Mike Sui’s Video

30 Apr 2012

A half-Chinese, half-American actor by the name of Mike Sui (Mike ) has been making quite a stir on Weibo and on the Chinese web with his recent video in which he plays the part of 12 different nationalities/personalities. He does various accents in both English and Chinese (and he’s clearly fluent in both). My favorite is the Taiwanese one (starting at around 7 minutes). Take a look if you haven’t seen it already:

(More details about the video and the Chinese reaction are on ChinaSMACK.)

Interestingly, the video is being promoted in a way that refers to him as a 老外 (foreigner), but Mike is clearly half Chinese, and speaks both English and Chinese natively (or very close to natively). According to various Chinese sources (here’s one), Mike’s dad is a Beijinger and his mom is American. That still counts as 老外?

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. When I saw this video and I thought he was a pure laowai, I was really impressed, but when I found out his dad is a Beijinger, then I was like “meh”.
    Although the impersonating of 12 personalities is really NB. The Taiwanese is also my favourite, haha. Here posted a blog about his life: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_648862920100gk5o.html

  2. Hi John, thank you for linking to our post. Mike himself say he has never consider himself a laowai. For us Chinese, his Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese imitations are all very funny. Maybe he can try a Shanghainese one next time!

  3. Yes, because Chinese people judge based on looks. Duh!

  4. Is he 100% An Accepted Chinese Ethnicity? No? Then he’s a 老外. At least that’s the case from my observations.

  5. Petter Astrom Says: April 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Saw this video yesterday, and was amazed by his Chinese skills… But I also thought he looked a bit asian, thanks for affirming the notion!

  6. My wife’s comment, “well he doesn’t look Chinese” so there you go, doesn’t look Chinese = 老外 10/10 (for her at least)

  7. I have it from a mutual friend of mine and his, that he is half Chinese and he’s been living in China since he was ten years old.

  8. Zimago Says: May 1, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Taiwan one definitely the best one (VERY funny !), French is also pretty good 😉 Thanks for the post.

  9. I thought this video was hilarious! I watched it with my Chinese and ABC colleagues, they all thought it was really funny too.

  10. Taipei Says: May 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Taiwanese one was way off, the accent wasn’t bad but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a person use those phrases. Its like saying the British say Sweet gelatinous frilly dough rings as opposed to donuts. Overall funny though

  11. Chelsey Says: May 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    it is eye catching to refers to him as a 老外 (foreigner)

  12. From my observations here in Taipei, it seems that 混血兒s and ABCs are treated as a group rather distinct from both “Taiwanese” and “Foreigners”.

  13. Very impressive language skills and a great performance. However, if Mr Sui would spend a little more effort unlearning the backward attitude of “funny” racist/homophobic sterotypes instead of parading it around China for cheap laughs he could make a much more watchable video.

    • Kenneth Chen Says: May 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Dude – it’s supposed to be funny. Why don’t you make a viral video. You can’t, because you’re too much of a tight ass.

  14. very very cool!!n handsome

  15. another follower Says: May 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Clearly a Third Culture Kid!

  16. I agree with the earlier posters that the Taiwan one was way off. Both the way he talked and what he said. I lived in Taiwan for 7 years and the only people I’ve heard talk like that are people in China who have never lived in Taiwan.

    • Zhuangzi Says: June 16, 2012 at 11:22 am

      I’ve been in Taiwan for 12 years let me tell you that the Taiwanese character is spot on. The classic tight T-shirt, the effeminate demeanor, the way he introduces himself, and the accent are all accurate. Those characteristics of course don’t apply to ALL Taiwanese men, but it applies to enough of them to make the character relatable.

  17. I guess he’s considered as some kind of Xinjiang Uyghur (老外) who speaks well.

  18. citizenfaguo Says: May 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Excellent! As a French guy I can tell his French impersonation is good.

  19. Wow, really hilarious John. I had to watch it a few times to understand what was going on. Do you know the name or the artist and song around 6:15 in the video? The song is great but the lyrics are so faint it is hard for me to google it and find out. Thanks. Evan

  20. That was hilarious! Thanks for sharing. I loved the Taiwanese accent as well and thought it was pretty accurate, even if it is a bit exaggerated. My Taiwanese friends don’t really sound like that but damn if they don’t all sound like that in Taiwanese idol dramas. I can’t wait to send this to all my ABC’s here in NY.

  21. Stavros Says: June 1, 2013 at 10:07 am

    One thing about Mike Sui which has not been commented in this blog entry is that many people have – once again – said that Mike Sui’s performance on this vid has raised the bar for Westerners who learn Chinese. That is, the expectations of the Chinese have increased and they want Westerners to not only have pleasing accents and use colloquial language (and the standard, whatever that is), but to also be charismatic, charming and above all funny – in a good way.

    Sure enough, this vid is a great achievement. I think it’s hysterical and I wish Mike the best with a career in comedy in China – his individualistic views may stir things up. In fact, what is on display here is an individualism that most Chinese admire – in particular Chinese youth – but very few dare emulate.

    However, going back to my original point about how the bar has been raised: in this context, the bar has been raised to the point where many Chinese in their own native language cannot emulate – many Chinese are not this funny or charismatic. I don’t mind being held to a high standard when I speak Chinese – good accent, correct use of words and exceptional listening – but I do mind when Chinese think we can perform like Mike Sui.

    In my experience, I have never seen a Chinese give a performance like this in English. Also, I’ve never met a Chinese who is exceptionally charismatic in English: they usually are submissive and wait to be asked questions before contributing to conversation. Nobody is expecting them to let rip a repertoire of imitations or songs. The bar can be high – in fact, they can make it higher if they want – but it needs to be put it in the right place.

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