PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 10:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 10:52am

Chinese vice-premier's gay marriage joke at US summit applauded at home


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

A Chinese government news agency deemed two jokes by Vice-Premier Wang Yang, one on same-sex marriage and one on Rupert Murdoch, so funny that it issued a "special report" on them.

Wang, speaking in Washington on Wednesday at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, compared the relationship between the two countries to a marriage.

"In China, 'new people' refers to newlywed couples. I am aware that the US allows gay marriage, but I don't think Jacob and I have such intentions," Wang quipped, referring to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, according to China News Service.

It was the first time Wang and Lew were chairing sessions at the annual summit after the former Guangdong party secretary and the former White House chief of staff rose to their current positions earlier this year.

Wang did not stop there, but continued the unusual improvised stand-up saying that the US and China could not "choose the path of a divorce".

A divorce, "like that of Wendy Deng and Rupert Murdoch, is just too expensive", he said. The state-owned news service duly reported that Wang caused another round of laughter.

His comments come amid a concerted effort by the new Chinese administration to show more self-confidence in their interactions with foreign dignitaries and the public abroad.

Similarly, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was seen roaring with laughter in Germany during his visit in May and President Xi Jinping talked soccer in his speech to the Mexican parliament in June.

"If senior Chinese officials can joke about homosexuality, this shows some progress," said Ah Qiang, a gay rights activist in Guangzhou, in reaction to Wang's same-sex marriage joke. "At least, they have some understanding of gay issues."

"Of course, I hope officials realise that same-sex couples can get married in many US states, but in China it is still illegal for same-sex couples to get married."


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