Americans often wonder why they should care or what the consequences would be if China replaced the United States as the world’s most powerful nation. Surprisingly, a clear answer to this question can be found in the ongoing saga of comedian Nigel Ng Kin-ju.
Ng, more popularly known as Uncle Roger, is a British-Malaysian comedian and internet personality who has become wildly popular over the last couple of years, thanks to his hilarious critiques of Westerners’ attempts at cooking Asian food. Even if you are not familiar with his name, chances are you have stumbled upon one of his videos while scrolling through YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, where he has a combined 20.8 million followers.
Overall, things were working out quite nicely for Uncle Roger until he committed the gravest of modern-day sins: criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Communist China.
In a recent upload clipped from one of his stand-up comedy shows, Uncle Roger asked an audience member if he was from Boston. When then the gentleman responded that he was in fact from Guangzhou, China, Uncle Roger immediately feigned a look of exaggerated concern and retorted, “China, good country, good country. … We have to say that now, correct?” The entire audience, including the gentleman from Guangzhou, burst into laughter.
Uncle Roger continued taking shots at China, noting that the man’s Huawei phone was listening to everything he was saying and repeating, “Long live President Xi.”
The comedian then really went for it, asking who in the audience was from Taiwan. Responding to the cheers of a few Taiwanese audience members, Uncle Roger brazenly quipped, “Not a real country, not a real country,” and, “I hope one day you rejoin the motherland. One China!”
He ended by soliciting the audience to write the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and state that Uncle Roger is a “good comrade.”
The clip immediately went viral and caught the eyes of some of Twitter’s more well-known critics of China, including Melissa Chan, Lele Farley, and former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, who retweeted the video along with the caption, “This guy gets what it’ll look like.”
The clip’s virality, however, was not limited to American audiences, and it swiftly caught the eyes of the censorship brigade in Beijing.
On Saturday, Taiwanese news outlet New Liberty Times reported that China suspended Uncle Roger’s Weibo and Bilibili social media accounts. Between both platforms, the comedian lost access to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Weibo said the channel was muted due to “violations of relevant laws and regulations.”
Uncle Roger’s social media blacklisting came just days after Chinese comedian Li Haoshi was arrested for making jokes about the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army. Li’s management company was also hit with a $2 million fine.
“We will never allow any company or individual to wantonly slander the glorious image of the army on any stage in the capital city … or to make fun of serious subject matters,” regulators in Beijing said.
You might ask yourself why censorship within China’s borders should matter to Americans, especially as the United States has serious internal issues. America has her share of problems, not the least of which are those dealing with First Amendment rights. And the rules Beijing regulators decide to enforce have no effect on the average American’s life — for now.
Imagine for a moment, however, a hypothetical world where China has invaded and conquered Taiwan. It might not be readily apparent, but this world would look drastically different than the one you know today. In this world, American credibility in Asia will have been destroyed due to its inability or unwillingness to deter China. Realizing American power is on the way out, nations like Japan, South Korea, and Australia will hedge their bets and move away from Washington and closer to Beijing.
China is now the hegemon, or dominant nation, in Asia. And that means China directly or indirectly controls about half of the world’s economy. If you want to do business in Asia, ship your goods through Pacific waters, or source any of your supply chain on the continent, you will not be able to do so without China’s consent.
And if you think American autarky might be the answer, you may want to reconsider. As Colby noted in a piece for Time Magazine:
America will be at best roughly 20% of global GDP, a far smaller base for competition, making it likely our economy would be outclassed and left behind by China’s much larger area over time. Even more, though, China will very likely seek to diminish the U.S. This is just basic power politics.
At this point, all Americans directly or indirectly work for Chinese companies that are themselves controlled by the CCP, and if you want to keep your income stream flowing, you will have no choice but to bend to the party’s will.
If you do not want to play along, well, look no further than what is happening right now with Uncle Roger. He made a simple joke at the expense of the party, and his ability to do business in China vanished.
A China that has gained hegemonic status in Asia now has that same power and authority over all facets of the global economy, including right here in the United States. What suggests that China would not gladly wield such a weapon at its discretion?
This is not the first time Uncle Roger has offended the CCP. In 2021, he angered Chinese social media users after he uploaded a video featuring outspoken China critic Mike Chen. Uncle Roger swiftly deleted the video and apologized to his Chinese audience, no doubt hoping to preserve his market share.
As the latest developments show, however, appeasement only lasts until you inevitably upset the party line again, for which you will promptly be punished. Hopefully, Uncle Roger can learn from his past, and Americans can learn from him.
A future discourse dictated by Chinese power is not one that aligns with the preservation of American values or prosperity, and that is just the future Xi is hoping for.
Lane Kendall is a graduate of Wichita State’s Elliott School of Communication and holds a Master’s of International Studies in Korean and East Asian Studies from Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. His research and writing focus on East Asia’s geopolitics and America’s power competition with China, Russia, and Iran.