery.

I know you're probably
thinking, wait:

"he wouldn't align himself
with slave-owners, even accidentally.

Not Jefferson Beauregard
Sessions Of Alabama !"

I'm sorry, but he did. And
when Sarah Huckabee Sanders

was asked about Sessions' Bible
defense, she backed him up.

I can say that it is
very biblical to enforce the law.

That is repeated a number
of times throughout the Bible.

So, not a fucking law !
Lots of things are said in the Bible

but that doesn't mean
you should do them.

At one point the Bible demands the
head of government get 100 foreskins,

but I don't think Sanders is looking
for Congress to gather and slice dicks.

The Trump administration might want
to go a little easy

on holding the Bible up
as a moral code.

The Bible is not a big fan of adultery,

coveting your neighbor's wife,
pride or wrath.

You shouldn't use the Bible to justify
separating children from parents,

but if you do, make sure you're not
already breaking so many of its rules

that God has to write an extra
commandment: "I was fucking serious".

And now this.

Senator Chuck Schumer is caught in
an endless graduation-speech time loop.

When I was at college graduation,
I had just learned

that I had won a scholarship
to travel all around the world

at the same time I had met
a girl and I fell in love.

And I was torn.

Do I go around the world on
the paid scholarship for a year ?

Or do I stay home with the girl,
my first true love.

Class of 2018
what would you have done ?

Class of 2017,
class of 2016, 2015, 2014...

13... 12... 11... 2005

What would you have done ?
I stayed home with the girl.

She dumped me
before Labor Day.

There I was, no scholarship, no trip
around the world, no girl...

No girl... Girl...

No girl.
But somehow I picked myself up,

dusted myself off
and a few years later,

I found myself seated
at graduation once again.

Once again...

When I was seated at college
graduation I had just learned

I had won a scholarship to
travel all around the world...

All around the world...

Our main story tonight
concerns China.

The country responsible
for huge technological advances

and yet, it still can't seem
to get pandas to fuck.

China is a gigantic
and consequential country

where roughly one
out of every five people on earth live.

It is also the place Trump
has been ranting about for years.

China is killing us.
What China's doing to us is horrible.

China cheats.
They devalue their currency.

We can't continue to allow China
to rape our country.

So even in the context of a metaphor,
the word "rape" is pretty jarring.

As verbs go,
it's not bandied about.

It's like if Trump said, Congress is
toe-fucking me on this border wall.

The underlying point is clear.
Why he express it that way is not.

For all that Trump talks about China,
it seems he's learning about it.

picked up this exchange

with China's President during
a state visit in November.

China, five thousand
years it goes back, right ?

Yes, three thousand years
of written history.

The oldest culture they say
is Egypt at eight thousand.

Yes, that's true.
Egypt is older than China.

If you are worried that Trump
learned something, rest assured:

the only thing he took away
was that Egypt is older

and therefore
less fuckable than China.

"Okay, great. Note to self:
don't fuck Egypt. Too old."

A lot of us are probably
under informed about China.

That's something that its leaders
have historically been fine with.

Deng Xiaoping famously had
a "lay low" international strategy,

summed up by the saying: "hide
your strength and bide your time."

In recent years, there has been
a shift regarding that.

When China's current leader,
Xi Jinping,

assumed the highest office,
he said this.

China needs to learn
more about the world.

The world also needs
to learn more about China.

He's right. We probably
should talk more about China.

We should have talked more
about it on this show.

Considering we've done
4 000 stories on New Zealand

and multiple pieces on a testicle
receptacle from "Cinderella Man".

Tonight let's talk about China.
And let's put America aside

and talk instead about China
on its own terms.

It's been going through seismic social,
economic, and political changes,

which have happened quickly.

Many center on its leader, Xi Jinping,
who tightened his grip on power.

The most dramatic political
change in China in decades:

a vote to scrap term limits
for China's president.

The move clears the way for Xi Jinping
to stay in power possibly for life.

Of nearly 3 000 ballots only two voted
against the unprecedented move.

3 000 to two ! After that vote,
two members of Chinese Parliament

thinking: "I really thought that
would go the other way."

Maybe an Edible Arrangement
will smooth things over

with the man
who's now emperor for life.

That followed on the heels of what
was an even bigger change:

the fact that, last October,
Xi's political doctrine,

"Xi Jinping Thought", was
enshrined in the party's constitution.

That may not sound
like much to you,

but it's the equivalent of Trump
making himself a Founding Father

and including "Donald Trump Thought"
into the Constitution.

would have to parse the meaning

of "while Bette Midler is
an unattractive woman",

"I refuse to say that because
I insist on being politically correct."

Xi's consolidation of power
has been aided by the fact

that, unlike his predecessors,
who've tended to be bureaucrats,

he's gone out of his way to form
a cult of personality about himself.

For a time state media called him
"Xi Dada", or "Uncle Xi".

Both are objectively weird names
for an adult to call another adult

but fantastic names
for a pair of hairless cats:

"Xi Dada ! Uncle Xi ! Dinner's
ready, you creepy weirdos !"

Xi carefully presents
a "man of the people" image.

Born into an elite family,
his father fell from grace

and like many,
during Mao's Cultural Revolution,

Xi was sent to work in a village,
which has now become a tourist trap.

The smartly-dressed tour guide
shows us where Xi slept.

An old picture on the wall.
We see a well he helped dig.

A sewing shop he set up. Old
farmers who knew Xi back then,

still roam about the pseudo-mascots
of this bizarre theme park.

That is a bizarre theme park.

I say that knowing that this
country's most beloved theme park

features vomit-inducing teacups

and a massive pants-less sailor duck
with no genitals.

Xi's branding isn't confined
to tourist attractions.

State media has featured folksy
moments like this video of him

ordering pork buns
at a Beijing restaurant.

That visit was
huge news in China.

Hard to believe, our politicians eat
junk food in front of us all the time.

You can find photos of twelve
of the last twelve presidents

shoving ice cream into their faces.

It's legitimately challenging
to find a single photo of Obama

where he is not about
to inhale half a pint of vanilla.

I didn't remember he'd been demolishing
a waffle cone during the Bin Laden raid

but I'd remembered it wrong,
I was wrong.

The reasons for Xi's popularity
go beyond marketing himself

as a cuddly Xi Dada that you can
grab a pork bun with.

He is riding an economic wave
that long precedes him.

Over the last 30 years,

China's GDP growth has averaged
nearly 10 percent a year,

"the fastest sustained expansion
by a major economy in history"

which enabled more than 800 million
to lift themselves out of poverty.

Many in China's growing middle class
are content with how things go.

The tremendous public
optimism is striking.

Everyone is doing better than
their parents did in their day.

We'll be able to move to a bigger
house within the next five years

and I expect my life
to improve a lot.

Whatever happens, I'm very
optimistic about the future.

A sense of optimism
about the future.

As a British person, I find that
utterly incomprehensible.

If you look up "optimism"
in the O.E.D. and this is true,

the definition simply reads

For many in China, things
are going undeniably well.

Xi has even greater ambitions
and I'd like to focus

on two massive, signature projects,
one global and one domestic.

First, there's his so-called
"Belt and Road initiative",

a plan which is gigantic in scope.

It involves China spending a trillion
dollars on infrastructure projects

in more than 60 countries,
things like ports, bridges and roads,

with the idea that it could span
international land and sea routes

and reshape global trade
with China at its center.

It is the most ambitious infrastructure
project in modern history.

They've even produced
an English-language propaganda video

to tell the world about it.

When trade routes open up
that's when the sharing starts.

- Resources changing hands.
- And shipping auto parts.

Ideas start to flow
and friendships start to form.

Then things impossible
all become the norm.

The future's coming now...

The Belt and Road is how...

If I can just interrupt this irritating
Old Navy commercial

hawking a trillion-dollar
infrastructure plan.

You're probably thinking: "If I have
to listen to one more second of that,"

"it's gonna be stuck
in my head all week."

Just be thankful that you haven't
heard the rap break. Until now.

We trade in our wealth. We connect
with hearts. Strengthens our health.

Our lines and cables, diplomacy tables.
We'll share in a world of prosperity !

The future's coming now.

Okay, stop !
I can't take it any more, either.

They've basically
made Kommunist Kars 4 Kids.

That is unforgivable.

It's too early to say whether the Belt
and Road is going to be a success.

Xi's second bold project
has already seen results.

He's undertaken a massive
crackdown on political corruption,

a grievance
among Chinese citizens.

It's led to the punishment
of hundreds of thousands

of government officials,
some at the very top of the party.

State media even producing a
crackdown-themed computer game.

The "People's Daily"
a Communist Party mouthpiece,

released a computer game
where users can give electric shocks

to corrupt officials.

That's fun ! What could possibly
be sinister about being invited

to electrocute prisoners
in a government-issued game ?

The most entertaining way
to package something disturbing

since FDR's: "Candy Land, Kidding It's
Japanese-American Internment Camp."

This is where we reach the point
you kind of knew was coming.

Everything that I've shown you

is what Xi Dada wants
you to know about China.

There is a lot of troubling stuff
under the surface.

Conveniently for Xi, some of those
swept up in the corruption purge

were his political rivals.

And those accused were often
funneled into a system described

as "a secretive,
extralegal process"

where "interrogators seek to extract
confessions through torture."

Those term limits that
he successfully eliminated

were put in place for a good reason,
specifically, to avoid another Mao,

under whose regime some horrific
things happened in China,

from a collectivized farming attempt
responsible for 45 million deaths,

to a Cultural Revolution that
have killed at least another million,

to his belief that this swimsuit
was flattering.

Which I realize doesn't belong
with the other two in that list.

Xi is actively removing the post-Mao
guardrails that were put in place.

While China has never been known
as a haven for free expression,

he has clamped down noticeably
on any form of dissent whatsoever.

There is dissent online and China's
censors are working hard to quash it.

They temporarily banned the use

of phrases such as "personality cult"
and "my emperor"

and also references
to Winnie-the-Pooh,

a character used to mock Xi Jinping
based on an apparent resemblance.

It's true.

Xi Jinping is very sensitive about his
resemblance to Winnie-the-Pooh.

I'm not even sure it's that strong
a resemblance to be honest.

The fact he's annoyed means people
will never stop bringing it up.

Xi, if your face even remotely
resembles that of a cartoon character,

the smart move here
is to lean in.

Clamping down
on Winnie-the-Pooh comparisons

doesn't project strength, it suggests
a weird insecurity in him.

Experts say that Xi is concerned
public opinion will turn on him.

China's economy is already slowing
and Xi is haunted

by the specters of the Arab Spring
and the Soviet Union's collapse.

That paranoia is why he is anxious
to micromanage Chinese daily life.

The government has a list
of untrustworthy people,

which can restrict citizens' ability
to travel, buy a house

or take out loans.

Over the next years, there are
plans to take things much further.

Every Chinese citizen is
being assigned a social credit score.

A fluctuating rating based
on a range of behaviors.

Community service and buying
Chinese made products

can raise your score.

Fraud, tax evasion and smoking
in non-smoking areas can drop it.

If a score gets too low, a person
can be banned from buying

plane and train tickets, real estate,
cars and high-speed Internet.

You could be cut off
from high-speed internet.

That could be a huge opportunity
for the finest purveyors

of shitty, low-speed internet,
I'm talking, of course, about AT&T,

one of America's least popular
corporations and also,

as of this week,
our parent company.

So, goodbye everyone !
It's been fun !

It gets much darker here.
Xi's crackdown on human rights

is apparently "the most intense
since Tiananmen Square."

Tiananmen Square is on the short
list of places so infamous,

you don't even need to describe
what happened,

like Chernobyl or Jonestown,

or "that one Cheesecake Factory
we can't go to anymore."

Xi has intensified government
suppression of certain religions.

In one province, Christians "have been
told to take down the images of Jesus"

"and hang portraits of Xi instead."

Something I've also done.
See ?

I think it really ties the room
together, it's a nice accent piece.

A Muslim population known
as Uighurs have been singled out

for dystopian levels
of surveillance and persecution.

Here is one man talking about a form
the government had him fill out.

This piece of paper was sent to
everyone. People had to fill it out.

They ask if you are Uighur,
if you have a job,

if you have a passport,
if you pray.

These answers were turned
into a scoring system.

They would categorize people
into safe, regular and unsafe people.

That's pretty chilling.
generally speaking,

whenever people are placed on lists,
it's not turned out well.

Many of history's greatest
monsters put people on lists:

Nixon, the Nazis, Santa,
all of these animals did that.

If you are deemed "unsafe",
you're in big trouble.

China has incarcerated Muslims
in re-education camps,

with as many as 800 000 individuals
in facilities which reportedly aim

to rewire the political thinking
of detainees,

erase their Islamic beliefs
and reshape their very identities.

Making "Uncle Xi" less
like your fun uncle

and more like your creepy uncle who
imprisons 800 000 people in basement.

If you want to see what it looks
like when "Xi Jinping Thought"

gets put into "Xi Jinping practice",

take the story of Nobel Peace Prize
winner Liu Xiaobo.

He was imprisoned in 2009 for writing
a pro-democracy manifesto.

Last summer,
he died in state custody.

Even China seemed
concerned about how that might look.

Fearing domestic backlash,
government censors went to work.

Social media posts mentioning
Liu's name were deleted,

online searches with
his name were blocked,

candle emojis were deemed illegal
on some sites.

CNN's signal in China has been cut
by government censors

every time we mention his name.

The Chinese media
wouldn't allow mentions

of a Nobel Peace Prize
winner's name.

Which is a pretty intense
level of censorship,

but it's my personal policy towards
Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Mench?.

Do not bring her up around me.
She knows what she did.

You know what you did !

I don't want to hear her name !
That's not what this speech is about.

What happened
to Liu Xiaobo and his wife,

who is still under house arrest,
is absolutely tragic.

Although, he didn't go down
without taking a final swing.

One of the last known photos of Liu
was with his wife, Liu Xia.

At first glance unremarkable. But
notice the mugs they're holding.

That's Winnie-the-Pooh on.
Perhaps a final subtle act of defiance.

Yeah. Good for them.
I think deep down, we all know:

when you need to tell someone
to go fuck themselves,

why not do it with a mug.

Under Xi Jinping, China is becoming
more authoritarian,

just as it has major plans for
expansion onto the world stage.

The era of "hide and bide" is over.
Era of "do as we say" may be dawning.

China has significant
economic leverage

and it has been using
that to silence criticism,

even when criticism is warranted.

The European Union hardly squeaks
about human rights anymore,

the British don't.

You don't get much on Tibet either,
whenever anyone raises these issues,

China turns around and says:
"Wanna to do business or not ?"

China knows, no matter how badly
they behave,

the world will still want
to do business with them.

They're like Facebook.

You don't like us mining your data,
undercutting your democracy ?

What are you gonna do about it ?

Mail people printed out photos
of your meals ?

Call your friends and tell them
happy birthday in out loud words ?

I don't think so.
Go fuck yourself.

Here is where,
having set America aside at the start,

we should bring it back in.

It is more important than ever
that America be strategic

and tactical
about how to deal with China.

Those qualities
are not hallmarks of this guy,

who couldn't play chess for longer
than 29 seconds without screaming

"my horse eats your big lady"
and pouring nacho cheese on the board.

Trump is blowing up
the traditional alliances that helped

influence China's behavior
on important issues

and that has been
great news for Xi Jinping.

As has the fact that human rights don't
really seem to be a big Trump priority.

Hours after the death of Liu Xiaobo, as
his administration issued condolences,

Trump himself said this.

President Xi is a terrific guy.
I like being with him a lot.

And he's a very special person.

That was not the best time to give
Xi Jinping a pat on the back.

The equivalent of saying
how much you love Kevin Spacey

in "American Beauty",
right now.

First, you shouldn't.
It was objectively terrible.

You're picking the worst
possible time to bring that up.

Trump is leaving a vacuum
on the world stage

and China is more than happy to fill
it, by telling the world its story

and leaving out some
very important details.

If they're gonna send out cuddly
propaganda videos about Xi Jinping,

someone might make a companion
piece that rounds out the picture.

China's expanding now.
It's growing big and strong.

Let's learn about it now.
In this annoying song.

They have a president.
Some call him Uncle Xi.

- But he can fuck with you.
- It's an autocracy !

This is the China Xi...
Doesn't want you to see.

He'd rather shield from you,
The shitty things they do !

Compare him to this
and he'll get pissed.

You end up on untrustworthy list.
Jailing his foes alter what's true:

- My man Xi Jinping looks like.
- Winnie-the-Pooh !

This is the China Xi
Doesn't want you to see,

And that's the reason why,
You'd better watch this guy.

That's our show.
See you next week ! Good night !

Hi !