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Rachel Lu

A Coded Message Between “Sea-Watcher” Pres. Obama and the Chinese State?

U.S. President Obama may be known as “Renegade” to his secret service details, but the code word for him on China’s social media is “Sea-Watcher” (观海). Some call him “O-Sea-Watcher” (奥观海), giving a nod to his last name, while others, ever so endearingly, refer to him as Comrade Sea-Watcher (观海同志).

For example, concerned citizen @LY_chnis tweeted on Sina Weibo, “Feel like Comrade Sea-Watcher grew grey hair overnight. Did Romney-the-Fattie lose some weight? How come he looks so much fitter in such a short period of time!” {{1}}[[1]]观海同志感觉一夜间长了白发 罗胖是不是减肥了?!怎么能短时间感觉突然fit好多啊!![[1]]

The origin of this seemingly nonsensical nickname actually dates back several years. During a trip to China in 2009, President Obama received two gifts from General Yuan Wei, director of China’s National Military Museum. One was a stylized tiger figurine, another a Chinese calligraphy scroll with the phrase, “Watch the Sea and Listen to the Waves” (观海听涛). 

As early as 300 B.C., Chinese emperors once gave these types of tiger figurines (虎符) to military generals as a symbol of imperial authority that allowed the generals to command troops. On the same day that General Yuan met with Obama, the military museum gave the same figurines to 100 Chinese generals to thank them for their services. As for the calligraphy scroll, the character for “waves” (涛 tao) is the same character found in President Hu Jintao’s name.

So, if you are connecting the dots as China’s social media users are, theses gifts are a coded message that Obama is a vassal of the Celestial Dynasty, and he needs to watch China from across the Pacific and listen to President Hu’s commands.

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.