I’m scared of China, says Nas Daily vlogger who thinks Singapore is ‘almost perfect’

After igniting controversy among Singaporeans last week by praising their country, a travelling video blogger moved on to China, and found a scary place behind the Great Firewall

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 8:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 4:03pm

Video-blogger Nuseir Yassin of Nas Daily, who last week caused controversy when he labelled Singapore “the almost perfect country”, had a very different impression of his next stop in mainland China. It evoked fear.

The Palestinian-Israeli vlogger has spent the past 898 days travelling the world and producing daily videos for his Nas Daily Facebook page which has more than 8 million followers.

His video from Singapore, which included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, went viral after locals objected strongly to his rosy description of the tiny republic.

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At the end of his 10-day visit to China, Yassin has a very different view of the world’s most populous country.

“Honestly, China scares me,” Yassin said, speaking from Hong Kong where he was meeting fans and filming the next chapter of his video travel blog.

“You have 1.4 billion people, most of whom don’t speak English, who don’t have access to Facebook or Google, [and yet] within one day the government can make them go to war with any country in the world,” he added, referring to the ability of the Chinese internet to mobilise quickly on any issue, as happened recently to put pressure on airlines over how they referred to Taiwan.

China’s separate internet ecosystem was one of the things that made the deepest impression on the vlogger whose past two years of video travel diaries from more than 50 countries have revolved around Facebook and a fan base that stretches around the world, but which is outside China’s internet firewall.

“My whole life I grew up thinking there is one internet, but there are actually two, one in the rest of the world and one in China. The one in China is advanced and hi-tech, but it’s a scary internet,” Yassin said.

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“It’s such a huge country with insane industries, it’s super powerful, but people are not connected to the outside world.”

Yassin said his limited number of followers within China was a stumbling block when it came to finding stories to shoot.

Generally, when he parachutes into a new country, he relies on his local Facebook followers to lead him to interesting stories, using a combination of in-person meet-ups and WhatsApp chats to connect.

“Nobody watches Facebook, because Facebook is blocked, so nobody cares,” Yassin said of using this tactic in China.

Travelling between Beijing, Hangzhou, and Kunming, Yassin looked for stories that would push back against some of the bias or lack of understanding about China that he perceived among his followers.

“From what it seems like in my follower base, they have these bad misconceptions about China, and some of them are true and some are false,” the 26-year-old said.

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He ultimately produced around 10 daily spots on Nas Daily on topics ranging from feng shui in architecture to elderly exercise culture, to a piece on a farmer who creates working robots, who he called “China’s Iron Man”.

“Even though he doesn’t speak English and is terrible on camera, he is still someone we should admire and respect,” Yassin said.

“My whole point is to make my viewers connect with the Chinese people, that was my whole intention of going into China.”

He measured that success by the 90,000 likes and 56,000 shares the video gained on Facebook.

Yassin also tackled the perennial stereotype that Chinese people eat dogs.

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In that video, he sits hovering over a bowl of soup noodles saying: “In China, people eat dogs, this is what a lot of people say about China, and this is why a lot of people hate China.”

Yassin proceeds to roll back the stereotype, telling viewers, “it’s not easy to find dog meat here” and “the government doesn’t support it”.

But he still feels his China videos have not been as popular as those in other countries, because of the negative opinions held by some of his viewers, who Nas describes as 18-30 year-olds who hail from around the world, especially America, India, and Philippines.

He said he was considering making a longer video themed around the topic “Why I’m scared of China”, which would address this disconnect, as well as the impact of China that he had seen in his travels around the world, from Sri Lanka to Papua New Guinea.

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But Yassin’s goal in creating such a video wouldn’t be to spark negativity against China, he said. Instead it would be to talk about connectivity.

“At the end, I’d say that’s probably why we should be promoting trade rather than going into a trade war. We need more and more engagement with China rather than isolating it more and more,” he said.