Five Sure Signs That China Is Trolling America

The Chinese may have sprouts on their heads, but the joke is on us.

Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

This week, the New York Times reported that people across China are affixing plastic bean sprouts to their heads. To quote, the fad has “no single explanation.” Some speculate the plasti-sprouts are small, pro-environment flags in a heavily polluted country; others point to the antennaed Teletubbies and a national Internet fashion towards meng meng da, or “cute.” A regional contingent in Chengdu is also taking credit.

Or maybe it’s just a big conspiracy on the part of 1.3 billion people. Watching from across the Pacific, as American corporations and politicians attempt to understand Chinese consumption habits, perhaps China is pivoting. Who wants to be the subject of endless think pieces, political bloviation and armchair anthropology? Not the Chinese, which is why they’ve come up with these ingenious fake-outs.

America: You’re getting trolled. Here are four more pieces of evidence.

1. Buicks

This venerable GM brand is doing well here with its tiny Encore crossover, but its heyday in the U.S. was a half-century ago. In China? Buick sells a million cars annually, or four times the domestic count. China loves Buicks. Not Corvettes, not Fusions, not Dodge Challengers, but Buicks: the American cars most likely to have their Sirius/XMs tuned to '40s on 4.

2. Maliciously translated signs

These days, Google Translate works pretty well. Even translating from English to German to Hindi to Finnish to English yields consistent results: “The cow does not trust the dog” became “Cows don’t trust dogs,” which is ultimately a better sentence. Yet even in the Google age, American tourists routinely encounter menus advertising “God with vanilla” soups, “Husband and Wife Lung Slices,” or requests to “Fuck vegetables.” Those can’t be mistakes. We’ve been had.

3. The Hongqi L5

This cartoon car costs over $800,000, or roughly twice the price of Rolls-Royce and Bentley’s top models. But then, Bentley headlights don’t come with eyelashes; Rolls-Royces don’t have jade door handles; neither have the comely proportions of dishwasher. Couldn’t the Chinese just agree, as do we all, that the British make the best ultra-luxury sedans? No, instead they mock Western indulgence with this beast and its four tailpipes.

4. Island-building

As part of a long-standing sovereignty battle in the South China Sea, China has begun building islands. Using massive ships, they’re dredging up sand and piling it atop coral reefs. These new mini-islands can support light aircraft and underscore China’s territorial claims. Also, they’re giant sand castles. China is building enormous sand castles in the ocean. To piss off the world. It trawls and trolls in one fluid motion.