The United States Ambassador to China Gary Locke's recent low-profile family trip to the Chinese city of Guilin has been used by Chinese netizens to mock the extravagant manners of Chinese officials.
Photos from the Lockes' trip to Guilin and Yangshuo, popular scenic spots in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, have been widely circulated throughout the Chinese internet.
"This is big! US Ambassador Gary Locke is showing off again!" said one netizen. Locke's humility went viral last year, when he took up the post as ambassador. A netizen snapped a photo of him ordering coffee in the Seattle airport. Netizens were shocked by three elements of the photo: Locke was ordering his own coffee, carrying his own backpack, and was accompanied by his daughter.
With no bodyguards in sight and no special arrangements — such private boats — Locke's trip to Guilin described as that of an ordinary person.
Chinese netizens posted comments typical of those that indirectly criticize Chinese officials, though on the surface they appeared to be criticizing Locke.
"It is better to be an official in a socialist country. An ambassador of a country of capitalism is not worth much, and is no different from people on the street," quipped one online user. "In our socialist country, police cars will clear the road when the magistrate or mayor travels," the user added.
One online comment said Chinese people may not believe Locke's style is genuine, but added that it is not uncommon for American officials, a mayor for example, to wait in line in the US.
"Thank god there is the excuse of different cultures. People like Locke 'should not interfere' with China's internal affairs,'" said one user, sarcastically, in an online post.
Writers also sardonically called on newspapers run by Chinese authorities, such as the Beijing Daily and Global Times, to publish more articles criticizing Locke's "average Joe" style, as they have in the past.