Laowai (the Old Furriner) trolls the CCP

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Laowai is "an informal term or slang for 'foreigner' and/or non-Chinese national".  One of the tens of thousands of commenters on the above video is the renowned SerpentZA, who teamed up with his partner, the dry, wry Laowhy86, to form the quintessential Laowai China travel and commentarial vloggers of the second decade of the 21st century.

But who is the star of this post's outstanding video?

"From CCP poster child to propaganda parody – Lele Farley"

Lele Farley speaks to Taiwan News after trolling Chinese protesters in LA
By Keoni Everington, Taiwan News (4/27/23)

Here's what the newspaper found out

Taiwan News on April 14 interviewed bilingual comedian and rapper Alex Farley, who goes by the handle LeLe Farley, on his adventures trolling pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) protestors during the protests against Tsai's historic meeting with House Speaker McCarthy on April 5 at the Reagan Library.

After completing a double major in economics and Chinese studies at Emory University, Lele Farley was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at Nanjing University to study advanced Mandarin. A year later, he was admitted to the Central Academy of Drama and came to Beijing with a full scholarship to study acting, broadcasting, and hosting.

However, after news broke in 2015 about five staff members of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong being detained in China for selling banned books, Farley started to take notice of the political situation in China. In 2019, Farley says he was inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle's acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to speak out against the CCP's repressive policies and soon found himself banned in China.

Coming up to the present time,

… [Farley] revealed that he is harassed on a daily basis online for his mockery of the CCP and Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平), including the use of anti-white racial slurs such as "white-skinned pig." Nevertheless, despite being blacklisted in China, Farley says that there is a "healthy audience that hops the firewall through VPNs."

On the way to this event, I already had the idea and I already had a bunch of questions lined up. But I didn't know if it would translate. I didn't know if the comedy would be there and on the way there, I asked my friend Inty, who is a Uyghur friend who helps me film a lot of stuff, and he started laughing immediately.

As soon as I asked "Where do you get the money" in Mandarin, he started laughing, and I thought "Oh, this might actually work."

As soon as I got in with the protestors, they were just flabbergasted by my Chinese ability for sure. They were just entertained, and I think that's what they would have wanted at an event like that, because a lot of them, and you can see in my video, they're not particularly passionate about being there.

To have a big white guy speaking Chinese wearing this outfit was such a stimulation for them. They were thinking, "Wow, this is ridiculous" to the point where they were not really thinking.

Did anyone admit to taking the US$400 dollar fee for showing up there?

No, and I didn't expect anybody to admit that, especially if I was asking where do we get the money. If I actually had the goal of trying to figure out if people took money or not, I would be much more covert about it. I wouldn't go around with a cameraman saying "Yo, where's the money? Where's the money dude?"

The article ends with a link to a video interview with Farley.

Last, but not least, Farley's Mandarin is really, really good.


Selected readings

[Thanks to AntC]


  1. Mark Metcalf said,

    April 28, 2023 @ 2:25 pm

    Hilarious video! Laowai trolled the pro-PRC protesters with elan and they didn't know what hit 'em. He perfectly played the stereotypical furriner – single-minded, asking 'stupid' questions ("When do we get paid?")…all in flawless Mandarin with a Beijing accent.

  2. Paul Frank said,

    April 29, 2023 @ 9:30 am

    I found this difficult to watch and almost felt sorry for the Xi Jinping supporters. Almost. Sacha Baron Cohen is the master of this. He almost makes me feel sorry for the white supremacists, gun rights nutjobs, and Trump supporters he's trolled over the years. Almost. In Spanish we have a common term for what I felt watching this: vergüenza ajena. There's no English equivalent I'm aware of. You could call it vicarious embarrassment or secondhand embarrassment.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    April 29, 2023 @ 6:47 pm

    vergüenza ajena f (uncountable)

    vicarious embarrassment, secondhand embarrassment (i.e., shame or embarrassment felt as a result of the actions of others)

    Synonym: alipori

  4. Paul Frank said,

    April 30, 2023 @ 12:07 am

    Come to think of it, the non-standard adjective "cringe" or "cringey" comes close. I haven't heard anyone say "cringeworthy" in a long time.

  5. Taylor, Philip said,

    April 30, 2023 @ 1:51 am

    Fremdscham ? Paul, I know only "cringeworthy" — I have never encountered the other two.

  6. KeithB said,

    May 1, 2023 @ 7:35 am

    Paul Frank:
    " There's no English equivalent I'm aware of. "
    Them's fighting words here on Language Log!

  7. George said,

    May 2, 2023 @ 10:57 am

    I'd say 'cringeworthy' or 'cringe-inducing', maybe 'cringey' on occasion (although using a word like 'cringey' at my age is arguably… cringey). My teenage children would say 'cringe'. It's possible that they tend to be more monosyllabic when they're talking to Daddy so there could be a bit of observer effect going on here… We're Irish by the way.

  8. Vampyricon said,

    May 23, 2023 @ 1:06 pm


    It's not an observer effect. "Cringeworthy" has been replaced ny the monosyllabic "cringe" in everything I've seen. I'm more terminally online than most my age though (mid-20s), and I expect the young 'uns to be even more online than I am.

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