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Talk about political Mandarins...

Chinese PM's wife worked on Yes Minister

China’s new Prime Minister could be learning how to deal with obstructive civil servants from Yes Minister – thanks to his wife.

Li Keqiang, due to become China’s premier in March, is married to Cheng Hong, who translated Yes Minister: The Diaries of Jim Hacker in 1991.

The sitcom was a hit when it broadcast with subtitles on China’s state television, with viewers recognising the bureaucratic inefficiency and infighting between politicians and mandarins from their own political system.

Subsequently becoming Yes, Prime Minister, the show starred Paul Eddington as Hacker and Nigel Hawthorne as his manipulative cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby. A revival, by creators Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, based on their recent stage play, begins on UK Gold next month.

Cheng, a translator and professor of English at the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing, is described as ‘a dedicated scholar’ by the South China Morning Post. Like the seldom glimpsed political wife Annie Hacker (played by Diana Hoddinott), little else is known about her, beyond that she spent time studying at Brown University, Rhode Island in the US and is an expert on American nature writing.

Her translation of ‘Yes Minister’, ‘遵命大臣’, which means to obey or oblige one’s superior, usually in a court or official context, is not a common Chinese phrase and is ‘actually very neat’ according to Jonathan Sullivan, associate professor at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham.

‘It conveys some of the same allusions we infer from "yes, minister", the sarcasm and forbearance behind the servility’.

Yes Minister has proved a popular export, with remakes in Turkey, Canada, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands and India. In the latter, references to Russia in the UK version were changed to Pakistan and references to Europe were swapped for the Commonwealth.

In April, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak acknowledged he was a fan while visiting the University of Nottingham with David Cameron. This prompted the British Prime Minister to reveal that he had written an essay on ‘'How true to life is Yes Minister' while studying politics and economics at Oxford.

In their 2010 book, The Yes Minister Miscellany, Lynn and Jay summarised the enduring, worldwide appeal of the series by saying: ‘There is a universal comedy that sparks across the gap between politicians’ professions and their actions.’

The six new episodes on UK Gold begin on January 15, with David Haig reprising his role as Hacker from the stage show, Henry Goodman as Sir Humphrey and Chris Larkin as Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley.

– by Jay Richardson

Posted: 14 Dec 2012

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